Duerheimer hoped to modernize the brand further. He did so on the product side by starting development on what would eventually become the Bentayga -- Bentley's first SUV. But the Bentley image of 2011 was still too closely linked to the languid gin-and-tonic set that was rapidly aging.
"I felt there is room to contemporize it, to make it more energetic, to make it younger and to somehow boost it," Duerheimer told Automotive News at the press launch here for the Continental Supersports. "And so I said we need to go racing with the big boys again."
Thus, Bentley's GT3 racing program was born.
Bentley is now in its fourth racing season and has amassed 38 wins in 406 races across the globe, according to the automaker. On dozens of weekends throughout the year, Bentley squares off against the big boys Duerheimer mentioned, icons such as Corvette, Ferrari, Porsche, Jaguar, Aston Martin, Mercedes-AMG and BMW.
Bentley owners are invited into the pits to soak up the myriad sights, sounds and smells of motor racing, a far cry from the country-club settings with which Bentley is often associated.
"You like to hang out with sporty people and successful people," Duerheimer said. "And that's proven through what we do on the race days. And this way our clients get this insight into details that they never would imagine to have."
This latest racing effort uses a GT3 derivative of the Continental coupe Bentley sells. The reasoning is simple: Vehicles competing in the GT3 group are based on production cars. Participating in this class lets Bentley draw a clear connection between what's lapping the track and what's selling at the showroom (even if the competition Bentleys are race-specific custom machines hiding underneath bodywork that looks like a production car).
The move also allowed Bentley to market a high-performance Continental GT3-R model in 2015 to 300 global customers at a price tag of around $340,000 each. It's the super-high-end version of "win on Sunday, sell on Monday."
The Bentley Boys are back, too -- six factory racers who appear at customer and media events to promote the Bentley lifestyle.
Bentley also garners their input on the development of its production cars.
The revived combination gives Bentley an important tool to help the brand pivot away from stodgy and speak more directly to well-heeled -- and younger -- buyers with a greater appetite for excitement.
Duerheimer said: "This shows that Bentley is back, Bentley is competitive, Bentley is a winning company."