Bentley Speed 8
The Bentley EXP Speed â€‹â€‹8 and its evolution Bentley Speed â€‹â€‹8 are Le Mans prototypes, the Bentley developed in collaboration with Racing Technology Norfolk for the 24-hour race at Le Mans, who won the company in 2003.
The Bentley EXP 8 was governed by the regulations of the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) built race car prototype class LMGTP who should win the prestigious 24-hour race at Le Mans. Under the direction of chief designer Peter Elleray the car from the plans of the Audi R8C was developed, a closed version of the Audi R8, which was only once come to a race and the Audi had dropped again. The Bentley EXP Speed â€‹â€‹8 debuted on 16 and 17 June 2001, the drivers Andy Wallace, Butch Leitz Inger and Eric van de Poele at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, where he was able to win the third place behind the then applicable in an incredibly open-top Audi R8. This ended Bentleys 73-year absence as a factory team in motorsport.
Under the leadership of Bentley EXP Speed â€‹â€‹8 was at work RTN (Racing Technology Norfolk) developed and built. First drive unit was 2001, the turbocharged 3.6-liter V8 engine of the R8 from sister company Audi. The six-speed gearbox, however, Xtrac developed specifically for this vehicle. Unlike Audi, who drove with Michelin tires, Bentley decided to race tires from Dunlop.
After the first year, which was considered a trial year, the Audi engine was further developed. The engine capacity increased from 3.6 to four liters to bring the heavier closed prototype closer to the open-top Audi R8. Moreover, drew an unsatisfactory aerodynamics of the EXP Speed â€‹â€‹8 strong modifications to the design of the car for the 2003 season after himself, whereupon the Bentley Speed â€‹â€‹8 was only – without the addition of EXP – after the experimental phase was completed. The Changes primarily impacted the front and the area of â€‹â€‹the cockpit, due to a change in the crash box to the monocoque. In addition, they switched from Dunlop to tire manufacturer Michelin.
A total of two test carriers, four EXP Speed â€‹â€‹8 and five-speed 8 were built, of which, however, some were never used in racing, but served as a crash test or as a presentation vehicles.
2001 Bentley returned after 73-year absence from the 24-hour race at Le Mans back with a three-year program at the race track at La Sarthe and reached with the EXP Speed â€‹â€‹8 as the only type of vehicle in the closed LMGTP class in the first race at once to third place. Two vehicles were used, but different one of them after a vehicle fire out. The following year, only one vehicle was used, the already-capacity extended to the motor was appointed and served as a test carrier for the Speed â€‹â€‹8, which should debut in 2003. The vehicle was fourth and had, as early as 2001, only beaten by the Audi R8. To 2003, to be able to achieve a victory in Le Mans, Bentley decided the new 8 speed even at the 12 Hours of Sebring – this is a good test run for Le Mans – to test under race conditions. To the end of the row by an infraction in qualifying restored, the EXP Speed â€‹â€‹8 could fight his way up to third and fourth place in a race to catch up to the end of the race – again behind a factory and a privately-entered Audi R8.
While Audi decided not to participate in 2003 as a factory team for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which belongs to Volkswagen subsidiary Bentley was the only remaining producers in the LMP class. Supported by Joest Racing, yet all the Le Mans prototype forces in charge of Audi, and Audi factory drivers Tom Kristensen and Rinaldo Capello started the Bentley Speed â€‹â€‹8 Le Mans from the pole position. After the start of the two racing cars were almost as the whole race in the lead, even though one of the vehicles had problems in the electrical system. After 377 laps of the Speed â€‹â€‹8 won with the # 7, driven by Rinaldo Capello, Tom Kristensen and Guy Smith. The double victory completed the sister car with starting number 8, in which Mark Blundell, David Brabham and Johnny Herbert were sitting at the wheel. After three overall victories Audi Bentley’s victory was the fourth victory for the Volkswagen Group. However, ended with the Total profit and the Bentley commitment and racing prototypes were then used exclusively in the context of historical events. Thus, the Speed â€‹â€‹8 to occur, for example, regularly at the Goodwood Festival of Speed.