Crewe, 12 December, 2001. ...Team Bentley confirmed today that it will return to the famous Circuit International du Mans for the Le Mans 24 Hour race in 2002.

Said newly announced chairman-elect Franz-Josef Paefgen: "I am thrilled that my first announcement as chairman-elect of Bentley Motors is to confirm that Team Bentley and the Bentley Boys will be back at Le Mans next year. Within the current regulations we have not been able to reach the full potential of the EXP Speed 8 and are now developing, in conjunction with Audi, a new and exclusive Bentley engine with increased capacity. In addition we will further optimise the performance of the car."

He added: "As the new engine will not be ready before March, we believe that the real title challenge for Bentley will come in 2003. The team gained invaluable experience this year and we will be doing everything in our power to ensure Bentley is back on the podium next year, but we know we will face some very tough competition."

Team Bentley confirmed that they are reviewing the driver line-up for the Bentley EXP Speed 8. Confirmation of the drivers is not expected until the New Year.

Design and development of the EXP Speed 8 continues under the stewardship of rtn (Racing Technology Norfolk) while Richard Lloyd and John Wickham will once again manage the test and development programme under the Team Bentley banner. Other personnel details will be confirmed in the New Year.

Bentley and Le Mans put each other on the map during the 1920s. At the time of the first Le Mans in 1923, Bentley had been selling cars for less than two years while, had it not been for John Duff's 3 Litre, Le Mans would have been an entirely French national event.

But by the time of Bentley's last win in 1930; it was one of the most prestigious marques and Le Mans a race with a profile rivalled only by the Indianapolis 500 and the Monaco Grand Prix. Bentley went on to win Le Mans five times out of eight starts in 1924, 1927, 1928, 1929 (finishing first, second, third and fourth), and 1930. Famous 'Bentley Boy' and one time Bentley Motors Chairman Woolf Barnato drove the winning cars for three consecutive years (1928, 1929 and 1930), a record that was to remain unbeaten for many years. The two names, Bentley and Le Mans, went hand in hand in the 1920s, they are now back together - where they still belong over 70 years down the road.

Being faithful to the marque's heritage provides the platform from which the company can move forward. "We plan to transform the Bentley business over the coming years and in order to do so we must not only retain our existing customers, but also attract a younger audience with yet more sporting aspirations. The car charged with this task, the GT coupé due for launch in 2003, will be one of the most exciting Bentleys ever built. In the meantime this January will see the launch of the fastest series production saloon in the world, in the new Arnage T. Both these Bentleys will be built on foundations of speed and durability achieved through precision engineering, precisely the qualities required to succeed at Le Mans," concluded Paefgen.