Eighty years since a Bentley entered the first Le Mans 24-hour race and 70 years since its last win, the marque, now owned by the Volkswagen group, was victorious again this weekend, writes Ian Wagstaff.
The two works Bentleys ran in first and second place throughout the famed round the clock race. The cars were resplendent in British racing green and so it was appropriate the English driver, Guy Smith took the chequered flag, afterwards describing his last stint as the longest two hours of his life. For one of Smith’s co-drivers, Tom Kristensen, it was a fifth victory at Le Mans, putting him equal second in the list of all time winners level with Derek Bell, arguably the most famous of all British sports car drivers and now a consultant to the Bentley team. Italian Rino Capello was the third member of a truly international team.
After three consecutive Audi victories it was important from a marketing standpoint that one of the Bentley coupes won this year. Three Audis were entered this year but by independent teams – including one supported by Audi UK – rather than by the factory. Two of these came in third and fourth giving the VW group all the top places.