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2001 Audi R8 LMP900 & Bentley Speed 8 Planned for RM Monterey Auction


BLENHEIM, Ontario – RM Auctions, the world’s largest collector car auction house for investment-quality automobiles, has announced more star consignments for its highly anticipated Monterey sale, August 17–18, in California, this time a remarkable group of racing cars. Two more significant offerings for those who follow Audi are an R8 LMP900 and an Bentley Speed 8 that were both campaigned during the 2001 racing season. Continuing RM’s commitment to present the world’s finest automobiles, each represents the ultimate in design, engineering, and performance and showcases the Volkswagen Group’s magnificent racing prowess at Le Mans over the years.

Below are detailed lot descriptions of each car. Also linked to the right is a photo gallery that includes many detail shots of each of these cars.

2001 Audi R8 LMP900

Estimate: $1,000,000-$1,500,000 US

610 hp, 3.6-liter twin-turbocharged V-8 engine, direct electronic fuel injection, Ricardo six-speed sequential dual-clutch manual gearbox, independent suspension with double wishbones pushrod system with horizontal dampers, and four-wheel hydraulic disc brakes. Wheelbase: 104.3″

Please note that this vehicle will be sold on a Bill of Sale only.

• One of 16 Audi R8 Sports Prototypes to be built; one of five in private hands
• Race-winning car at Jarama in 2001; finished Seventh Place at the 2002 24 Hours of Le Mans
• Last raced at Road America in 2007

In the six-year competition history of the R8 spyder, from 2000–2006, it compiled an enviable record, losing only 16 races in that time period. The R8 won the 24 Hours of Le Mans five times, in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004, and 2005. It won the American Le Mans Series seven times, from 2001–2006, the European Le Mans Series in 2001, and it was the Le Mans Series champion in 2004. The one year it did not win Le Mans, in 2003, an Audi was resting on its laurels after a hat-trick and the R8’s sibling Bentley Speed 8 finished 1-2. Even as it was being replaced in the American Le Mans Series by the turbocharged diesel R10 in 2006, Allan McNish and Rinaldo Capello sent the R8 out with style, winning the R8’s very last race on July 1, at Lime Rock, Connecticut.

As early as 1997, Audi Team Joest sports director Wolfgang Ullrich was considering competing at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which had already attracted BMW, Nissan, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, and Toyota. In 1998, Audi contracted with Dallara to build a carbon-fiber roadster, the R8R for 1999, and also hired Tony Southgate’s Racing Technology Norfolk, or RTN, in England to build a coupe: the R8C.

The Audi R8Rs weren’t fast enough to win Le Mans in 1999, but they finished a creditable Third and Fourth behind a BMW V-12 and Toyota GT One. The R8C coupes suffered gearbox problems, and the design was shelved, although it would return later as the Bentley Exp Speed 8. Ullrich ordered a new R8 roadster from Dallara for 2000, and the stage was set for a dynasty.

The Audi R8R started 2000 by winning at Sebring, bettering its Third Place the year before, and then swept the 24 Hours of Le Mans with a one-two-three finish. Frank Biela, Tom Kristensen, and Emanuele Pirro took the checkered flag, followed across the line by Laurent Aiello, Allan McNish, and Stephane Ortelli, and Michele Alboireto, Christian Abt, and Rinaldo Capello.

One of the elements that would lead to the Audi R8’s practical stranglehold on the various Le Mans series was its ease of maintenance. Significant parts could be changed very quickly, the classic example being the entire rear end, usually a three-hour job, which was once switched in three and a half minutes in qualifying for Le Mans. The secret was that an entire sub-frame dropped down separately and a new unit could be bolted in place, including suspension, six-speed gearbox, and transaxle. The suspension would already have all its adjustments pre-set. The Le Mans series organizers negated this considerable advantage in 2003 by requiring all cars to finish the race with the same gearbox casing with which they started.

