04 Jun Say Hello To The Bentley Speed 8
Photo Credit: Bentley Motors
While Bentley is mostly known for its luxurious cruisers they also build award winning Le Mans rockets that awe and inspire. The design of this car was the work of Peter Elleray, a British race car designer known for doing the Audi R8C and the British Radical SR9. So needless to say he has an impressive history building cars that make me go WEEEEEEEE!
Being owned by VW has its perks including access to engines and drivetrains that already power a lot of amazing vehicles. The Bentley Speed 8 happens to share a lot in common with the Audi R8 which really comes as no surprise. The R8’s 3.6 litre turbocharged V8 was the initial powerplant in 2001, but was bored out to 4.0 litres with a frisky jump to 600HP. Bentley also went with a custom six-speed gearbox designed and built by developed by Xtrac. Bentley also chose to run on Dunlop tyres instead of the Michelins used by Audi, for reasons I don’t know so I’ll assume they just worked on their setup better.
This is a serious racing machine and in 2001 Bentley returned to the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans race after not showing up for 68 years. The team had a planned three-year campaign with the EXP Speed 8 in the closed-cockpit LMGTP class. During the the Bentleys were the only cars to run in the LMGTP class with one earning third place behind a pair of Audi R8s. The other car unfortunately did not do so well due to a fire which ended its race. Returing in 2002, Bentley put their new larger engine came to good use and came in fourth place
Where are they now?
After Le Mans Bentley ended their program and the Speed 8s were sadly never raced again. Sometime just after the 2001 Le Mans race, chassis 2/3 was sold to a Japanese collector which now resides with an American collector which is the last known where about I could track down. You can however catch a glimpse of this car at special shows and exhibits.
The sixth Cholmondeley Pageant of Power will be kicking off this month and luckily one of the Speed 8’s will be on display. This festival of speed features a track competition with over 80 cars and 40 bikes campaigning to achieve their best laps. The event is also set to celebrate Aston Martin’s centenary and Lamborghini’s 50th anniversary. If you’re going to this show I’m going to say it now, I’m jealous.