As for the question that inspired this journey, the Bentley’s answer was clear. For its pace, ride, refinement, ability to keep you relaxed, the sense of safety, clarity of information it conveyed and the feeling of well-being from spending time in a car this well engineered, it proved itself worthy of its vaunted title, time and again.
I’ll save the last words for, of all things, the seats. I sat in that Bentley for an entire day and emerged without the smallest ache, and there can be no better measure of a car called Continental. To me, that is incredible. But as incredible as starting a journey in Belgium and ending it in Poland less than 24 hours later having visited Luxembourg, France, Germany, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic on the way? Not even close.
Where didn’t we go?
Could we have reached more countries? Probably. Were we to try again, we’d take a slightly longer but quicker motorway route across Austria and Italy, putting time in our pocket we could have spent reaching Romania. And had Bentley’s insurance allowed it, we might have been able to add Serbia to the list.
I’m not sure why Serbia is off limits. I’ve driven there on a previous record attempt and not had the slightest sniff of a problem. Then again, Switzerland was on the list of places we couldn’t go, too – although I’m happy to say we only realised that once we were well clear of the country. Kosovo was there for the taking but that really would have been a risk, partly from a security point of view, but mainly because we’d been told you could lose hours just getting in and even more getting back out again.
So I think 17 countries might be possible. Or do you know of a smarter route that results in even more? We’d love to hear of it if you do.
Our support car
I’ve done enough of these stunts to know that it’s all about the back-up crew. You absolutely can’t do without one, because even if they’re never actually needed, as in this case, just the knowledge that they are there, shadowing your every move, is vital. But I’ve also done one where a support crew struggled to stay awake and instantly the enormous asset they represent becomes an even bigger liability.
With Matt and Lee, we never had that problem. They had our backs from Belgium to Poland, never lost sight of us and were always there with the banter at the stops. And although I never travelled in it, their Bentayga seemed pretty fit for purpose, too, at least once the boys had ripped out its rear seats and made a purpose-built platform to securely carry all their tools, tyres and Monster energy drinks. It seemed odd to use a near- £140,000 Bentley as a tender car, but once you saw it in all its finery and witnessed how it performed during the attempt, you’d have to concede that there probably were few that were finer.