Team Bentley preview, part I

TEAM BENTLEY - the people and major suppliers INTRODUCTION Crewe, 12 June 2001.... Welcome to Team Bentley, the racing arm of Bentley Motors and the organisation charged with taking Bentley back to Le Mans for the first time in 71 years. ...

TEAM BENTLEY - the people and major suppliers

INTRODUCTION

Crewe, 12 June 2001.... Welcome to Team Bentley, the racing arm of Bentley Motors and the organisation charged with taking Bentley back to Le Mans for the first time in 71 years. The seeds of the team were sown back in 1999 when a decision was taken in principle that Bentley should race once more; and once that decision was made it was not difficult to determine what form that racing should take.

It is fair to say that no marque is more synonymous with Le Mans than Bentley; after all a Bentley led and set fastest lap in the first ever Le Mans and then carried on to win five out of the next seven races. Bentley and Le Mans put each other on the map.

But while the decision to race again received unanimous approval, it was not taken lightly. As chief executive Tony Gott says: "It would be quick and easy to do something token and fail to respect both the race and our heritage. If we were going to do this, we all recognised it would have to be a properly funded operation which could recruit the best technical expertise and drivers in the business. And this is what we have set out to do."

Nor is Bentley's return to Le Mans a one-off. You don't just turn up at the track after 71 years, hammer round for 24-hours and expect to win. In the 78 years since the race was first run only two marques have won at their first attempt.

A win, therefore, is not even contemplated; the history of Le Mans is littered with the hype of teams which have underestimated the challenge of the world's toughest race and come to grief and it is a mistake Team Bentley has no intention of making. As Team Bentley technical head Brian Gush makes clear: "We want to go out there and win, but that is not a realistic prospect in this first year. At this stage if we run strongly in the top ten to the flag, that will be a great result for us."

The plan, therefore, is to finish and finish fast but, at the same time, acquire the data for a more concerted assault on the top step of the podium in years to come. Team Bentley knows that, in the world of 21st century sportscar racing, it is only this methodical, painstaking approach that brings victory in the end.

It was this knowledge that led Team Bentley to appoint the best people in the business, with proven expertise first to build and then to race the car. The entire design, construction and development process is being handled by Racing Technology Norfolk (rtn), an engineering facility with experience in Le Mans cars which dates back to the legendary days of Group C racing in the early 1990's. Richard Lloyd's Apex Motorsport will look after all aspects of the Le Mans campaign while working closely with both Bentley and rtn. Richard is a Le Mans veteran on both sides of the pit wall. In 1985 he ran both the team and drove the car that came second overall.

THE CAR

The Bentley racing car is called the EXP Speed 8 and derives its name from the experimental prototypes originally produced by Bentley in the 1920's and the Speed Six - Bentley's most successful Le Mans car. The Six referred to its number of cylinders, hence Speed 8 today. A total of four cars will be built. One is a development prototype used for validating and testing all the systems, two will be raced and a third kept back as a spare.

The car is a clean sheet design, the sole proprietary component being its engine which is an extensively modified version of the unit used by Audi to win Le Mans last year; it is being used in the EXP Speed 8 for its proven power and reliability in this debut year.

In all other respects the EXP Speed 8 is new from the ground up and fundamentally unlike any other car it will meet at Le Mans this year. All the other cars in the prototype category in which it will race will be open roadsters while the EXP Speed 8 is fully enclosed. The appeal of an open car is easy to see: they are much easier to engineer as they lack a windscreen, doors and a roof; also the regulations allow them to run rear tyres that are 16in wide while the Bentley is restricted to just 14in.

But while an open car may be easier, this doesn't mean it is necessarily better. Quite the reverse in fact: building an effective Le Mans car these days is all about aerodynamics and the closed cockpit allows much better management of the airflow over the body. And even those narrower tyres can be used to aerodynamic advantage as they impede the progress of air under the car much less than the fatter alternatives the open cars have to use. Finally, closed prototypes are allowed 1mm larger air restrictors in their engines that result in a small power advantage.

To maximise its potential advantage, the EXP Speed 8 has been tested in a Formula One specification wind tunnel at Emmen in Switzerland for over a year and in over a thousand configurations resulting in more than 2.5 tonnes of downforce being generated at 200mph.

But however impressive such figures may seem, they ensure nothing unless the four patches of rubber connecting the car to the tarmac are capable of withstanding such unbelievable forces. Consider the challenge facing Dunlop, Team Bentley's official tyre supplier.

The EXP Speed 8 will accelerate from comparatively modest speeds to well over 200mph approximately once a minute for 24 hours. The tyres have to be able to cope with putting all the engine's massive power on the tarmac while coming out of slow corners and withstand the colossal downforce generated at speed. And when a driver stays in the car for more than one stint, the same tyres will have to stay on the car too.

