Hundreds of stories have come out of the 24 Hours of Le Mans over its 90-year history, and Bentley’s is one tale worth recounting. In this episode of The Downshift, Bentley’s racing background is explored, covering the British marque’s early dominance in the 1920s to its eventual return to Le Mans 70 years later.
The video begins with a brief history of Bentley in motorsport. The first Bentley racers were wealthy “gentleman drivers” who just wanted to race their cars for fun. However, company founder W.O. Bentley decided to lend factory support after attending the first race in 1923. From that year until 1930, Bentley won five races before taking a 70-year hiatus from sports car racing.
In 2001, Bentley — now part of the Volkswagen Group — returned to Le Mans with its Speed 8 LMP1-class car. With help from the parent company, and with access to Audi Sport’s facilities, the team from Crewe, U.K. was able to build a car they knew could survive the tortures of a 24-hour race. The Bentley team did finish the race in their first year back, but it wasn’t until 2003 that they would take home the win. Following that, Bentley again pulled out of Le Mans competition, though the video shows that the brand hopes to return once more.
Check out the full episode below.