2001-2002 Bentley EXP Speed 8
Images courtesy and copyright Bob Chapman @ Autosport Image, Juha Kivekas, Phil CK, Craig Scarborough, Auto Sprint, and Bentley Motorcars
Text copyright Michael J. Fuller
The 2001 Bentley EXP Speed 8.  This new LMGTP heads Bentley's return to Le Mans.  Tapping into Audi's Le Mans experience (VW AG owns Bentley), Bentley has constructed a new LMGTP chassis.  While the EXP Speed 8 undoubtedly was influenced by Audi's 1999 closed top R8C LMGTP (the English concern RTN designed the R8C and is the assigned firm for the Bentley Le Mans program), the only component that Audi and Bentley share is the engine block.  And for this year only as Bentley is in the process of developing an exclusive Bentley power plant.  But in this age of open top LMPs, why build a LMGTP?  LMGTPs must run smaller width tires but on the flip side are allowed larger engine inlet air restrictors.  LMGTP chassis built before January 1, 2001 (as the Bentley was) are allowed smaller foot boxes, therefore theoretically can utilize a more expansive front nose diffuser.  One could argue that at Le Mans a closed top LMGTP has better aerodynamic potential.  But since Le Mans is no longer an exclusive low downforce track that thought is perhaps more academic than reality.  So why persist with a LMGTP?  Is it simply because they have a more stylish mystique? Or do the disadvantages weigh equally against the advantages versus an LMP?  In Bentley's case they certainly aren't ones interested in simply making up the numbers in a stylish LMGTP so I think the real reason is the latter.  Of course time will tell the EXP's potential but 3rd at Le Mans 2001 wasn't a bad start!

See Bentley designer Peter Elleary's thoughts about the design and development of the Bentley LMGTPs.

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2001-2002 Bentley EXP Speed 8 Specifications
Designer: Peter Elleray
Layout: Mid-engine, rear-wheel drive
Monocoque: Carbon fiber and aluminum honeycomb monocoque, carbon roll hoop assemblies integrated with the roof structure 
Engine: 3600 cc ('01) or 4000 cc ('02) 90░ V8 with four valves per cylinder and twin turbochargers. Two 33.1mm intake restrictors.  Boost pressure limited to 1.87 bar per ACO regulations.
Engine Management: Bosch MS 2.8 (2001)
Bosch MS 2.9 (2002)
Horsepower: 637 bhp (2001)
650 bhp (2002)
Torque: 479+ lb-ft (2001)
590+ lb-ft @ 7500 rpm (2002)
Gearbox: Bentley bellhousing and main case with Xtrac internals.  Sequential 6-speed transverse design with Megaline pneumatic system.  Rear wheel drive through tri-lobe joint driveshaft.
Clutch: AP Racing clutch
Differential: Mechanical limited-slip differential
Steering: Power-assisted (electric) rack-and-pinion steering
Suspension: Front: Double wishbones pushrods, torsion bars 
Rear: Double wishbones, pushrods, coil springs
Dampners: Dynamic (2001)
Penske (2002)
Brakes: AP Racing
Front: 14.8in ventilated carbon fiber discs, six piston calipers 
Rear: 14.0in ventilated carbon fiber discs, six piston calipers 
Wheels: O.Z. forged magnesium rims
Front: 12.25J x 18in 
Rear: 13 J x 18in
Tires: Dunlop Radial
Front: 29/65 x 18
Rear: 31/71 x 18
Length: 4630 mm (2001)
4640 mm (2002)
Width: 1990 mm
Wheelbase: 2730 mm
Front Overhang: 900 mm (2001)
870 mm (2002)
Rear Overhang: 1000 mm (2001)
1050 mm (2002)
Front Track: 1700 mm
Rear Track: 1680 mm
Weight: 917 kgs. (2001 Le Mans  average)
908 kgs. (2002 Le Mans weight)
Tank capacity: 90 liters
Bentley EXP Speed 8 in Action
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ęCopyright 2002, Michael J. Fuller