In 1919, W.O. Bentley, an engineering genius obsessed by speed, focused on his dream of creating a car bearing his name. That October, the first Bentley engine came to life and the first cars were delivered to the public in September of 1921. It did not take long before they were earning acclaim in hill climbs and at Brooklands. Bentley entered a car in the 1922 Indianapolis 500 with works driver Douglas Hawkes and riding mechanic H.S. “Bertie” Browning. Hawkes completed the the full distance in a modified road car, finishing 13th with an average speed of 74.95 mph. The car was then taken back to the UK for the 1922 RAC Tourist Trophy. During the 1920’s. Bentley was successful in both racing and setting new speed records, duly noted with page one headlines.

Bentley solidified its performance heritage at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, winning the prestigious race in 1924, 1927, 1928, 1929, 1930 and in 2003. W.O Bentley was clear in his reasons for supporting motor racing – gaining publicity, generating sales and establishing the Bentley marque. “I would have been perfectly content to see our cars circulating around Le Mans in inglorious solo solitude as long as the Daily Mail gave us their front page on a Monday morning!”

In 1923, W.O. worked with “Bentley Boy” John Duff to prepare his Bentley and lent him the Bentley Works driver Frank Clement for the 24 hour endurance race. W.O. traveled to see the race and it was then W.O. claims Le Mans got into his blood. Bentley’s racing success was achieved through preparation and the ability to continuously learn from experiences. Each year Bentley improved their engines, pit procedures and team discipline.

In 2003, 73 years after Bentley’s last win at Le Mans, two Bentleys entered the epic 24 hour endurance race. At 4pm on Saturday, June 14, the race began with the two Bentleys taking the lead. The number 7 car put in consistent laps while the number 8 car set the fastest lap of the race. At 4pm on Sunday June 15, the two Bentley Speed 8s came in first and second at Le Mans, almost 83 years to the day that the two Speed Sixes had achieved the same.

And in September of 2012, the Continental GT3 race car was unveiled, the first new Bentley race car in a decade and it has begun its long-term journey of adding to Bentley’s distinguished heritage. The Continental GT3 builds on Bentley’s early philosophy of developing race cars from their road-going counterparts. The Continental GT3 took home three victories in 2014 with wins at Silverstone in the UK, Paul Ricard in France and at Miller Motorsports Park in the U.S.

2014 marked 95 years of W.O. Bentley’s legacy: a history intertwined with racing. Its six victories at Le Mans have infused the marque with romance, spirit, and flair. They have shaped a philosophy of simply not reaching a destination, but of doing so with purpose and power.

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