Returning to Le Mans in 2001, Audi again finished 1-2, surviving the disastrous fourth lap downpour that led to nine cars crashing on the rain-slick surface. Once again, Frank Biela, Tom Kristensen, and Emanuele Pirro won, followed by Laurent Aiello, Rinaldo Capello, and Christian Pescatori. The big surprise was the Third Place of the Bentley Exp Speed 8, developed from the unsuccessful Audi R8C coupe of 1999. It was driven by Andy Wallace, Butch Leitzinger, and Eric van de Poele and won the GTP class.

The third race in the 2001 European Le Mans series (fourth in ALMS) took place at Jarama, Spain on May 20, and was won by the R8 of Tom Kristensen and Rinaldo Capello, followed by Frank Biela and Emanuele Pirro. The privateer R8 of Stefan Johansson and Guy Smith was Fourth. The Kristensen/Capello Joest Team car is the R8 on offer today.

In 2002, The Audi Joest team returned to Le Mans with several new drivers, but despite the 17 flat tires during the night between the three R8s, the result was the same. In fact, there was a new record. The R8s went one-two-three again, and the winners were Frank Biela, Tom Kristensen, and Emanuele Pirro, the first time that the same drivers had won three straight 24 Hours of Le Mans. Rinaldo Capello, Johnny Herbert, and Christian Pescatori were Second and Michael Krumm Philipp Peter and Marco Werner placed Third. The Bentley Exp Speed 8 returned to take Fourth Place and won the GTP class, driven by Andy Wallace, Butch Leitzinger, and Eric van der Poele. Further down the field, in Seventh Place, was the R8 of privateer Team Goh, from Japan, and driven by Seiji Ara, Yannick Dalmas, and Hiroki Kato. It placed Sixth in the LMP class and is the same car that won at Jarama in 2001, and it is for sale today.

Having pulled off a very special kind of hat trick, Audi Factory Team Joest decided to sit out the 2003 Le Mans 24 Hours, but instead, sent a pair of redesigned Bentley Speed 8s, #7, driven by Guy Smith, Tom Kristensen, and Rinaldo Capello and #8, driven by Johnny Herbert, David Brabham, and Mark Blundell. The Bentleys finished 1-2, which was much acclaimed, as it had been 71 years since the marque’s last appearance at the race. Privateer R8s finished Third and Fourth, and three-time winner Frank Biella would have undoubtedly been a factor in a privateer R8, had he not run out of fuel in the third hour.

The Audi R8s almost finished one-two-three-four in 2004, thwarted by an accident when Allan McNish and JJ Lehto skidded into the tire wall after an oil spill from a Porsche. McNish’s car required quite a bit of repair work, and when it regained the track, it was far back. However, drivers Frank Biela and Pierre Kaffar battled back to Fifth Place, since doctors had sidelined McNish. The Audi Japan/Team Goh R8 won, driven by Seiji Ara, Rinaldo Capello, and Tom Kristensen, while Second Place went to the Audi/UK Veloqx R8 of Jamie Davis, Johnny Herbert, and Guy Smith, and Third Place to Champion Racing’s R8, driven by JJ Lehto, Marco Werner, and Emanuele Pirro.

The year 2005 would see the last appearance of the factory Audi R8s at the 24 Hours of Le Mans; the turbo diesel R10 would replace them in 2006. Once again Champion Racing R8, driven by JJ Lehto, Tom Kristensen, and Marco Werner, took the checkered flag, with two others in Third and Fourth, and the Pescaraolo Judd in Second Place. The win marked the sixth straight for Kristensen and his seventh overall, breaking Jacky Ickx’s record.

Brad Kettler, the longtime crew chief of Champion Racing, explained the R8’s phenomenal success when he said recently that “it won at Le Mans. It won at Lime Rock. And those two tracks couldn’t be more different. The R8 even won on street courses. It really had no rivals in raceability, durability, and serviceability.”

Given its provenance, the next owner of this Audi sports prototype can be sure of drawing a crowd anywhere his R8 appears, and he needn’t worry about being competitive either. As Kettler pointed out, “Andre Lotterer was on the pole at Sebring this year, in the Audi R18 TDI, with a 1:45:8. During tire testing in 2005, J.J. Lehto ran a string of low 44s in an R8. So yeah, I think this car, race pace, head to head, could compete today.”

