This past Sunday, Bentley not only set a new course record for a production SUV at the annual Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in Colorado—it obliterated the previous record. Running a lightly modified Bentayga W12 with none other than two-time Pikes Peak champion Rhys Millen at the wheel, this big four-door SUV was able to climb to the top of Pikes Peak in 10:49.9, almost two minutes faster than the previous record set in 2013.
Held on June 24, the Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb (a.k.a. the Race to the Clouds), is an invitational time trial where competitors in a variety of classes attempt to set the fastest time up the hill. The race has been run since 1916 and covers 156 corners over 19.9 km of largely unprotected climbing and winding alpine road.
While many of the competitors are outright privateers, Pikes Peak has also become increasingly important to brands, with some even developing bespoke race programs to create one-off cars designed specifically for the frequent acceleration and deceleration of the course (so many turns) and the incredible gain in altitude (the course tops out at 14,114 ft). Case in point, this year Volkswagen ran the I.D. R Pikes Peak, an all-electric prototype car. As electric motors don’t lose power at altitude, the I.D. R Pikes Peak became the fastest car to ever run at Pikes Peak, and, with a time of 7:57.15, the first car ever to run the course in under 8 minutes.
That VW prototype ran in the Unlimited Class, where the cars have very little in the way of restrictions. As for Bentley, its record-setting production SUV—looking quite sporty in Radium Satin green with plenty of carbon fibre accents—falls within the Exhibition Class. The rules allowed for a few modifications to suit the race application, including racing seats up front, rear seat delete for a roll cage and fire system, a production exhaust from Akrapovic, and DOT-spec tires from Pirelli.
Pikes Peak has also become increasingly important to brands, with some even developing bespoke race programs to create one-off cars designed specifically for the course.
Take all of that, factor in Bentley’s incredible 600 horsepower W12 engine, its next-gen 48V anti-roll system, and Rhys Millen’s skill and familiarity with the road, and you have a winning formula. The previous record of 12:35.61 was set in 2013 by a 510 horsepower Range Rover Sport. While the Range Rover was able to average 59.17 m/h (95.22km/h), the Bentayga saw a considerably faster 66.5 m/h (107.02 km/h) across the course.
After setting the record time, Rhys Millen said, “What an incredible machine. To take a luxury SUV with minimal modifications and be able to drive up this course in under 11 minutes is a huge testament to the performance and level of engineering in the Bentayga. I had a great run—the car was planted all the way up and gave me the confidence I needed to push hard. I’m delighted to take the SUV record for Bentley and for everyone that’s been involved in this project.”
To celebrate a successful Pikes Peak program and a new record, Bentley is producing a limited-edition run of just 10 Pikes Peak Bentaygas that will be created by Mulliner, its in-house bespoke customization wing. Offered in either Radium or Beluga Black, with special wheels, numbered treat plates, and a custom interior with Key Lime accents, ample Alcantara, Pikes Peak logos, the Pikes Peak Bentayga shows how much stock the brand puts in this wild run up a mountain in Colorado. Pricing has not been announced but with only 10 being made, it’s not going to be easy to get one, even if you have the cash.
As notable as it is to run any car up Pikes Peak, there is an undeniable spirit that comes with running a production-spec vehicle. Bentley’s roots are in pre-war racecars that could cross a huge distance, race all day, and then bring you home. To rev up to one of the most hardcore hill climbs in the world with a lightly prepped SUV shows a lot of confidence in the Bentayga. To do that and then throw down a sub-11 minute time is nothing short of downright impressive.
Never miss a story. Sign up for NUVO’s weekly newsletter, here.