Sebring: Bentley race report

Bentley Boys finish third and fourth at Sebring. Sebring, March 15, 2003 . . . Starting from the back of the field, the Bentley Boys crossed the line third and fourth, in a fast paced 12-Hours of Sebring. The Bentley Speed 8, number 8, driven...

Bentley Boys finish third and fourth at Sebring.

Sebring, March 15, 2003 . . . Starting from the back of the field, the Bentley Boys crossed the line third and fourth, in a fast paced 12-Hours of Sebring. The Bentley Speed 8, number 8, driven by Johnny Herbert, David Brabham and Mark Blundell ran a trouble free race to secure the final podium position.

Teammates Tom Kristensen, Rinaldo "Dindo" Capello and Guy Smith brought their number 7 Bentley home right behind in fourth place. The only difference separating the two Speed 8s was slight contact on lap 75 between Guy Smith and a GT car causing a brief pit stop to repair the front nose.

Tom Kristensen set the fastest lap of the race with a time of 1:49.52 further proving the pace of the Bentley. In the companion Bentley, David Brabham set that cars fastest lap with a 1:49.74. Kristensen, taking full advantage of his strong Michelin tyres, made a very competitive pass into turn one on the number 9 Audi of Mika Salo, further proving the quickness of the car. Designed for Le Mans, the Speed 8 could not fully utilize its refined aerodynamic shape or the full power of its 4.0-litre motor to really showcase its performance on the short straights of Sebring.

Utilizing the 12-Hours as a full race test in preparation for Le Mans in June, the team is delighted with the pace and durability of the Speed 8. Today's race ran from green to chequered flag with only one caution period. Prior to its Sebring debut the new Speed 8 hadn't completed a full race distance in testing. The Sebring track, being intensely rough, is unusually hard on cars, particularly those competing for the first time.

To simulate a 24-hour race the Bentley Boys will return to the track on Monday to run another 12+ hours in further preparation for Le Mans.

Quotes after the race:

Johnny Herbert, Bentley #8: "It was difficult to start from the back of the grid, but it was a good opportunity to see how the car handles in traffic. We had a few problems with some minor damage, costing us time in the pits, otherwise the car ran faultlessly the whole way through. The pace of the car is there, we have some things to work on for Monday. I think we have an excellent base for Le Mans."

Mark Blundell, Bentley #8: "My Sebring was good preparation for Le Mans. I did not get much time in the car. Johnny and David did a great job to handle most of the driving. It was little difficult for me, I had shoulder surgery in December, so I am grateful to the guys for going the distance. I know Le Mans very well, I am looking forward to doing more miles in the car without the pressure of a race and look forward to Le Mans."

David Brabham, Bentley #8: "We came here as a test for Le Mans, the cars ran like clock-work all day long. I am looking forward to improving on the areas that need improving and go onto Le Mans in June. The Michelin tyres were great, they never seemed to go away. At Le Mans we will be a lot closer to the Audis, we have a lot of testing coming up to fine tune the car."

Tom Kristensen, Bentley #7: "Everything has been working really well. The car ran great, we were very unlucky with the early incident apart from that it has been really good. The crew has done a great job. I have a lot of confidence in the car and the team. It would have been nice to have both cars on the podium, but this is an excellent start for Le Mans."

Rinaldo "Dindo" Capello, Bentley #7: "I am very happy that we got both cars to the end, unfortunately we were only fourth. I am glad for the team, they did a very good job. We had some bad luck in the second hour when we lost seven minutes in the pits, but I enjoyed driving the Speed 8 tonight, the car is very fast and we set good laps times. But I was told to slow down to make sure we made it to the finish! I am now very optimistic about our chances for Le Mans."

Guy Smith, Bentley #7: "The car really ran well, we put a lot of miles in today, it has been a good test. I was unlucky and got caught up with a Porsche early in the race, he spun in front of me and I could not avoid him. There are lots of things we can improve on and I am a little rusty not having raced for a year. This race really motivates me to go on and keep improving the car for Le Mans."

John Wickham, team director: "We came here with only a couple of days testing in Europe and looked to this race as a continuation of our testing programme not having run the car for more than 30 minutes at any one time before coming to Sebring. Both Bentley Speed 8s have run faultlessly and we've learned a huge amount about the set-up, characteristics and overall reliability. Both car crews and mechanics have performed superbly working long, hard hours in the last nine days. This is just reward for their extensive efforts."

Brian Gush, Bentley motorsport director: "We came here to prove out our performance and reliability, so we've achieved what we came for. This has been a major step forward for Team Bentley - we showed our pace in qualifying and have now combined that with reliability in the race - exactly what we hoped for in preparation for Le Mans. We are particularly pleased with the performance of the Michelin tyres as they have lasted whole stints without going off - another major step forward for the Speed 8."

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About this article
Series ALMS
Drivers Johnny Herbert , David Brabham , Tom Kristensen , Guy Smith , Mika Salo , Mark Blundell