Bentley EXP Speed 8

2001 Bentley EXP Speed 8

Offered by RM Auctions | Monterey, California | August 18, 2012

Volkswagen acquired Bentley in 1998, the same year Audi (a VW subsidiary since 1969) announced its intention to compete in the 1999 24 Hours of Le Mans. Audi was brand new to prototype racing and its closed-roof R8C (as well as the open-top R8R) both raced at the 24 Hours in 1999. An R8R finished on the podium in 3rd and one came home 4th, but they didn’t win. So, for 2000, both cars were replaced by the legendary Audi R8, which won the race five times.

Bentley had, up until 2000, also won the 24 Hours of Le Mans five times, the latest of which came in 1930. A Bentley hadn’t even appeared at the track since 1933. So Ferdinand Piech, head of the VW Group (and grandson of Ferdinand Porsche), declared Bentley would return to the track. And when Dr. Piech declares something, it happens: like the Bugatti Veyron. I imagine the green-light meeting for the Veyron going down as follows:

  • Accountant: “But, Dr. Piech, we stand to lose millions from this project.”
  • Piech: “Ja, but ve vill be zee fastest!”

The plan was for Bentley to show up at the 2001 24 Hours of Le Mans. But instead of just straight copying the Audi R8, the crew at Racing Technology Norfolk (who were responsible for developing the car) based their design on the closed-coupe Audi R8C that was no longer competing. And they managed to turn that odd duck race car into this beautiful monster.

The car used the same engine from the Audi, the 670 horsepower 3.6-liter twin-turbocharged V8. Two cars were prepared for the 2001 race, including this one. Only one competed in 2002. In neither year was Bentley triumphant – but Audi was, both times. So in 2003, the Audi factory team (Audi Sport Team Joest) “took the year off” – and all of the normal factory Audi drivers drove Bentleys and came home 1-2. Piech was satisfied and the program ended then and there. It’s really an incredible thing when you think about it: an eccentric German auto executive buys an automobile company with a historic racing pedigree then decrees they will return to their former glory. And all in a few years time. And then they do it. Then they walk away immediately after having proven their point.

The Bentleys were never even entered at any race but Le Mans. Which, too, is awesome as it shows they weren’t concerned with championships or anything but winning the race that Bentley was known for winning. The brief competition history of this car is:

  • 2001 24 Hours of Le Mans – 3rd (with Andy Wallace, Eric van de Poele and Butch Leitzinger)

That’s it. Nine cars were built – four of them EXP Speed 8s (2001 and 2002) and five Speed 8s (2003). The difference between them is a slight bodywork change around the nose as well as an expansion to 4.0-liters for the later cars. Not all of them raced due to the program being cut after the win in 2003. There were also two test mules built.

They never even had sponsorship – the car just said “Bentley” – showing it wasn’t about money but pride. The car is listed as in race-ready condition and will undoubtedly be welcome at just about any event anywhere. The pre-sale estimate is $1,900,000-$2,500,000. For the complete lot description, click here. And for more from RM in Monterey, click here.

Update: Sold $2,530,000.

Pure Dominance: Audi R8

2001 Audi R8

Offered by RM Auctions | Monterey, California | August 17, 2012

The Audi R8 is, quite simply, one of the most dominant race cars ever conceived. It never lost at the 24 Hours of Le Mans when it was entered with official factory backing (it won in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005). Factory support switched, unofficially, to its sister car in 2003, the Bentley Speed 8. And for last race in 2006, Audi had entered the replacement car, the R10. If it weren’t for rules concerning the number of years a car could compete, this car would likely still be competitive today. It was lightning quick and it was designed to be serviced and have major components replaced in a very short period of time.