2001 Bentley Speed 8

Estimate: $1,900,000-$2,500,000 US

670 hp, 3.6-liter twin-turbocharged V-8 engine, electronic fuel injection, Ricardo six-speed sequential dual-clutch manual gearbox, front independent suspension with double-wishbones, torsion bars at the front and coil springs at the rear and a pushrod system with horizontal dampers, and four-wheel hydraulic disc brakes. Wheelbase: 104.3″

Please note that this vehicle will be sold on a Bill of Sale only.

• First Team Bentley to finish on the podium at Le Mans in 71 years
• Third Place at 2001 24 Hour of Le Mans
• Last raced at Road America in 2007

The inspiration for the successful Bentley Speed 8 program belongs to Dr. Ferdinand Piech, grandson of Ferdinand Porsche, who designed the Auto Union Grand Prix cars in the 1930s. As chairman of Volkswagen, Piech directed the acquisition of Bentley in June 1998, but he had been the guiding force on the Porsche 917 program, which had won Le Mans in 1970 and 1971. Piech also worked on the formidable Audi Quattro rally car and thought that Audi should enter sports car racing.

In 1998, Piech commissioned Italian contractor Dallara to build a sports racer to use the Audi 3.6-liter turbocharged V-8, mid-mounted in a carbon fiber tub. The car became the Audi R8 roadster, which would enjoy a spectacular competition record, losing only 16 races in which it was entered, between 2000 and 2006.

Coincidentally, Audi Sport Team Joest director Wolfgang Ullrich was eying the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which had attracted BMW, Nissan, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, and Toyota. Through their joint efforts, the R8 would win the Le Mans 24 Hours five times, in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004, and 2005. It won the American Le Mans Series seven times, from 2001–2006, the European Le Mans Series in 2001, and it was Le Mans Series champion in 2004. Even as it was being replaced in the American Le Mans Series by the turbocharged diesel R10 in 2006, Allan McNish and Rinaldo Capello sent the R8 out with style, winning the R8’s very last race on July 1, at Lime Rock, Connecticut.

At the same time the R8R open car was being developed for the 1999 season, Audi also hired Tony Southgate’s Racing Technology Norfolk, or RTN, in England to build the R8C Coupe. Southgate had worked with Lotus, BRM, and Jaguar, where he had designed the Le Mans winning Jaguar XJR12.

The Audi R8Rs weren’t fast enough to win Le Mans in 1999, but they finished a creditable Third and Fourth behind a BMW V1-2 and Toyota GT One. The R8C Coupes both failed to finish, one went out with gearbox problems in the third hour and one with engine troubles in the 18th.

The Audi R8 started 2000 by winning at Sebring, bettering its Third Place from the year before, and then swept the 24 Hours of Le Mans with a one-two-three finish. Frank Biela, Tom Kristensen, and Emanuele Pirro took the checkered flag, followed across the line by Laurent Aiello, Allan McNish,z and Stephane Ortelli, and Michele Alboireto, Christian Abt and Rinaldo Capello.

Piech decided that Bentley’s racing heritage should be revived and it should have a parallel course to Audi, competing in the closed LMP GTP class at Le Mans, while Audi would contest the LMP 900 open division. The Audi R8C Coupe would evolve into the Bentley EXP Speed 8 Coupe, the car which is on offer today.

The Bentley EXP Speed 8 Coupe was given to designer Peter Elleray to revise. He had worked on the Arrows F1 cars in the 1980s and he developed a new chassis, planning to use the Bentley W12 engine. The W12 was tested in a Lola chassis but just wasn’t suitable, and the decision was made to revert to the 600 horsepower 3.6-liter turbocharged Audi V-8. Two prototypes were built and tested at Snetterton.

The cockpit area of the EXP Speed 8 was a carbon fiber and aluminum honeycomb with three carbon fiber hoops: one over the driver, one in front of him, and one around the footwell. It weighed only 154 pounds. The front and rear suspensions were by wishbones, with torsion bars up front and coil springs at the rear. A six-speed transmission was supplied by Xtrac, with electro-pneumatic shifting.

