2003 Bentley EXP Speed 8
Pilots: R. Capello, T. Kristensen, G. Smith
Team: Team Bentley
Race: 1st GC (LMP class) at Le Mans in 2003
Ixo - LM 2003 (diecast)
From 1924 to 1930, Bentley dominated Le Mans, with five victories. Shortly after that, Rolls Royce purchased the brand, and the new management suspended all racing efforts. But in 1998 the Volkswagen-Audi Group bought both Rolls Royce and Bentley. And with the new ownership racing became a possibility again. The new administration announced a three-year racing program, so Bentley was going back to La Sarthe. The problem was that Audi was already involved with prototype racing. So to avoid in-house competition, Bentley would field a LM GTP car (closed prototype). Since Audi’s R8R would compete in the LMP 900 class (opened cockpit), both brands were safe from each other.
The new EXP Speed 8 was the responsibility of Racing Technology Norfolk (RTN), of Norfolk, in the UK. Peter Elleray, the chief designer, penned an elegant coupe with flowing lines. The engine was basically the same V8 used in the R8C. It was a twin-turbocharged 3995 cm³ with DOHC, 32 valves and direct fuel injection. The chassis was a carbon fiber monocoque, and over that, a body of carbon composite panels. The car was ready for Le Mans in 2001, and managed a solid third place. And in the next year a very good fourth place, not bad for a one car team. But finally, in 2003, after 73 years, Bentley won the 24 Heures du Mans again.
This Speed 8 is chassis #004/5, the winning car #7. In my opinion it’s one of the best looking prototypes to ever race at La Sarthe. I’ve been after it for a loooong time, though I was aiming at the Minichamps version. At least lately, a reasonably-priced one has been hard to come by, so I went the Ixo rout. But I’m glad I did, because Ixo did a VERY nice job on the model. I can’t see how Minichamps’ effort is much better than this. Yep, Minichamps also uses painted tail lights.