Bentley EXP Speed 8

The Bentley Speed 8 (developed from the Bentley EXP Speed 8) was a Le Mans Prototype race car that was designed by Peter Elleray. EXP Speed 8 debuted in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2001, the Speed 8 car finally winning in 2003. It has a strong resemblance to and shares some technology with the Audi R8C, which had raced only once before Audi dropped the project to focus on the later dominant Audi R8. The EXP Speed 8 marked Bentley's return to racing after a 73-year absence.

All design, development and manufacturing for the Bentley was done by the English outfit, Racing Technology Norfolk (RTN), located in Norfolk, United Kingdom. Chief designer was Peter Elleray.

The engine from the Audi R8, a 3.6 litre turbocharged V8, was used as the initial powerplant in 2001. The six-speed gearbox was also not the typical Ricardo unit from the R8, but instead a custom unit developed by Xtrac. Bentley also chose to run on Dunlop tyres instead of the Michelins used by Audi.

Following its initial year of competition, the Audi-sourced V8 was modified to better suit the EXP Speed 8. This saw the engine expanded to 4.0 litres, producing approximately 600 hp. This would ultimately lead to Bentley redesigning the car for 2003, leading to the change of name to simply Speed 8. The flat front end was replaced with a raised crash box for a nose, while deep valleys ran between the nose and fenders. This required the addition of large horizontal bodywork between the nose and fenders to shroud the suspension arms of the Speed 8. The cockpit would also be tapered to allow for better airflow to the rear wing. Bentley also decided to switch to Michelin tyres for their 2003 campaign.

In total two Bentley testbeds, four EXP Speed 8s, and five Speed 8s would be built, although some chassis would never race due to damage or being converted to display cars.

Source: Wikipedia, 2012

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