Le Mans, 15 June 2003, 4.00pm... It has taken 24-hours of slog, not to mention three years unrelenting hard work but, 73 years after its most recent victory, Bentley has won the Le Mans 24-hour race - and come second.
Amid scenes of extraordinary emotion in and around the pits, at 4.00pm this afternoon, Guy Smith drove his number 7 Bentley Speed 8 over the line. He was followed by David Brabham in the sister number 8 car to realise a dream that was a lifetime in the making. In the process Team Bentley broke Audi's three year stranglehold on this race, delivered maiden Le Mans wins to Dindo Capello and Guy Smith and allowed Tom Kristensen to join Derek Bell and Jacky Ickx as the only people ever to have won this race more than four times.
The great question at the start was whether the proven extra speed of the Speed 8 was enough to counter the extra time it would spend in the pits compared with the Audis. Brilliant driving from all six drivers, flawless pitwork, Michelin tyres that allowed triple and quadruple stints and legendary Bentley reliability provided the answer.
Dr Franz-Josef Paefgen, chairman and chief executive of Bentley Motors said, "this is one of the greatest moments in our company's long history. On behalf of everyone at Crewe and all those who work for Bentley around the world, I'd like to thank every person at Team Bentley who helped make it possible. After 73 years we are delighted to have taken Bentley back to its roots with it's 6th victory at Le Mans."
Tom Kristensen: "This was a great way to win my fifth Le Mans. We had a near perfect race on the track and a perfect one in the pits. I was able to do quick laps, especially at night. It was great to win with my long time driving partner Dindo; Guy has done an excellent job with the development of the car as well as driving a great race today. My thanks go to whole Bentley team."