Off radar

The Fallen Stars
Bentley Hunaudières

Remembering ancient laurels

Photo credit: Bentley, Wheelsage

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.

The #4 Bentley Blower Speed Six that won at Le Mans in 1930 after the fight between Sir Tim Birkin and Rudolf Caracciola led to the elimination of the other Bentley and the Mercedes

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. 

Streamlined and pure, the Bentley Hunaudières with its W16 engine during track tests in 1999

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.

Extreme sportiness combined with luxury worthy of the Bentley tradition. This is the interior of the Hunaudières that did not sacrifice elegance for extreme weight reduction

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. 

Testing the Veyron? Seeing this image, it is easy to think of Bugatti’s super-supercar, which sought performance without resorting to flashy wings and appendages. With this experiment, Bentley certainly contributed to the birth of its French cousin

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. 

Classy touches. The very simple design is enriched by details such as the wheels and a chromed side trim that bring a touch of nobility to the sporty Hunaudières designed by Bentley
A very interesting rear section contributes to creating downforce without the use of flashy wings
The Hunaudières certainly contributed to Bentley’s great success with the Continental GT. A true front-engine GT that maintains the traditional Bentley elegance with masterful signs of modernity