And the drivers that drove these things is a lineup that is second to none. Drivers included: Tom Kristensen, Frank Biela, Emanuele Pirro, Allan McNish, Rinaldo Capello, Marco Werner, JJ Lehto, and Michele Alboreto (who was tragically killed in an R8 testing accident). They won races and championships just about everywhere they were entered. It was an unbelievable run. The drivers and competition history of this ex-Team Joest car is as follows:

  • 2001 ELMS Race at Jarama – 1st (with Tom Kristensen and Dindo Capello)
  • 2001 X-Factor Grand Prix of Sonoma – 2nd (with Frank Biela and Emanuele Pirro)
  • 2001 Grand Prix of Portland – 2nd (with Biela and Pirro)
  • 2001 Gran Turismo 3 Grand Prix of Mosport – 24th, DNF (with Kristensen and Capello)
  • 2002 24 Hours of Le Mans – 7th (with Hiroki Katoh, Yannick Dalmas and Seiji Ara)
  • 2002 Suzuka 1000km – 27th, DNF (with Katoh and Ara)

The car itself was developed from the semi-competitive R8R and R8C cars that were used in 1999. The engine is a 610 horsepower 3.6-liter twin-turbo V8. There were 16 built in total, and five are in private hands today, making this a rare opportunity – especially because it is a race-winning factory Team Joest car. The pre-sale estimate is $1,000,000-$1,500,000. For the complete lot description, click here. And for more from RM in Monterey, click here.

Update: Sold $1,034,000.

Peugeot 905 Evo

1991 Peugeot 905 Evo 1B

Offered by Artcurial | Le Mans, France | July 7, 2012

Photo – Artcurial

Earlier this week we talked about Audi’s rivalry with the Peugeot 908. Say hello to the 908’s older brother: the Peugeot 905. Built to the World Sportscar Championship’s new-for-1991 rules, the 905 was a little slow at first, being beaten regularly by Jaguar’s mighty XJR-14. It also suffered from reliability problems. And it was ugly.

For 1992, Peugeot made some revisions and the car was much more competitive (and attractive) – sweeping the podium at Le Mans and winning the WSC outright. Unfortunately for Peugeot (you know, because of all that money invested), the WSC ceased to exist in 1993. But that didn’t stop them from sweeping the podium at the 24 Hours yet again.

This car, chassis EV13, debuted in 1991 and was upgraded to Evo 1B specifications later on. It has a 3.5-liter V10 making something like 715 horsepower at a screaming 12,500 rpm. The carbon fiber chassis was produced by aircraft manufacturer Dassault. Eight of these machines were built. Here is the competition history for this one:

  • 1991 430km of Suzuka – 1st (with Mauro Baldi and Philippe Alliot)
  • 1991 430km of Monza – 11th, DNF (with Keke Rosberg and Yannick Dalmas)
  • 1991 430km of Silverstone – 6th (with Baldi and Alliot)
  • 1991 24 Hours of Le Mans – 36th, DNF (with Baldi, Alliot and Jean-Pierre Jabouille)
  • 1991 430km of Nurburgring – 11th, DNF (with Baldi and Alliot)
  • 1991 430km of Magny-Cours – 2nd (with Baldi and Alliot)
  • 1991 430km of Mexico City – 2nd (with Baldi and Alliot)
  • 1991 430km of Autopolis – 4th (with Baldi and Alliot)
  • 1992 500km of Silverstone – 8th, DNF (with Baldi and Alliot)
  • 1992 24 Hours of Le Mans – 3rd (with Baldi, Alliot and Jabouille)
  • 1993 24 Hours of Le Mans – 3rd (with Baldi, Alliot and Jabouille)

This was an awesome race car in the early 1990s. And it would be an awesome race car to take on the historical circuit today. You can do it – for somewhere between $875,000-$1,500,000. For more information click here. And for more from Artcurial at Le Mans, click here.

Update: Sold $833,855.

Ligier JS2

1974 Ligier JS2

Offered by Artcurial | Le Mans, France | July 7, 2012

Guy Ligier began his career as a rugby player before he went sportscar racing in the 1960s, which led to a brief Formula One ride with a privateer team. He moved on to his own race team but after his partner and friend, Jo Schlesser, was killed racing one of their Honda F1 cars, Ligier retired from driving and focused on building cars instead. The “JS” prefix is so named for Schlesser.

The JS2 was the second model made by the company and it was introduced in 1971. They were produced for both the road and the track – with racing being the focus (the Ligier name would appear on Formula One cars for 20 years). Only 280 copies of the JS2 were built. The one you see here is a race car – and an important one.

