It’s not unusual for car manufacturers to join a racing series for a couple of years, take some time of and the return with a stronger team. What is unusual is for that gap to be 68 years. The last time a Bentley car raced in the Le Mans 24 Hours was 1933, when the cars were huge brutes powered by massive engines that would have looked more at home under the bonnet of a Spitfire. The cars they brought to the start line in 2001 were much more high tech affairs, boasting sleek bodywork and a 600bhp engine
The team planned to compete for 3 years at Le Mans, and in it’s first year one of their cars managed to finish on the bottom step of the podium. Unfortunately, the sister car was forced to retire after a fire which forced the driver to abandoned the cockpit. In 2002 just one car was brought to the circuit, this time running a large engine as a test for next years car – a car they planned to win with. That year, the car finish fourth, beaten by a trio of Audi R8s (a car the Speed 8 shared a lot of parts with).
2003 would be the year all went according to plan. The car’s engine had been proven reliably, and the body work was tweaked to make it even more slippery through the air. Running two cars again, both of the Bentley’s started at the front for the race and stay their for the duration, covering 377 laps before the chequered flag was shown 24 hours later. Following the victory, the two cars were withdrawn from racing and have not competed since. However, at the 2013 Goodwood Festival of Speed, both of the 2003 Bentley Speed 8 were driven up the famous hill in formation, and it was clear that fans still love them as much today as they did then