October 8, 2014
British automaker Bentley Motors is assessing the pros and cons of its return to racing as it gears up for next season's affairs.
The brand tallied three victories on two continents and came in second during a championship race, proving that its return to racing was not spur of the moment but rather a deliberate process. Indeed, with social media amplifying the reach and accessibility of races, many auto brands are finding that success on the course, and the unspooling history that follows, translates to enthusiastic social followers.
"The 2014 season has certainly been a success," said Mike Sayer, product and motor sport communications manager at Bentley Motors, Crewe, Britain. "We’ve scored victories in the two race series we’ve entered (on two different continents, Europe and North America) and finished second in the Blancpain Endurance Series.
"We knew that the Continental GT3 would be fast, but we didn’t expect to win races so soon," he said. "We now look forward to building on this season with a more extensive program that will see Bentley Motorsport racing on four different continents.
"That starts this coming weekend, with the first race for the Continental GT3 in China."
Bentley returned to racing in 2013 after a decade-long hiatus. While the brand initially adjusted to the pressures of the season, 2014 saw a team in its element.
Leading the way of the debut was the Continental GT3 model that had been teased for several years in concept form prior to its emergence on the track this year.
Bentley Continental GT3-R
The British automaker revealed the model during 2013's Goodwood Festival of Speed and debuted it on the racetrack after months of refinement (see story).
Bentley competed in a number of key races this year as it eased the GT3 onto the track. For instance, the brand competed in the historic Blancpain Endurance Series in Europe.
Bentley Continental GT3-R
During the second race of the tournament, in Silverstone, Britain, the brand clocked its first victory of the year. This race also marked the brand's first race in Britain in 84 years, a point of celebration for local fans.
Ultimately, Bentley finished second in the Blancpain Endurance series throughout the seven races overall.
Elsewhere in the world, the brand earned its first victory in the United States during the finale of the Pirelli World Challenge.
In 2015, Bentley will be racing four Gt3 vehicles throughout the season and will compete in Asia and the Middle East.
Currently, the brand is undergoing a series of development and training programs to get ready for the upcoming season. For example, the brand has begun Project NBR24, which will allow it to compete in the Nürburgring 24 Hours race.
Making the turn
While most luxury automakers have rich traditions in the racing world, how thoroughly should this history be woven into a brand’s image?
Following appearances in racing events, social media pages are often saturated with tribute-recaps that can enthrall a core constituency, but may also fail to resonate with less zealous fans. However, reminding all fans of the intense competition and push toward innovation inherent in racing can create an aura of passion that captivates rather than deters consumers (see story).
Other luxury automakers had revival seasons this year.
German automaker Porsche returned to Le Mans 24 Hours race after a 16-year leave and hyped up its mission with an extensive digital campaign.
The automaker’s pursuit of a victory at Le Mans 24 Hours race called for a start-from-scratch approach, and the brand was eager to share that journey. Competing in high-level racing events can help a brand clarify design methods, gather favor among auto enthusiasts and gain bragging rights over contenders (see story).
For brands reemerging on the racing scene, the transformed digital landscape drastically alters fan interactions.
"The fans were able to follow the Bentley Motorsport season through live updates on our social media channels," Mr. Sayer said.
"We reached literally millions of social media users across the globe through the sharing of behind-the-scenes content from the races and received a huge amount of encouragement and support from our followers," he said.
"This is something we hope to continue in future."
Joe McCarthy, staff writer on Luxury Daily, New York