Le Mans-Winning Bentley Speed 8 To Make UK Race Debut At Silverstone Classic
This year of course marks the centenary of the famous Bentley brand, and there has been seemingly a never-ending succession of ways in which in the milestone is being celebrated. And Silverstone Classic is keeping with this. It already was planning at this year’s retro event to hold special displays, parades and races for Bentley’s birthday. And now a 2003 Le Mans-winning Bentley Speed 8 prototype will race in the UK for the first time, taking part in the Classic’s pair of Masters Endurance Legends races.
Bentley–with its storied and dashing Bentley Boys–dominated the Le Mans 24 Hour race in the 1920s, taking five victories between 1924 and 1930–including four consecutively from 1927. And then seven decades on, in which Bentley had been absent from the famous French endurance race, the marque returned to Le Mans in the early part of the 21st century seeking to renew its glories. And in 2003, with the Speed 8, Bentley made it all the way back to overall Le Mans victory after 73 years away.
Bentley had been taken over by the Volkswagen Group in 1998 and the new owner was keen to re-establish the brand’s sporting credentials, and briefly switched its Le Mans effort from Audi to Bentley. Speed 8 coupés in British racing green were designed and produced at the team’s UK base in Crewe, albeit with support plus 600bhp twin-turbo V8 engines from habitual Le Mans-winner Audi.
Following the 2003 triumph, Volkswagen’s Le Mans efforts switched back to Audi. Now one of the stunning 215mph Speed 8 machines belongs to experienced sportscar racing enthusiast Shaun Lynn, and he will contest both showdowns for the Aston Martin Trophy for Masters Endurance Legends at the Classic retro racing festival taking place on July 26 to 28. The first race is part of Saturday evening’s evocative ‘Twilight Tribute to Le Mans’ set at dusk, and the second race is on Sunday afternoon. Both last 40 minutes and feature a wide range of machinery.
“We are absolutely thrilled that Shaun is joining us at the Classic to race his Speed 8,” said Masters Historic Racing president Ron Maydon. “This will be another iconic addition to our already impressive grid and is sure to be a massive crowd-pleaser. The Speed 8’s debut in a Masters’ race is all the more pertinent, of course, as Bentley is celebrating its centenary at the Classic and its Le Mans victories are very much a highlight of the brand’s incredible heritage.”
“We must thank Shaun massively for bringing the Speed 8 to Silverstone,” added Silverstone Classic CEO Nick Wigley, “it’s an incredible car and will be the icing on Bentley’s centenary birthday cake as we celebrate the company’s milestone 100th anniversary at the Classic. Our special Saturday evening Twilight Tribute to Le Mans is now complete: it will kick off with a wonderful array of vintage Bentleys competing in the Pre-War Sportscar race and conclude at dusk with the Speed 8 racing into the sunset. Just perfect!”
Images courtesy of Silverstone Classic