2003 Speed 8 Bentley returns to Le Mans for centennial celebrations
The 2003 Speed 8, the most well-known race vehicle of the contemporary Bentley period, returned to Le Mans to take part in the 24 Hours of Le Mans' centennial celebrations. Prior to the arrival of a new Works Bentley at Le Mans this year, the highly regarded fan favorite will give a spectacular exhibition. Two Blower Continuation Series cars will also compete in the Le Mans Classic.
On Saturday afternoon, as part of a centennial procession, the very same Speed 8 chassis 004/5 that won the race in 2003 took to the circuit. Guy Smith, the same driver who won the race twenty years prior, was at the wheel as the vehicle made its return to the circuit. Guy remarked after finishing two circuits and getting back in the car:
"This car is very precious to me because it gave Bentley its first Le Mans victory since 1930 and served as the launchpad for my racing career. Although I've driven it a few times since 2003, this was the first time I brought it back to Le Mans, and doing so brought back a lot of emotions and memories. Twenty years after it crossed the line, it still feels exactly the same. It's been a fantastic weekend of commemoration of this place's 100-year history since Bentley is a part of Le Mans and Le Mans is a part of Bentley.
Then, at the Le Mans Classic, a Works Bentley will compete at Le Mans for the first time since winning the race in 2003, as two Blower Continuation Series vehicles compete in the Grid 1 event. With the former building on its recent inaugural test race at Donington Park in the UK, both the factory-owned Blower Car Zero and a customer car will compete. The entries not only commemorate the return of a works-supported Blower to the circuit for the first time since 1930, when the legend of the Bentley Blower was created, but also the first official Bentley entries to a Le Mans race since 2003.
The Speed 8 004/5 just had a complete rebuild as part of the revitalization of Bentley's Heritage Collection to bring it back to as-new condition as it was prior to its most illustrious triumph. The vehicle is one of the eight motorsport cars in the Heritage Collection that are kept in working order with the 37 other vehicles that are on the road and will all be road legal by the end of the year.
The Speed 8 is now on display in the Le Mans Museum until the Le Mans Classic at the end of the month, where Bentley will have a sizable presence and exhibition in addition to the race schedule. The Speed 8 will remain at the track for the remainder of June. The Speed 8 will then make a number of additional exciting appearances this summer before returning to Crewe to be placed on display alongside its sister vehicles from 2001 and 2002, as well as the rest of the Bentley Heritage Collection, in three brand-new, especially designed areas that seamlessly integrate the fleet into any visit to Bentley's campus.