Team Bentley returns to racing in the USA for the first time since 1922 at the Sebring, Florida 12-hour race. The latest Bentley Speed 8 prototype, designed to contest this year’s Le Mans 24-hour endurance classic, makes its competition debut this month in America’s most historic long-distance sports car race. It was 81 years ago that WD Hawkes drove a near-standard 3-litre Bentley at Indianapolis against highly specialised oval racing cars – the first and last race that Bentley Motors ever contested in the USA, until now.
The Sebring 12-hour is one of the world’s most challenging motor races and this year’s event is the 51st running of the Florida race.
For the 2003 Sebring race, the first race for the new Bentley Speed 8, Team Bentley is hoping for much better. Although winning would be great, Team Bentley has to be realistic. The main objective for Sebring is to test the car and get it set up and ready for Le Mans in June.
‘Just as important as the possibility of winning, is the invaluable practice we will get for our ultimate goal this year – winning Le Mans,’ says Brian Gush, Bentley’s director of motor sport. ‘History has shown that a team that does well in Sebring stands a very good chance at Le Mans. The USA is also our largest market – another good reason to return to American soil with a Bentley racing car.’
For 2003, Team Bentley also has the pleasure in confirming Breitling as its headline sponsor. The Breitling logo will appear prominently across both the front and the sides of both Speed 8 prototypes. Breitling also has collaborated with Bentley Motors on the design of the clock for its forthcoming Continental GT road car, the first time a Breitling time-piece has ever been commissioned for use in a car.
Team Bentley will be using Michelin tyres for the first time at Sebring. Michelin has been the most successful tyre constructor in the sportscar arena for many years, and the team regards its participation this year as a vital component in the campaign for success on both sides of the Atlantic. Though the rules governing the LM GTP category at Le Mans means the Bentley Speed 8 runs on narrower tyres than Michelin is accustomed to supplying, early testing has provided some extremely promising results.
Team Bentley will enter two of its latest Speed 8 prototypes at Sebring – which have been comprehensively redesigned for 2003. Car number eight will be driven by British Formula One stars Johnny Herbert, Mark Blundell and David Brabham, while the number seven car will be piloted by Tom Kristensen, Rinaldo ‘Dindo’ Capello and Guy Smith.Published 11 March 2003