The first Bentley was intended for Le Mans in 2001 and was finished in November 2000. Three more EXPs were built, one was taken to Monza for high-speed testing, and then it made a surprise appearance on Bentley’s stand at the Geneva Motor Show in March 2001. After the show, it went to Czechoslovakia for further testing.

Richard Lloyd had run a team of Audis in the British Touring Car Championship and the Audi R8C Coupes at Le Mans in 1999. He was chosen to manage the new Team Bentley, with help from five time Le Mans winner Derek Bell.

Piech elected to run two Bentley coupes at the 2001 24 Hours of Le Mans. The first car would be driven by Andy Wallace, Butch Leitzinger, and Eric van der Poele. Wallace had won Le Mans in 1988 in a Jaguar XLR9 and also won Daytona in 1997 and 1999, sharing a Riley & Scott with Leitzinger. Van der Poele had won the 12 Hours of Sebring in 1995 in a Ferrari and 1996 in a Riley & Scott.

The second car was driven by Martin Brundle, Stephane Ortelli, and Guy Smith. Brundle had won Le Mans in 1990 with a Jaguar XJR-12 and the World Sports Car Championship in 1998. Ortelli had won Le Mans in 1998 with a Porsche, and Guy Smith was the U.S. Indy Lights Rookie champion in 1998.

At 4 p.m., the Bentleys started the 2001 24 Hours of Le Mans in seventh and ninth places on the grid, in heavy rain. After half an hour, Brundle was leading the race, but the rain eventually penetrated the cockpit, the windshield misted up, and the electronic gear-shifting started to malfunction. At 9.30 p.m., Smith stopped at Arnage, stuck in sixth gear, with an electrical fire, and the car was withdrawn from the race.

The second car was having similar problems, having fallen back to 17th place after an earlier tire change. Leitzinger made it all the way up to third place by 11 p.m., but then the car jammed in fourth gear. He nursed it back to the pits and it took 45 minutes to replace the gearbox switches. He made it back to third place, then the pneumatic shifter failed, which took nine minutes to fix. Meanwhile, the radio communication had failed, but that problem was solved with a portable radio in a plastic bag in the cockpit.

By 3 p.m., the Bentley was still in third place, 15 miles behind the two leading Audi R8s, and it maintained that position until the finish. At the race’s end, Wallace, Leitzinger, and van der Poele were paraded past the pits in a Red-Label Bentley.

Elleray reworked the Bentley EXP Speed 8 for 2002, and the engine was increased to four liters in displacement. One car was entered for the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2002, and Wallace, Leitzinger, and van der Poele returned to drive it. The race was a one-two-three sweep for the Audi R8s, but the Bentley came home in Fourth Place, 14 laps behind the winner.

Audi Sport Team Joest R8s had won three Le Mans in a row and elected to take 2003 off, releasing team drivers to the Bentley program. The Speed 8 had been massively updated, both in aerodynamics and safety, and five new cars were built. Two cars were entered in the 2003 Le Mans. The first car, #7, was driven by Guy Smith, Tom Kristensen, and Rinaldo Capello, and the second, #8, was driven by Johnny Herbert, David Brabham, and Mark Blundell. Principal opposition was provided by three privateer Audi R8s with factory support. The Bentley Speed 8s romped home 1-2, with two Audi R8s immediately behind them. The winning Bentley was paraded down the Champs Elysees in Paris the next day, with the drivers seated in two 1920s works 4 ½ liter ‘blower’ Bentleys.

Piech had proved his point and restored Bentley’s racing reputation. Team Bentley was disbanded, and the cars now make regular appearances at the Goodwood Festival of Speed at the BDC Silverstone meeting. The Bentley EXP Speed 8 Coupe on offer today is the very first in this short-lived but glorious episode in Bentley’s racing history. The seller, who has extensive racing history of his own, last exercised it at Road America in 2007 but declares it fully prepped and race-ready for its next owner. In their day, these Bentleys were voted the most handsome cars on any course where they competed, so concours d’elegance invitations are bound to be plentiful.

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