After a 71 year absence from Le Mans, Bentley returned in 2001, but with little success and in-house competition with Audi the decision was made to drop the Speed 8 LMP1 program in 2003. The team did go out with a bang, however, taking the checked flag at the 24 Hours of Le Mans – due in part to a lack of participation by Audi.
Now Bentley is poised to return to motor racing once again, with AutoCar reporting the British luxury brand is preparing to make an announcement next summer.
“An LMP1 car would be a good way to go, but not the only possible way,” said Bentley CEO Wolfgang Durheimer. While in-house competition with other VW owned brands like Audi and Porsche (which is planning its own Le Mans entry for 2014) seems unlikely, Durheimer suggests that one solution would be to run the cars in different markets, with the Bentley team perhaps competing in the ALMS series in the U.S. (it’s strongest retail market), or overseas in Asia, to help grow the brand there. As a result the only time the three teams would come together would be to race at certain major events, like the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
With Audi continuing its diesel push and Porsche rumored to be planning hybrid technology for its LMP1 car, expect Bentley to try a different route, perhaps running on an alternative fuel like ethanol.