Bentley continued its centenary celebrations at the 77th Goodwood Members’ Meeting last weekend with a wonderful collection of these iconic cars reliving the sights and sounds of the company’s illustrious motor racing past.
The star of the weekend was undoubtedly the Speed 8, which was Bentley’s winning Le Mans car. The Speed 8 ran alongside other Le Mans prototypes for the first time since 2003, with two of the original Bentley drivers, Guy Smith and Tom Kristensen, getting behind the wheel for an emotional return to these successful racing cars.
The John Duff Trophy race is held in memory of the original Bentley Boy and is a new addition to the Members’ Meeting at Goodwood, as it was Duff who initiated the marque’s now synonymous relationship with Le Mans. He was also the first driver to win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in a Bentley, winning the title back in 1924 following a fourth place in 1923, and then returning a year later to win it outright, a full ten minutes ahead of the nearest competitor.
Duff was a founder member of the Bentley Boys and Girls, a group of wealthy young men and women who loved to race W.O. Bentley’s fast and dependable cars back in the 1920s.
The pre-1930 vintage racing car event is a spectacle to be seen, with Bentley enjoying its biggest presence yet at this popular Members’ Meeting.
Following a lengthy absence, Bentley returned to the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2001 for a three-year campaign and achieved a podium finish on the all-new Bentley prototype’s competitive debut. Two years later, the #7 Bentley Speed 8 led a 1-2 finish after dominating much of the race, much to the jubilation of the thousands of British fans at the event and around the world.
The 2003 win rekindled the spirit of the original Bentley Boys and their Le Mans successes of the 1920s and was Bentley’s sixth outright victory at the 24-hour race.
Two of the six men who drove the winning Speed 8 were Tom Kristensen and Guy Smith, and they took part in two 15-minute Le Mans Prototype demonstration runs at the weekend, one on Saturday evening as the sun went down with Smith behind the wheel, the other on Sunday afternoon with Kristensen driving.
July 10, 2019 will mark Bentley’s 100th birthday. This is an extraordinary milestone achieved by only a very few automotive companies in the world. The Goodwood Members’ Meeting is just one of a series of special activities and events planned around the world to celebrate the marque’s amazing motoring evolution over the past 100 years and to toast its exciting future.
For information on the Goodwood Members’ Meetings, please visit www.goodwood.com
Simon Burrell is Editor-in-Chief of Our Man Behind The Wheel and Our Man On The Ground Travel and Lifestyle Magazine.
Photographs courtesy of Bentley Motors