Over the white line: a sign of the times for Bentley

By LJ Hutchins

CalendarFriday, January 30th, 2009

 
 

What is the world coming to when one has to instruct the staff to run the Bentley on used chip fat?

In March we will find out if the quintessentially British luxury car will indeed run on the by-product of the quintessentially British take-away dish.

The Crewe-based carmaker is producing a biofuel model which is set to be unveiled at the Geneva motor show and, according to Wired’s Cool Wheels blog, is set to work towards achieving similar emissions levels to a Toyota Yaris.

And, in truth, it will probably be ethanol rather than recycled vegetable oil that powers it. But it was such a good line…

Regrettably it probably isn’t set to retail at a similar price as a Toyota Yaris. But it is also expected to be the fastest car the makers have ever produced.

There’s not much to go on at the moment – just a teasing press release and a moody black and white photo shot squarely from the front in a way that reveals as few of the model details as is humanly possible.

The carmaker says that it is set to reveal its “fastest, most powerful production car ever.” So that’s a good start.

It continues: “Delivering supercar performance, this new model is very much the extreme Bentley. Importantly it will run on biofuel, delivering stage one of Bentley’s environmental commitment and pioneering the use of this fuel in the luxury sector.”

Wired celebrates the sliver of hope this offers to everyone to everyone who would rather not contemplate a future behind the wheel of a Toyota Yaris: “It should have gearheads rejoicing at the prospect that going green doesn’t mean going serene.”

Count us in there. We just can’t see Ronaldo switching over to it any time soon…

Here are some of the racing and motoring stories that caught our attention this week:

  • All those people tightening their belts – and therefore forced to leave the Bentley in the garage – can allow themselves a moment of schadenfreude at the news that Jeremy Clarkson may have to take a pay cut. According to The Guardian, the Corporation is reportedly reviewing the remuneration of several of its – how shall we put this – more controversial stars including Jonathan Ross, Chris Moyles and the Dunsfold Mouth himself. But the axe isn’t set to fall until contract renewal comes around again. We think you could look at this two ways. On the one hand Clarkson has such an indecent amount of fun filming the show that it’s a wonder he doesn’t have to pay the Beeb for the privilege. On the other, he brings smiles to so many faces that he may soon have to be considered a national treasure in the mould of Ian Hislop and Graham Norton. What a terrible thought…
  • More worrying news for the British motorsport industry from James Allen. What if Honda isn’t the only F1 team in trouble? What if Oxfordshire-based Renault is going the same way, with redundancies on the cards and its major sponsor wavering? He describes the appalling financial outlook for the French car industry and says: “the company has to be thinking of its F1 programme with the same affection as Honda had for theirs. The cost saving package agreed before Christmas was vital, but given that Renault’s estimated spend on F1 was around €300 million last year, you can see that FOTA and the FIA are going to have to cut the costs of competing a bit more seriously still if Renault are to have any chance of carrying on as a competitor in 2010.” Sobering stuff, which you can read in full here.
  • And, if there are one or two motorsport teams still standing by the end of 2009, will there be any circuits left to race on, or will they be crippled by noise restrictions and concreted over for housing? With his non-F1 hat on Keith Collantine gets cross at the news that Yorkshire’s Croft circuit faces major opening restrictions after a court case to limit its operation on noise grounds. He says: “I fully understand why someone would not want to live next to a noisy circuit if they have no interest in motor racing. What I cannot understand is why they would choose to live there in the first place. And what makes me furious is that the judiciary chooses to side with the people, who can move, over the circuits, who cannot.”
  • Filed under ‘not all that unexpected really’ is the news that IndyCar team Rahal Letterman Racing looks certain to be sitting out all or part of 2009. Owned by past Indy 500 winner Bobby Rahal and TV host David Letterman, RLR won a race last year with Ryan Hunter-Reay and also gave Brit Alex Lloyd a one-off drive at the Indy 500. For a while there was talk of running Lloyd for the whole of 2009 in a second car, but instead the sudden reversal in the global economy cost the team its ethanol industry sponsorship. Now Rahal has admitted he’s having trouble finding the money to field a car at all this year.
  • Enough of this. Time for some good news, and Top Gear was one of several outlets to bring us a cracker this week. Aston Martin, the luxury car marque currently run by Prodrive’s David Richards, will be stepping up a class at Le Mans to race with the big players with the aim of taking victory. Its new LMP1 racer will reportedly be evolutions of last year’s semi-works Charouz Racing Lola to be driven by two teams: Jan Charouz, Thomas Enge and Stefan Mucke in one car with Darren Turner, Harold Primat and one more to be announced in the second. David Richards said: “We don’t have a lot of money… We’re doing this because we felt it right and properly British to have a go in the anniversary year of our historic win.”
  • We gave a broad smile this week when we saw Ron Dennis get the last laugh over Max Mosley, in a manner of speaking, when The Times proclaimed him a more significant influence on British sport than the FIA boss and gave him a glowing write-up while merely describing Mosley as “litigious”. What’s £50 million in the face of an endorsement like that? Mind you, given that Ron was 66th in a list of 100 and Max was 67th, perhaps it’s not all that emphatic. However, most sobering of all was the discomforting news that Texan billionaire and Twenty20 enthusiast Sir Allen Stanford (he’s the man who can’t concentrate for long enough to follow a Test match) is more influential than either…
  • And finally… things are now at the point where it’s more a question of which racing driver is not The Stig than which one is. This week The Telegraph claimed that such greatness could only be achieved by a team of eight and unmasked… wait for it… Heikki Kovalainen as the wearer of the white helmet – although possibly only once and that five years ago. We were puzzled by this, believing as we did that he was already leading a double life as a cast member for an enduringly popular children’s TV show. But seriously – the whole thing is in danger of turning ugly as papers at the right-leaning end of the spectrum desperately hunt around for another stick, any stick, to beat the BBC with. We say: time to put this one to rest.

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