During the 1920s Bentley was outstandingly successful in both racing and setting new speed records, grabbing many front page headlines. Bentley first won Le Mans in 1924. From 1927 to 1930 Bentley won each year.
W.O. was clear in his reasons for supporting motor racing - gaining publicity, generating sales and establishing the Bentley marque. “I would have been perfectly content to see our cars circulating round Le Mans in inglorious solo solitude as long as the Daily Mail gave us their front page on a Monday morning!”
In 1923 W.O. worked with ‘Bentley Boy’ John Duff, to prepare his Bentley and lent him the Bentley Works driver Frank Clement for the 24-hour endurance race. W.O. travelled to see the race and it was then W.O. claims Le Mans got into his blood.
Bentley’s racing success was achieved by thorough preparation and the ability to continuously learn from experiences. Each year Bentley improved their engines, pit procedures and team discipline.
In 2003, after 73 years since Bentley’s last win at Le Mans, two Bentleys entered the epic 24-hour endurance race. At 4pm on Saturday June 14 the race began with the two Bentley’s taking the lead. The number 7 car put in consistent laps, while the number 8 car set the fastest lap of the race.
And so, at 4pm on Sunday June 15, two Bentley Speed 8s came first and second at Le Mans, almost 83 years to the day that the two Speed Sixes had achieved the same. It was a day that those who witnessed it will never forget.
The following Wednesday, the number 7 Speed 8 was guest of honour at a celebration dinner held at the Savoy in London, the same venue and identical menu and drinks list as the Le Mans dinner in 1927.