2001 Bentley Speed 8 Le Mans Prototype Racing Car – Auction

Bentley Speed 8
Well here is another auction for a more recent Le Mans racer, this time its the 2001 Bentley Speed 8 and has the following racing pedigree.

• First Team Bentley to finish on the podium at Le Mans in 71 years
• Third Place at 2001 24 Hour of Le Mans
• Last raced at Road America in 2007

The inspiration for the successful Bentley Speed 8 program belongs to Dr. Ferdinand Piech, the grandson of Ferdinand Porsche, who designed the Audi’s “Auto Union” Grand Prix cars in the 1930s.

As chairman of Volkswagen, Piech directed the acquisition of Bentley in June 1998, but he had been the guiding force on the Porsche 917 program, which had won Le Mans in 1970 and 1971. Piech also worked on the formidable Audi Quattro rally car and thought that Audi should enter sports car racing.

In 1998, Piech commissioned Italian contractor Dallara to build a sports racer to use the Audi 3.6-liter turbocharged V-8, mid-mounted in a carbon fiber tub. The car became the Audi R8 roadster, which would enjoy a spectacular competition record, losing only 16 races in which it was entered, between 2000 and 2006.

Piech decided that Bentley’s racing heritage should be revived and it should have a parallel course to Audi, competing in the closed LMP GTP class at Le Mans, while Audi would contest the LMP 900 open division. The Audi R8C Coupe would evolve into the Bentley EXP Speed 8 Coupe, the car which is on offer today.

The Bentley EXP Speed 8 Coupe was given to designer Peter Elleray to revise. He had worked on the Arrows F1 cars in the 1980s and he developed a new chassis, planning to use the Bentley W12 engine. The W12 was tested in a Lola chassis but just wasn’t suitable, and the decision was made to revert to the 600 horsepower 3.6-liter turbocharged Audi V-8. Two prototypes were built and tested at Snetterton.

The cockpit area of the EXP Speed 8 was a carbon fiber and aluminum honeycomb with three carbon fiber hoops: one over the driver, one in front of him, and one around the footwell. It weighed only 154 pounds. The front and rear suspensions were by wishbones, with torsion bars up front and coil springs at the rear. A six-speed transmission was supplied by Xtrac, with electro-pneumatic shifting.

The Bentleys started the 2001 24 Hours of Le Mans in seventh and ninth places on the grid, in torrential rain. After half an hour, Brundle was leading the race, but the rain eventually penetrated the seals in to the cockpit, the windshield misted up, and the electronic gearbox began to malfunction. At 9.30 p.m., Smith stopped at Arnage, stuck in sixth gear, with an electrical fire, and the car was withdrawn from the race.

The second car was having similar issues, having fallen back in to 17th place after an previous tire change. Leitzinger made it all the way up to third place by 11 p.m., but then the car was jammed in fourth gear. He nursed it back to the pits and it took 45 minutes to replace the gearbox switches. He made it back to third place, then the pneumatic shifter failed, which took nine minutes to fix. Meanwhile, the radio communication had failed, but that problem was solved with a portable radio in a plastic bag in the cockpit.

Ok on to the specs:-

670 hp, 3.6-liter twin-turbocharged V-8 engine, electronic fuel injection, Ricardo six-speed sequential dual-clutch manual gearbox, front independent suspension with double-wishbones, torsion bars at the front and coil springs at the rear and a pushrod system with horizontal dampers, and four-wheel hydraulic disc brakes. Wheelbase: 104.3″

Who ever buys it for the guide price of $1,900,000-$2,500,000 US be sure to fetch your waterproof’s for the drive home.

Source: RMAuctions / Bentley


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