• Race-prepared twin-turbo V8 produces 600 horsepower
  • Sequential transmission drives rear wheels only
  • Extensive use of carbon fiber reduces weight significantly

The Bentley Continental GT3, a race car that just debuted at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, looks similar to the road-going Continental GT V8, an ultra-luxury coupe. But beyond similar body lines and a 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8 under the hood, the new Continental GT3 shares little with the nearly $200,000 Bentley Continental GT.

The GT3 is more than 2,200 pounds lighter than the GT, thanks to a racing configuration and extensive use of carbon fiber. Aerodynamic elements including the front splitter and high-mounted rear wing are made of the strong but lightweight material. Even the drive shaft uses the stuff. It's also all over the interior, which has been stripped to save weight. The racecar cockpit is devoid of the luxurious trimmings of the Continental GT3, instead fitted with a racing seat and roll cage.

According to Bentley, many internal engine components are shared with the Continental GT V8, but the dry-sump unit in the GT3 produces 600 hp, a 100-hp advantage over the road car's motor. An engine-management system by legendary British performance company Cosworth controls the GT3's engine, which is unrestricted by the exhaust and emissions systems required for road cars.

Differences between the drivetrains in the Continental GT3 racecar and GT V8 are not limited to engine tuning. The road-going Continental GT uses a conventional torque-converter automatic transmission and permanent all-wheel drive. The Continental GT3 uses a sequential racing gearbox with a limited-slip differential. It's mounted as a transaxle on the rear of the vehicle and drives only the rear wheels.

Its appearance at Goodwood was the first time the new race car was seen in action. Guy Smith, who won the 2003 24 Hours of Le Mans in a Bentley Speed 8, ran the Goodwood hill-climb twice daily during the festival. Bentley intends to enter the Continental GT3 in FIA competition beginning in 2014.

What it means to you: Racing fans will soon see the Bentley Continental GT3 in the FIA Blancpain racing series, provided further development of the new Bentley race car proceeds as planned.

author photo

Nick Palermo is an automotive writer and lifelong car nut. He follows new and late-model used vehicles for AutoTrader.com, writes about vintage cars for Hemmings Classic Wheels and blogs on all things automotive at LivingVroom. He lives in Atlanta with his wife and twins.

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