It probably won’t have escaped your notice that a number of plucky (and big in America) manufacturers have been using the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb as a marketing wheeze of late. Bentley has been at it for years with varying degrees of success. In many ways, it’s the perfect venue for a new production car: a high degree of exposure at a very picturesque, world-famous motor racing event for minimal investment. And no matter if the response in Europe is only so-so; the colonies eat this stuff up like peanut butter M&Ms.
Moreover, Pikes Peak is blessed with what seems like many, many categories, which allows for varying degrees of specialisation. This means that when you’ve finished mucking about in the ‘Exhibition’ sections, you can throw money at the modified stuff. Of course, to triumph overall you typically need something custom-built (or as savagely fast as the record-breaking VW I.D R) to properly compete in the Unlimited class. But manufacturers (or the race teams that partner with them) are increasingly drawn to the lively Time Attack 1 division, where the ‘production-based’ criteria permit all manner of tricked-out racing derivatives.
Porsche, unsurprisingly, is a constant presence (a GT2 RS Clubsport holds the current record) and because the rules are a neat fit for existing GT3 contenders, others have been tempted to try their luck, too. Bentley had a go with a Fastr-built, Rhys Millen-piloted Continental GT in 2021, and now another British race team is getting in on the act with the current Aston Martin Vantage GT3. Venture Engineering, based in Witney, says this is the fast time in the event’s history that a race-bred Vantage will have been entered, and (without yet going into too many details) confirms that the race car will be heavily optimised to meet the unique challenge of the 12.42 mile, 156-turn course.
Working in conjunction with Aston Martin Racing, expect that to mean changes to the 4.0-litre V8’s engine map (including bespoke gearing) as well as damper work, weight reduction and a new aero package. Let’s not forget that Bentley turned its GT3 wick up beyond 750hp to be competitive; expect similar gains from the Vantage. Also, it won’t want for driver experience: Venture has already confirmed that three-time King of the Mountain Robin Shute will be doing the steering when the time comes. “It’s an honour to be racing this year with Venture Engineering,” noted the British driver. “It’s very special for me to race a car with such storied racing roots back home in the UK. I can't wait to make this Vantage GT3 roar up the mountain!” Expect to hear a lot more about the Pikes Peak Vantage before then…