When Sir Malcolm Campbell set the Flying Mile record on Pendine Sands on the Welsh coast, he was driving an open-wheel, front-engined Napier-Campbell with a 22.3-litre, W12 VIIA engine with 502bhp. It was nicknamed – as were all his cars – Blue Bird.
Fast forward 88 years. In his record attempt, Idris wasn’t driving a three-ton car with an aeroplane engine strapped to the back and barely a nod to aerodynamics, safety or braking. He was driving a state-of-the-art 2014 Bentley Continental GT Speed – without fear of contradiction, one of the world’s finest automobiles. Although he practiced in a highly-modified Audi RS6 Plus – with uprated wheels, tyres and brakes, the interior ripped out and a roll cage put in – the official record was attempted in the Bentley.
The GT Speed is the fastest and most powerful Continental that Bentley has ever made, and pays homage to their legendary grand touring heritage. The interior finish is exquisite, and includes every surface hand-covered with specially-tanned leather and even an option for matching seatbelts,, but the real star is undoubtedly the engine.
It has a deeper, throatier exhaust note and, according to Bentley, ‘the GT Speed is capable of devastating acceleration and enduring pace’, making it perfect for an attempt on the Flying Mile land speed record.
The eight-speed transmission delivers faster acceleration and increased fuel economy to the tune of 13% over the standard Continental GT. With a new gearbox offering spectacularly fast and smooth gear changes, it delivers power to all four wheels. In addition, torque is biased 60:40 to the rear, which gives a greater sense of control, cornering and balance – precisely what Idris was looking for as he powered towards the record.
With a top speed of 206mph, it’s not only lightning-quick, it’s heavy enough to cope with unstable terrain like sand and has an intelligent four-wheel drive system that has the ability to adjust and compensate instantly to the speed and surface, maximising grip and keeping the car as stable as possible.