Bentley announces final three drivers

Bentley announces final three drivers
Mar 1, 2001, 11:45 PM

Geneva, February 27th 2001... Bentley Motors today revealed the names of the drivers who will pilot the second Team Bentley EXP Speed 8 at the Le Mans 24 hours race in June. Martin Brundle, Stéphane Ortelli and Guy Smith will join the already ...

Geneva, February 27th 2001... Bentley Motors today revealed the names of the drivers who will pilot the second Team Bentley EXP Speed 8 at the Le Mans 24 hours race in June. Martin Brundle, Stéphane Ortelli and Guy Smith will join the already established team of Andy Wallace, James Weaver and Butch Leitzinger to form one of the strongest driver line ups to take the start of the world's most challenging race.

<pre> Driver Profiles:

Martin Brundle

Born: 1st June 1959

Nationality: British

Lives: Kings Lynn, Norfolk, UK

</pre> Martin Brundle scarcely needs an introduction as his 12 seasons in Formula One and then his talent in the TV commentary box in the UK beside Murray Walker has made his one of the most well known and respected faces in racing.

Martin started racing in a home-built Ford Anglia in 1973, but it was season long battle with one Ayrton Senna in Formula Three back in 1983 which confirmed his star status. The championship was decided in Ayrton's favour on the final laps of the final round of the season.

And while cruel luck denied Martin outright wins in F1, he was a regular on the podium and, most significantly, proved to the world it was still possible to shine when Michael Schumacher is your team mate. In 1992 they both drove for Benetton; by the end of the season Michael's average finishing position was 3.1 - or just over third. Martin's was 3.6, a mere half place behind.

Martin's record in sportscars is, if anything, more impressive still. His first big win was for Jaguar at Spa in 1987 and his first 24-hour victory came at Daytona the following year as he helped Jaguar to the World Sportscar Championship in both years. He returned to F1 for 1989 before coming back to Jaguar in 1990, first coming second at Daytona and then winning Le Mans outright for the marque.

Martin continued to win for Jaguar during 1991 when his F1 commitments allowed but thereafter Formula One would keep him away from Le Mans until 1997. His return with Nissan was marred by a lack of reliability so he turned to Toyota in 1998 and 1999 and soon proved he had lost none of his speed. In 1999, he set the pole position time, was by far the fastest driver on the course and led the race with ease before retiring.

Martin would be a huge asset to any Le Mans team but could hardly be more suited to race for Bentley. He is, after all, chairman of the British Racing Drivers Club, formed by none other than Le Mans winner and original Bentley Boy, Dr Dudley Benjafield.

<pre> Stéphane Ortelli

Born: 30 March 1970

Nationality: French

Lives: Monaco

</pre> Stéphane Ortelli's Le Mans record may not be that long, but it is envied. By rights he should have won the race twice in the last three years; he claimed outright victory for Porsche in 1998, retired in 1999 and was leading comfortably in 2000 until delayed by a precautionary gearbox change to his Audi. He still came home second overall.

Stéphane was born in Hyeres, near Toulon in the South of France and was winning championships by the time he was 15 years old. Like so many of today's leading racing drivers, he served his apprenticeship in karts, winning three championships before turning to Formula racing. He was French Formula Three champion in 1991 with a dominant seven wins from ten starts before landing a testing contract at the Larrousse-Lamborghini Formula One team in 1992.

A keen sports car fan, he opened his account driving the formidable Peugeot 905 Spider in 1993, winning twice before showing even greater versatility by winning the privateers championship in the 1995 French Super Touring car series. And while he continued to test Formula racers, it was clear that his true vocation lay in sportscars.

In 1996 he won the GT2 class at Brands Hatch in the BPR Endurance championship (the forerunner of today's world sportscar championship) and moved up to the GT1 class in 1997, winning at both Laguna Seca and Zeltweg for Porsche.

The following year, 1998, saw his dominant outright victory at Le Mans, bringing the Porsche factory team its first win at the circuit for 11 seasons. Reliability problems ruled out a repeat performance for Audi in 1999 but as previously mentioned, bad luck alone prevented Stephane from reaching the top step of the podium last year.

Stéphane is internationally regarded as one of the true greats of the modern sportscar era and it is easy to see why: clearly Stéphane is not simply a superb driver and operating right at the top of his game, his talents and temperament are also a natural for Le Mans.

<pre> Guy Smith

Born, September 12, 1974

Nationality: British

Lives: Hull, East Yorkshire, UK

</pre> Although only 26, Guy has a tremendous track record although he has taken part at Le Mans just once, driving a Reynard 2KQ-LM with former Ferrari F1 driver, Stefan Johannson last year.

This did not stop Guy recording the 18th fastest lap in qualifying in what was far from the quickest car on the grid. Not only did this make him the fastest of all 37 newcomers to the race, his time also put him 20 places higher than the next quickest driver making their debut at Le Mans. This performance earned him the coveted `Rookie of the Year' award.

In the broader context of racing, however, Guy is anything but a rookie and already has 14 seasons under his belt, thanks to a career which began in karts when he was just 12. In just five years he won four championships, earned the McLaren/Autosport young Kartist of the Year title and graduated to Formula First in 1991, finishing second in the championship in his debut year.

In 1992 he drove in a Vauxhall Junior finishing second again with five race wins, a feat he repeated in British Formula Ford the following season, earning him a nomination for the coveted McLaren/Autosport Young Driver of the Year award.

Third place in the 1994 Formula Vauxhall championship led to a drive for Manor Motorsports in the 1995 Formula RenaultSport championship, which he won outright, creating the step to Formula Three in 1996. In his first ever race in this new and testing discipline, he qualified on pole and won the race.

After a further season in F3, Guy went to the US to race for Johansson in the PPG-Dayton Indy Lites championship, finishing third in the championship and claiming another `Rookie of the Year' title.

More podiums and pole positions followed in Indy Lites during 1999 before sportscars beckoned last season, gaining him valuable endurance racing experience at both Daytona and Sebring before his starring role at Le Mans was cut short in the race by mechanical failure. As well as forming the best possible team to race at Le Mans, Team Bentley wants also to provide a chance for some young British talent to shine and you could not hope for someone who fits both requirements better than Guy Smith.

The Team
These three drivers complete Team Bentley's six man line-up for the 2001 Le Mans. Half of them have already won Le Mans and four have claimed victory at the Daytona 24-hours, the only race with a claim to being as tough as Le Mans.

The strategy controlling all six appointments has been to bring together the right blend of experience, temperament and raw speed that will be required to achieve Team Bentley's target of a strong run to the finish in its first year in competition for 71 years. Outright victory cannot realistically be contemplated with a project so young, but it is hoped that the two cars will run swiftly and reliably to enable Team Bentley to gather the data vital to develop the car further in preparation for a concerted assault in 2002.

Nothing is ever certain at Le Mans but with the six drivers now under contract, Team Bentley believes it has created the best possible chance of achieving these aims.

-Bentley Motors

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