Why Rhys Millen is the natural leader of Bentley Pikes Peak Car News

Rhys Millen celebrates breaking peak production car record in Continental GT

The New Zealander will draw on his multidisciplinary motorsport talents for the famous hill climb, as he tells us ahead of the event.

Rhys Millen is a true motorsport all-rounder, competing successfully in rallycross, drift, rally and Baja off-road events – all while building a successful career as a Hollywood stuntman.

The New Zealander is also a veteran of the Pikes Peak International Hillclimb, an event his father Rod has won five times. Millen Jr had two victories at the event and also notched a variety of class records in a diverse range of machines.

Millen’s first victory came in 2021 in a Time-Attack-class Hyundai Genesis Coupe, and in 2015 he claimed the first overall victory in an electric car, propelling the Drive eO PP03 up the hill in 9 min 7.222 sec.

So when Bentley launched its ambitious three-phase Pikes Peak program in 2018, Millen was a natural fit as a rider, bringing not only an experience of the 156-turn mountain course, but also a proven ability to adapt to different machines.

Bentley’s initial plan was to set a new record for a production SUV, which Millen did in the Bentayga with a 10-minute 49,902-second run. The following year Millen set a new production car racing record in a Continental GT with a time of 10min 18.488sec.

For Bentley’s third effort, the stakes have increased: Millen will drive a heavily modified Continental GT3 in the Time Attack 1 class, essentially the first division for production machines.

The Contintal GT3 features a specially tuned version of Bentley’s turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 with over 750 hp and runs on renewable electric fuel. Millen is officially aiming for the 9min 23.721sec record set in 2019 by Raphael Astier in a Porsche 911 GT3 Cup Turbo, but will also have a chance of securing a victory this weekend.

Autocar caught up with Millen halfway through their pre-event test schedule on sections of the hill climb to talk about how to tackle the intimidating course in such a range of machines.

How exciting was the offer to drive the Bentley Continental GT3?

“It was my personal goal to be on this case from day one of the project, so I agreed to the SUV ride in the hope that it would happen – although it was not definitely on the schedule at it was a personal dream to drive a car built by a manufacturer to this level.

How does the Continental GT3 compare to other machines you’ve driven up the hill, such as the Genesis Coupé or the Drive eO?

“I’ve driven more powerful and faster cars, but nothing I’ve been so comfortable in, and never a car with so much driver aids. When you step into the realm of a vehicle like this with a builder’s program, you start with a platform that has a very high calibration of performance and expectations. I’ve never experienced things like traction control and ABS on a slope before, and they are wonderful to complement each other as a driver.

Do you need to adapt your approach to different types of cars?

“For sure. First you need to adapt the specific car to the mountain, then you need to adapt to the car. Before you head for the mountain, it’s important to be up to date with the car, and luckily , we have a testing program that allowed me to do that.

“You have to establish a performance base and then you have to apply it to the mountain. Whenever you have a different platform, you have to adapt. A lot of the cars I’ve driven in the past have had a lot of mechanical grip, but with this car there’s a lot more downforce. You go from mechanical grip to downforce pretty quickly, and then it comes down to trusting downforce. The car always wants more, and I haven’t found the cap yet.

It must be very different from driving a production car, then?

“With a production car you are ultimately limited by the amount of grip you can generate with the tires. With the Bentayga, we had to ride with the tires it came with. With the stock Continental GT, we were allowed to change tires, but still had to ride with a DOT road tire. So you have to find the balance of the chassis support to help reach the ceiling of the tires: it is quite easy to cross and then you will burn the tires before reaching the top of the course.

“With the Continual GT3, we have a full racing slick, and with the aero, the level is simply amplified by 10. You are much more engaged.”

With the extra speed of the GT3, can you gain some braking points or experience with you production cars?

“Not really. You go seven seconds faster at the mile: it’s a whole different race. And now it’s absolutely fun. The GT3 is just amazing to drive. In the lower part of the course, the five or six. first few miles, we are 30 seconds faster than in a production car.

What is the state of mind on race day? How much can you actually push in a single run?

“This is the uniqueness of the event. You need a …

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This notice was published: 2021-06-23 12:20:12

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