Traveling at 330.695km/h in any car is very, very, fast. But to do it on the frozen waters of the Baltic Sea off the coast of Finland in a Bentley Continental Supersports Convertible, is downright madness.
This time, the term ‘mad dogs and Englishmen’ doesn’t quite fit the picture, although the Fins are just as mad. If you’ve ever seen the amateur rallying clips on You Tube, you’ll know exactly what I’m taking about.
The record was set by Finland’s four-time world rally champion Juha Kankkunen as he drove the all-wheel drive, 6.0-litre, 12-cylinder luxury express to set the new world speed record on ice.
Like all luxury carmakers these days, Bentley is reducing is trying to reduce its CO2 footprint, so the world record was achieved while running on E85 bioethanol.
Mind you, the only record that Kankkunen broke in this week’s run was his own, which he set in 2007 driving a Continental GT at a speed of 321.6km/h at the same location.
It’s a rather hazardous occupation driving cars this fast at this particular location. Temperatures can fall to below minus 30 degrees, and blizzards can induce perilous crosswinds on the 16.5 kilometre ice track, which is no more than a 70cm-think sheet of sea ice.
The record was a result of two runs in opposite directions and measured by instrumentation and officials from the Finland Traffic Police and certified by a representative of the Guinness Book of Records.
Naturally, the car had a few safety modifications such as a fully welded safety cage, Pirelli SottoZero 11 275/40R20 tyres and a rear-mounted parachute. Additional front and rear spoilers were also added for extra high-speed stability.
I guess if you’re going for a record in such extreme conditions, you might as well do it in the kind of luxury that only Bentley can offer.
"The last time, I narrowly missed the magical 200 mph mark in a Continental GT," Kankkunen said."When I heard about the Supersports I was determined to go record breaking again with the Bentley Boys. This time, with over 600bhp under the bonnet, a Quickshift transmission and the security of the all-wheel drive system, the Supersports convertible was the perfect car to go for the record."200mph came up after 5km on sheet ice. Then it was just a question of getting everything right in the timing zone and hoping the snow kept away. There's nothing to beat driving a Bentley at these speeds; the conditions may be perilous but the car responds so well to the slightest adjustment which gives you the confidence to push even harder."
Clearly, Wolfgang Durheimer, Bentley’s chairman was pleased with the result when he said:
"The ice speed record is an amazing feat by Juha Kankkunen, whose skill and courage in extreme conditions truly make him one of the modern-day Bentley Boys. We will be celebrating this achievement with a very special ‘extreme' Bentley, which will be the most powerful model ever to bear the famed Winged B emblem."
Only 100 examples of this extreme and limited edition Bentley will be built, and the car will debut at this year’s Geneva Motor Show.
JUHA KANKKUNEN: BRIEF CV
•Juha Matti Pellervo Kankkunen, born 1959 in Laukaa, Finland
•One of the most experienced rally drivers of all times
•Four times rally World Champion (1986, 1987, 1991, 1993)
•23 times World Rally Winner
•Started his career in 1978
•First World Rally win in 1985 (Safari Rally)
•Won Dakar Rally in 1988
•World ice speed record in 2007, in a Bentley Continental GT
HISTORY OF WORLD ICE SPEED RECORDS
•2011: Bentley Continental Supersports convertible: 205.48 mph (330.695 km/h) driven by Juha Kankkunen
•2007: Bentley Continental GT: 199.83 mph (321.6 km/h) driven by Juha Kankkunen
•1995: Bugatti EB110 Supersport: 184 mph (296 km/h)