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  Bentley Speed 8
 

  Article Image gallery (58) Chassis (3) Specifications  
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Country of origin:Great Britain
Produced in:2003
Numbers built:5 (2 never raced)
Designed by:Peter Elleray for Bentley
Predecessor:Bentley EXP Speed 8
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:October 16, 2013
Download: All images
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Click here to download printer friendly versionBentley was the first manufacturer to dominate the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Between 1924 and 1930 the British company scored five outright wins in the legendary French endurance race. Shortly after the fifth win Bentley was incorporated by Rolls-Royce and all racing activities were suspended. The Rolls-Royce ownership lasted for nearly 70 years and finally came to an end in 1998 when both companies were absorbed into the Volkswagen Audi Group (VAG). One of the results of the ownership change was a renewed interest in racing and in 2000 a three-year program was announced. The ultimate goal: Bentley's sixth 24 Hours of Le Mans win.

One of the VAG's other brands, Audi, was already involved in sports car racing, which both complicated and simplified Bentley's Le Mans assault. It would make little sense for the two sister brands to race each other but on the other hand experience and resources could be shared. The regulations offered an ideal solution; the new Bentley would be built to race in the LM GTP class for closed prototypes. Audi's 2000 Le Mans winning R8 competed in the LMP 900 class for open prototypes. Both classes had very similar regulations, which ensured that the two very different machines could still both race for overall glory.

Racing Technology Norfolk (RTN) was commissioned to design the new Bentley Le Mans racer. They had previously worked with Audi on the similar R8C that raced at Le Mans in 1999. While the R8C was designed by Tony Southgate, his compatriot Peter Elleray was hired to pen the Bentley that was labelled the EXP Speed 8. That was in reference to its experimental status, the 1929 and 1930 Le Mans winning Bentley Speed 6s and its eight cylinder engine. That twin-turbocharged V8 was the only common part shared with the Audi R8. The chassis, suspension, gearbox and aero-package were all developed from scratch.

Elleray penned a very elegant coupe shape with a relatively sharp nose and long tail. Underneath the carbon fiber panels, a sturdy carbon fiber monocoque could be found. Suspension was by double wishbones on both ends with torsion bar springs at the front and coils at the rear. Although a naturally aspirated engine was originally considered, it was eventually decided to fit the already victorious twin-turbo V8 engine. The compact 3.6 liter engine was mated to a six-speed gearbox that had been jointly developed by Bentley and Xtrac. The differences between the LMP 900 and LM GTP regulations meant that the Bentley featured slightly narrower tires than Audi R8, which was balanced out by a larger restrictor.

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  Article Image gallery (58) Chassis (3) Specifications