I like the “competition history” format we’ve used on other posts, so I’m doing it here again, too – even though the history is somewhat short:

  • 1974 Tour de France Automobile – 1st (with Gérard Larrousse, Jean-Pierre Nicolas and Johnny Rives)
  • 1975 24 Hours of Le Mans – 2nd (with Jean-Louis Lafosse and Guy Chasseuil)

The engine in this car is a 3.0-liter Cosworth DFV V8 making 460 horsepower and is one of only three factory JS2 race cars built and raced by Ligier. Only two survive and this one has more competition success than the other. However, it has been a while since this car was last used. As such, it is being sold “in need of an overhaul” and comes with a variety of spares.

There are other rare Ligers at this sale – you can find them here. This one is expected to bring between $935,000-$1,350,000. For more information, click here.

Update: Did not sell.

Audi R10 TDI

2007 Audi R10 TDI

Offered by Artcurial | Le Mans, France | July 7, 2012

Oh boy. This is one of my all-time favorite cars. A few months ago we featured this car’s largest rival – the Peugeot 908 HDi FAP. The Peugeot is very pretty and very fast. But it did not dominate everything quite like the Audi R10 did. That Peugeot was the first 908 to come up for public sale and this is the first Audi R10 to come up for auction.

The R10 TDI was introduced to replace the other-worldly Audi R8 (a car that only lost 16 races in seven years. It never lost at Le Mans with factory backing). What was shocking, was that the R10 was diesel-powered. Only a handful of diesel-powered cars had ever competed at Le Mans (1949, 1950 and 2004 all saw one diesel entry). But for a powerhouse team to switch its power plant after being so dominant? How would it play out?

Splendidly. The R10 never lost a race at Le Mans before it was replaced by its successor, the R15. The engine is a 5.5-liter diesel V12 making somewhere around 650 horsepower. Torque is monstrous at 811 lb/ft. The R10 was capable of great things in the right hands. It was the first diesel to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the 12 Hours of Sebring. One particular memory of these cars occurred at the 2008 Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta, when Allan McNish wrecked the car on the warmup lap on the way to the grid. The team had to replace most of the front end of the car. It basically started the race two laps down. Co-drivers Emanuele Pirro and Dindo Capello put in solid drives throughout the 1000km event. But a determined drive by McNish in the final stint gave the team the win. It was one of the most incredible performances from a driver I’ve ever seen. McNish is a god among men in Audi prototypes. But I have to admit the car probably had something to do with it.

Anyway, the competition history of this car (chassis #201) is as follows:

  • 2007 Grand Prix of Mosport – 4th (with Marco Werner and Emanuele Pirro)
  • 2007 Petit Le Mans – 17th (with Lucas Luhr and Werner)
  • 2007 Monterey Sports Car Championships at Laguna Seca – 3rd (with Mike Rockenfeller and Werner)
  • 2008 12 Hours of Sebring – 3rd, and 1st in class (with Rinaldo Capello, Allan McNish and Tom Kristensen)
  • 2008 1000km of Nurburgring – 3rd (with Alexandre Prémat and Rockenfeller)
  • 2008 1000km of Silverstone – 4th (with Prémat and Rockenfeller)
  • 2009 1000km of Catalunya – 27th (with Michael Krumm, Charles Zwolsman Jr. and Andrew Meyrick)
  • 2009 1000km of Spa – 6th (with Narain Karthikeyan, Meyrick and Zwolsman)
  • 2009 24 Hours of Le Mans – 7th (with Karthikeyan, Zwolsman and André Lotterer)
  • 2009 1000km of Algarve – 27th, DNF (with Karthikeyan, Meyrick and Zwolsman)
  • 2009 1000km of Nurburgring – 4th (with Karthikeyan, Meyrick and Zwolsman)
  • 2009 1000km of Silverstone – 6th (with Karthikeyan, Meyrick and Zwolsman)
  • 2009 1000km of Okayama – 5th in race one and 6th in race two (with Christijan Albers, Matteo Cressoni and Hideki Noda)
  • 2010 24 Hours of Le Mans – 32nd, DNF (with Christian Bakkerud, Oliver Jarvis and Albers)

Yeah, that’s quite the history. The list of names that have driven this car is amazing – legends of contemporary motorsport. I really wanted that Peugeot 908 when it went up for auction. But my want for this car exceeds the Peugeot by a factor so big I can’t even describe it. These are amazing machines. And they don’t come cheap. The pre-sale estimate for this car is $1,625,000-$2,000,000 – which is nothing as it cost Audi about $15 million per year to operate this team. For more information, click here. And for more from Artcurial at Le Mans, click here.

