Around and about, May 1988

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Le Mans designs for Bentley?

Jaguars Cars has done it, Mercedes-Benz is now doing it and, if rumours are to be believed, Rolls-Royce Motors might soon be doing it.

A whisper suggests that a Bentley Turbo V8-powered Group C chassis has been proposed to RRM by an outside party, and that the Crewe company has not turned the idea down flat. A Le Mans entry would, of course, be the highlight of such a plan–the last Bentleys to enter were two private 4½-litre cars in 1950.

As is the age-old tradition as far as car manufacturers are concerned, responsibility for running its cars, either overtly or covertly, usually belongs to the specialist team which is set-up to do the job.

Jaguar’s recent return to motor racing was in the open. Not willing to finance on its won the venture into sports car racing, it approached Guy Edwards, the doyen of sponsorship-seekers, to find a backer who had both the necessary budget and, importantly, the correct image.

Meanwhile, through the Jaguar XJS programme, a relationship had already been struck up with Tom Walkinshaw; it was natural that once the funding had been found his organisation would be contracted to run the works Jaguars at Le Mans and elsewhere.

Mercedes did it the other way. It was only when Peter Sauber’s Group C car looked to be a frequent race-winner that the Stuttgart manufacturer publicly backed the team.

All it would take for Rolls-Royce Motors to lend the Bentley name to a Group C project, so the story goes, would be assurances that the car would be competitive from the start, that the sponsor was compatible with its own image, and that the team running it was professional enough, and had enough experience, to tackle the job properly.

It would be a great thing, though, if the Bentley name was to return to Le mans, the root of its charisma for then we could have the glorious sight of Porsches, Mercedes, Jaguars, Aston Martins and Bentleys, all names with past successes at the circuit, fighting it out for top honours . . .