Posted May 18th 2012 11:31AM
Bentley is an automaker not without its own racing pedigree, but the bulk of that is anchored in the 1920s and at Le Mans, to which it returned in winning form in the earlier part of the new millennium with the Speed 8. The latest development could, however, see the Flying B marque enter into another class of motorsport competition altogether.
That opposite end of the endurance racing spectrum is the torturous Dakar rally. We first published rumours of Crewe's consideration of the possibility back in November, but according to CAR Magazine, those rumours are apparently kicking into high gear.
That much is owed largely to the emergence of the above-pictured EXP 9 F program, Bentley's concept SUV currently under development. Well, sorta. Bentley's parent company Volkswagen recently withdrew from the Dakar rally after winning it three times in a row – ostensibly to focus on its new World Rally Championship effort, but spurring rumors all the same of it transferring the team to another brand.
Given that the EXP 9 F is based (or would be, anyway) on an architecture related to the Touareg – the race model of which is what the VW team used to dominate the event – the facilitation of Bentley's take-over of the program could prove even more straight-forward than the manner in which Audi successfully supported Bentley's Le Mans team.
To wit, the boys from Crewe are said to be in the process of buying back all the Race Touareg rigs – complete with their 2.5-litre twin-turbo diesels producing 300 horsepower and 442 lb-ft of torque – that Volkswagen sold to privateer teams upon its departure, suggesting rather poor planning and perhaps only a passing resemblance to the eventual production EXP 9 F (which, incidentally, isn't expected to look like the concept above).