Update: Did not sell.

Alfa 8C 2300

1932 Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 Spyder

Offered by Bonhams | Goodwood, England | June 29, 2012

The Alfa Romeo 8C was introduced in 1931. The first two years of production consisted of the 2300 model – the engine being a 2.3-liter straight-8 with a Roots supercharger good for more than 165 horsepower. This car was from the second year of production and was used as the third of Alfa Romeo’s three works entries for the 1932 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The car was piloted by the winners of the 1931 race – Henry “Tim” Birkin and Lord Earl Howe (they won in 1931 in a different 8C 2300). They placed 12th in this car in 1932 – a DNF due to a blown head gasket. After repair, it was run at the 1932 RAC Tourist Trophy race at Ards, Ulster, placing 4th (with Howe driving). Afterward, the car went back to Alfa Romeo and was sold to driver Giuseppe Campari, who sent the car to Carrozzeria Touring so they could turn it into a road-friendly Drophead Coupe.

It was then sold to Italo Balbo – a rising star in Mussolini’s fascist regime. He was to become the Marshal of the Italian Air Force and Governor of Libya before his plane was shot down in 1940 and he was killed. Before he died (actually in 1935) he sold the car. It passed through numerous owners until it was acquired by its current owner in 1996, who had the body re-configured back to a more appropriate Le Mans-style body.

The 8C is the big dog among pre-war Alfa Romeos – comparable to a “Blower” Bentley. And like the Bentley, they aren’t common and they aren’t cheap. This one, albeit with its impressive, known history, is estimated to sell for between $3,900,000-$6,200,000. For more information – including a mini-biography of Italo Balbo – click here. For the rest of the Bonhams auction lineup, click here.

Update: Sold $4,217,674.


1978 Rondeau M378 Ford-Cosworth

Offered by RM Auctions | Monaco | May 12, 2012

What is it about Le Mans that inspires racecar drivers to want to become manufacturers? Yves Courage, Henri Pescarolo, Alain de Cadenet all caught the bug – and so did Jean Rondeau, who began constructing and racing his own cars at the famed 24 Hours in 1976. 1978 was the first year that the cars actually bore his name and this was the first of them. Rondeau would win the 1980 race in a car of his own design – the only time this has ever happened.

This car, chassis no. 001 holds the record for the most starts at the race with 10. No longer are single cars competitive for an entire decade. It’s an impressive feat. Here’s a rundown of those years:

  • 1978 24 Hours of Le Mans – 9th overall, 1st in class (with Rondeau, Bernard Darniche, and Jacky Haran)
  • 1979 24 Hours of Le Mans – 30th, DNF (with Rondeau and Haran)
  • 1980 24 Hours of Le Mans – 3rd (with Gordon Spice, Philippe Martin and Jean-Michel Martin)
  • 1981 24 Hours of Le Mans – 2nd (with Haran, Jean-Louis Schlesser and Philippe Streiff)
  • 1982 24 Hours of Le Mans – 10th (with Pierre Yver, Bruno Scotty and Lucien Guitteny)
  • 1983 24 Hours of Le Mans – 28th, DNF (with Vic Elford, Joël Gouhier and Anne-Charlotte Verney)
  • 1984 24 Hours of Le Mans – 11th (with Jean-Philippe Grand, Jean-Paul Libert and Pascal Witmeur
  • 1985 24 Hours of Le Mans – 43rd, DNF (with Michel Dubois, Hubert Striebig and Noël del Bello)
  • 1986 24 Hours of Le Mans – 17th (with del Bello, Scotty and Lucien Rossiaud
  • 1988 24 Hours of Le Mans – 27th, not classified (with Scotty and Pierre-Alain Lombardi)

Jean Rondeau was killed in a road car accident in 1985, but his name lived on at the race he lived for – on this car, through 1988. This car also competed in nine other European endurance events, with at least one win.

The engine is a 3.0-liter V8 from Cosworth making 415 horsepower. It’s a race car and weighs next to nothing. So it’s quick. And it’s a piece of history – although it never won the big race, it holds an impressive record and is eligible for historic events. The pre-sale estimate is $790,000-$990,000. To read the complete description, click here. And for the entire RM in Monaco offering, click here.

Update: sold $464,128.