There’s an old Neapolitan proverb that says, “Too many roosters in a hen house is never a wise choice”. They soon learned this lesson even in Ingolstadt, at the Audi headquarters, when Lamborghini, Bugatti and Bentley began to present concepts designed to trace their futures. A future that, in the case of Bentley, was rooted in a distant past full of pre-war racing and victories at Le Mans, as well as the present in which the traditional aristocratic British style was flanked by the noble Rolls Royce.
To touch the strings of passion, in 1999 Bentley decided to repropose a formula that took it to victory at Le Mans in the 20s and 30s: large cars and plenty of horsepower to chase down a distant goal. Taking advantage of the synergies within the group, they chose the same chassis used by the Lamborghini Diablo while the engine was the powerful 8.0-litre, naturally aspirated, W16 engine producing something in the region of 623 horsepower.
It was a business card worthy of the name given to the car: Bentley Hunaudières, chosen in honour of the famous Hunaudières straight of the Circuit de la Sarthe where Sir Tim Birkin driving a “Blower Bentley” overtook Rudolf Caracciola in a Mercedes-Benz SSK at 125 mph (201 km/h) with one wheel on the grass. A pass that contributed once again to Bentley’s many successes. The year was 1930 and this was the fourth of five victories won at the 24 hours by the British brand.
In addition to reaching 0-100 km/h in 4 seconds and a top speed of 320 km per hour, the Hunaudières presented an unmistakable touch of luxury with nubuck leather seats and satin aluminium dashboard finishes.
Bentley imagined they would produce around 300 models at a price of £250,000, but the VW leadership decided that Bentley should continue to focus on sedans and luxury coupes, leaving Bugatti to concentrate on making the world’s fastest car. A wise choice given the success of the Continental GT.