Fortunately, the nice people at Bentley seemed unperturbed by the fiscal implications when we enquired about using the Conti in this way. An enthusiastic thumbs up and, well, that's how I found myself flicking the windscreen wipers to maximum just before the green light.
Yes, the rain on Saturday for the big August meeting at Shelsley came to dominate the day's proceedings. Every time it looked like it might just be dry enough for a better run, a shower would soak the track.
This made Saturday practice more about re-learning lines and getting to know the car better. With 2.3 tonnes to shift, even the 635hp twin-turbo 6.0-litre W12 had its work cut out on the steep Worcestershire gradient. Still, consistent 2.3sec times to 64ft - wet or dry - were impressive.
So, the first of four practice runs on Saturday kicked off with a 39.55-second time. Better than I'd hoped for given the conditions and the next two runs each knocked a second off the previous one. By late afternoon, when the organisers offered an extra run to anyone who fancied it, my 37.15-second score seemed like a small victory. It also helped get my eye in for where to brake for the Bottom Esse that is notoriously difficult to get spot on.
Teammate David Finlay was ahead of me on 36.24, so when it dawned bright and dry on Sunday I knew the timed runs would be significantly faster. That was proven immediately, with a first time of 35.72 seconds. The car felt surprisingly able and agile for such a big machine, digging in through Kennel and Crossing, but I'd braked too early for Bottom Esse, so more speed was needed on the second attempt.
A good start resulted in a sub-eight-second time to Kennel for the first and only time of the weekend, followed by a much better approach speed to Bottom Esse of 82mph. My sector time through the Esses was also markedly better and, even though I was 1mph down on my previous 92mph over the line, this second and last run netted a 34.90 time to edge me ahead of David. Then he romped up in 34.39 seconds, so all credit to him for such a rapid ascent.
We never for a moment thought the Primo Insurance-sponsored Multi Car Hillclimb Challenge team would worry the podium, but then we never really thought we'd be competing in a two hundred grand Bentley either. The fact that we did went down very well with Shelsley's spectators and competitors, helping raise awareness of the Nationwide Association of Blood Bikes, which does a brilliant job supporting the NHS.
After competing in such sybaritic fashion, it took a while to refocus on normality; however, the GT Speed made this easier thanks to its comfort during the trudge up the M5 and M6 to drop it back at its Crewe home. It's supreme at cruising in these conditions and now we know it makes a surprisingly able hillclimb machine too!
[Photos: Track Action Photography]