The gearbox has been co-designed with Team Bentley by world-renowned transmission specialists, Xtrac to cope with more than 20,000 shifts during the race, and braking comes courtesy of massive AP Racing carbon-fibre discs and callipers.

THE TEAM

Tony Gott, Chief Executive, Bentley Motors

It is doubtful that any other chief executive has played a more hands on role in his marque's Le Mans programme since WO Bentley was in charge of the pits back in the 1920s. Not only was Tony the man who made the decision to go back to Le Mans, he has been involved in every aspect of the project from the start.

Unlike many chief executives, Tony's background is in engineering, not administration. He has been with Bentley for 17 years, joining the company from Lotus in 1984 as a senior design engineer, becoming the company's director of engineering in 1997. In January 1999 he became the acting chief executive, a position that was duly made official four months later. And, again unlike many other chief executives, Tony is himself actively involved in motor sport and in May, contested the Mille Miglia in the company-owned Bentley Blower.

Adrian Hallmark, Member of the Board, Sales and Marketing, Bentley Motors

However passionate it may be about the sport, no road car manufacturer ever went racing without an eye on its potential to sell cars and it is Adrian's job to make sure that the efforts at Le Mans are translated into a greater awareness not just of the brand, but of its ever more dynamic image. As Bentley seeks to expand its sales from 1500 to 9000 units in the next five years and with the all-new Mid-Sized Bentley (MSB) now appearing on the horizon, his is one of the most fascinating and challenging tasks in the industry.

Adrian is a relative newcomer to Bentley, joining the company in his current position in May 1999.

But he is no stranger to the industry or prestige sporting marques having spent 10 years at Porsche Cars GB, becoming its managing director at the age of just 34. Adrian has competed in a variety of motor sport activities over the years and this year acted as co-driver to Tony Gott in the Mille Miglia.

Brian Gush, Director - Chassis/Powertrain Engineering Operations and Motorsport, Bentley Motors

Brian is not only the man in charge of making sure that Bentley road cars have powertrains and chassis that befit the marque, he is also heavily involved with Team Bentley, overseeing its engineering operations. The bulk of his job is ensuring that, as far as possible in its build and the integrity of its engineering, the EXP Speed 8 reflects the lofty brand values of the marque.

Brian's background suits this role as he has worked around the world for a number of leading car companies, coming to Bentley from Volkswagen where he headed up its product engineering operation in his native South Africa.

A born enthusiast, Brian has competed extensively on motorcycles and maintains an avid interest in all areas of motor sport.

Sarah Perris, Worldwide Communications Director, Bentley Motors

Sarah is responsible for Team Bentley's public profile covering all aspects from the smallest press release to the vast media coverage the project has already attracted before a car has turned a wheel in anger.

Sarah has spent her career working in public affairs and communications around the world, notably with Ford in England, Germany and the US and came to Bentley last year from a position as director of PR and communications at Lucas Aerospace.

A car enthusiast to the core, she has owned many classics and helped build a Ford Escort with which she then contested the gruelling London-Sydney marathon in 1994. Sarah also contested the Mille Miglia, but in a Speed Six with Bentley Drivers Club chairman, Andrew Day.

Jean-Philippe Coulaud, Head of PR and Marketing - Team Bentley

Jean-Philippe's job is to take Bentley's renewed involvement in motor racing and use it as a tool in generating a global communications strategy for the marque, aiming to take Bentley `forward to its roots'.

For Jean-Philippe it is an almost tailor made job for not only has he almost 20 years experience in PR and Marketing, he also has a passion for motor sport in general and British sports cars in particular. Jean-Philippe has been with Bentley for three years, running public relations in Europe. Before that he was director of communications for Rover France where he was responsible for setting up the MGF Trophy race series two years before it arrived in the UK. Jean-Philippe also proved he had the courage to match his conviction, racing in the series himself, coming home fourth out of 20 competitors in the championship.

Richard Lloyd, Principal, Team Bentley

Richard and his company, Apex Motorsport, are responsible for all aspects of the running of the testing programme and the race itself.

It was, in fact, on the other side of the pit wall that Richard first made his name, winning three touring car championships in the 1970s before becoming Stirling Moss's team-mate at Audi in 1980. From there he turned to serious sportscar racing as both driver and entrant and raced regularly at Le Mans. At his last outing in 1985 he ran the team and co-drove the Porsche 956 that came second, missing out on the top spot by less than a lap after 24 hours. Richard still competes in occasional historic sports car events.

More recently, Richard ran the team and was therefore also responsible for Audi's utter domination of the British Touring Car Championship in the late '90s. His squad also ran the R8C in 1999 at Le Mans.

-Bentley

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About this article
Series Le Mans
Drivers Stirling Moss , Richard Lloyd