Bentley Speed 8 and Bentley EXP Speed 8 prototype to take to the track @ Donington

Bentley Speed 8 and Bentley EXP Speed 8 prototype to take to the track @ Donington

As  Donington Historic Festival pays tribute to the centenary of Bentley’s first win at Le Mans

This year’s Donington Historic Festival (May 4 & 5) will celebrate the 100th anniversary of Bentley’s first win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans with track and static displays of significant historic racing machines from the iconic marque – including 2003 Speed 8 chassis 0004/1 and 2000 EXP Speed 8 Le Mans GT prototype chassis 002/1. The event will also feature fascinating Q&A panel sessions covering Bentley’s remarkable history at the legendary endurance event and will showcase period 1920s and 30s Bentleys battling it out in the ‘Mad Jack’ race for Pre-War Sports Cars.


In addition to the Bentley celebrations, Festival visitors will be treated to a spectacle in the air, with daily flypasts from a Spitfire and Hurricane from the Royal Air Force Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. They can also enjoy free lunchtime pitlane walks, open access to the race paddock and car club anniversary celebrations, including the 60th anniversary of the Ford Mustang, and displays of cherished vehicles from dozens of car clubs.


Bentley first took victory at Le Mans in 1924 – the second year the famous race was staged. Victory followed again in 1927, 28, 29 and 30, with Bentley’s domination ensuring that the names of the Bentley Boys - Woolf Barnato, Dudley Benjafield, Sir Henry ‘Tim’ Birkin, Frank Clement, Sammy Davis, John Duff, Glen Kidston and Bernard Rubin - became enshrined in motorsport history. Bentley withdrew from Le Mans in 1931 and didn’t return there until 2001, achieving victory there once more in 2003.


In pole position for the DHF Bentley celebrations will be the 2003 Speed 8 chassis 0004/1 and EXP Speed 8 Le Mans GT prototype chassis 002/1, both of which will be seen in track demonstrations on each day of the Festival.


The first of just five Speed 8 chassis built, chassis 0004/1 made its racing debut at the 2003 Sebring 12 Hours, after undergoing extensive testing sessions at the start of that year, it. There it qualified second and finished fourth in the exceptionally capable hands of Tom Kristensen, Dindo Capello and Guy Smith. Chassis 0004/1 then headed for La Sarthe, where it set the fastest time in qualifying for the Le Mans 24 Hours. It was replaced for the race by chassis 004/5, which went on to achieve Bentley’s first victory there since 1930.  


Built in 2000, as Bentley prepared for its first competitive appearance at Le Mans after seven decades, EXP Speed 8 chassis 002/1 was one of the development cars for Bentley’s 2001 assault on the crown. It was tested by James Weaver at Snetterton and Monza in 2000 and filmed at Le Mans in December that same year, before being run at Silverstone in January 2001 before preparation of the first of the race chassis.


In 2023 the Donington Historic Festival introduced a series of themed Q&A panel sessions. That year saw drivers and other motorsport figures from Ayrton Senna’s career take to the Q&A stage in a new development which proved highly popular. This year the sessions will mark the Bentley Le Mans centenary, with personalities related to that achievement chatting in a relaxed setting that’s sure to prove equally informative and entertaining.


In addition to the presence of two important representatives of the most famous race car of the modern Bentley era, the 2024 Donington Historic Festival will also see several examples of the type of period Bentleys which put the marque into the motorsport history books out on track in Motor Racing Legends’ ‘Mad Jack’ race for Pre-War Sports Cars. This ever-popular DHF highlight thrills fans of big, wooden steering wheels and spindly wire wheels as it brings together the oldest cars in the meeting, including Bentleys, Aston Martins, Frazer Nashes and Morgans. Some of these sprightly machines may have achieved their own centenary but the highly competitive racing shows that age has not slowed them down. The race pays tribute to Richard ‘Mad Jack’ Shuttleworth, winner of the first-ever Donington Grand Prix in 1935 in an Alfa Romeo Tipo P3. Famed for his exploits in racing cars and as a daredevil aviator, ‘Mad Jack’ would have made the perfect Bentley Boy.


With two days jam-packed with race action, track displays and parades, an open-access paddock and pitlane walks, a trade village, plus the presence of hundreds of cherished classic cars in displays staged by dozens of car clubs, the Donington Historic Festival has long been a ‘must do’ event in the historic motorsport calendar.  The calibre of drivers matches that of the calibre of cars, with past and present-day BTCC and Le Mans names often seen on the entry lists.


Advance discounted ticket prices start at just £26 for a one-day adult (16+) entry, with discounts for teens aged 13-15. Under 13s are admitted for free. For further information and to secure tickets please visit

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