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Banbury, Oxfordshire - Saturday 21st August, 2021

David Brabham’s Le Mans Memories Part II – Bentley 

Next up on David Brabham’s trip down memory lane at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, it’s 2003 and the Bentley Speed 8:

David Brabham:

“After my departure from Panoz in 2002, I picked up the phone to John Wickham from Bentley and told him I would be free for the next season. By time we finished the call I was a Bentley Boy. 

After two years and £50m a year programme, the pressure was on to win Le Mans at Bentley’s third attempt. I was drafted in to race with Johnny Herbert and Mark Blundell (car #8) and Guy Smith, Dindo Capello and Tom Kristensen in (car #7). 

The Speed 8 was a new design from the previous two years so a lot of hope and expectations were pinned on this new machine. 

We first raced the car at the Sebring 12h Hours where we finished third (car #8) and fourth (car #7),  which was a solid start to the programme. We stayed on to do another 12 hours after the race to shake the car to pieces, well try to, as Sebring is a punishing track for cars and drivers. 

We then went to Paul Ricard to do a final 30-hour test before the race and it was not a success. There were lots of issues which only made us nervous heading to Le Mans!

Qualifying didn’t go to plan for the #8 car, I had a crack at 11.45pm and, although I was 0.6s up on Tom Kristensen (pole) before the Porsche Curves, I then hit traffic and that was that, P2. 

To win Le Mans you need to be quick enough but also spend the least amount of time in the pits compared to your competitors. In the race we had a head rest fall off and two battery changes while the # 7 Bentley had a faultless race and came home the worthy winners. Our car finished second and I felt flat as a pancake as I crossed the line. 

Still, to be a Bentley Boy, finishing one-two at Le Mans was extremely special. The Bentley Speed 8 was beautiful looking, the best one I've driven at Le Mans, but also one of the most user-friendly cars I've ever driven.”

Join David Brabham as part of the Eurosport commentary team throughout the 2021 running of the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans.

 

Images: Bentley

 

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