The last time a Bentley automobile took to the track in a top-level motorsport event was 2003, when the legendary brand from Crewe won the 24 Hours of Le Mans with the Bentley Speed 8. That’s an impressive accomplishment, since Bentley first ran the car in the 2001 season, after an absence from racing of some 71 years.
Despite their success, the cost of funding a motorsports program proved prohibitive, and Bentley once again retired from racing at the end of the 2003 season. There’s new management at Bentley these days, and Bentley chief executive Wolfgang Durheimer also runs Volkswagen Group’s motorsports division. In other words, he’d like to see Bentley return to professional racing.
Durheimer has been given approval to return Bentley to motorsports by Volkswagen Group chairman Dr. Ferdinand Piech, as long as Bentley is profitable with their road cars. That wasn’t the case in 2010, but signs are positive that Bentley will make money in 2011.
Assuming Bentley has a profitable 2011, the question remains: where will Bentley return to racing? Durheimer wouldn’t commit to a specific series, although he acknowledged that Porsche’s return to Le Mans prototype racing in 2014 reduced the appeal of that particular series, at least in the LMP1 class.
Perhaps the best clue towards Bentley’s racing focus was a comment Durheimer made in regards to core strengths and competencies. Shrugging off a diesel racing program, Durhiemer said that Bentley would be best served by focusing on “12-cylinder gasoline engines and turbo tech,” but admitted that, in the future, “hybrid technology will become a core racing technology in every… series.”