This past Sunday at Le Mans, Bentley Chairman Franz-Josef Paefgen was presented with the Spirit of Le Mans award by the Automobile Club de l'Ouest, the host organization for the annual 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race. The Spirit of Le Mans is reserved for personalities whose actions relating to the race have left a lasting, positive impact
In Dr. Paefgen's case, he has been recognized for bringing Bentley back to Le Mans after a 71-year hiatus. It was Paefgen who resurrected Bentley's factory racing program when he took over as chairman and Chief Executive, and in three short years, Team Bentley went from contender to champion, finishing first and second overall in the sublime EXP Speed 8 prototypes.
In recognition of this achievement, an exact replica of the #7 car that won Le Mans in 2003 will take up residence at the Musée Automobile de la Sarthe, home to over 100 other cars, including several past Le Mans winners. And while the Speed 8 will be the newest Bentley to join the museum, it won't be the first. That distinction belongs to a 1924 Bentley 3 liter that will be there waiting for its grandchild to roll through the doors.
I guess you could say that victory loves company.
(Press release after the jump)
[Source: Bentley Motors]
Jun 18, 2006 09:30 ET
Bentley Honoured in Le Mans
LE MANS, France, June 18/PRNewswire/ -- The venerable British automaker Bentley Motors has been inducted into Musée Automobile de la Sarthe. This prestigious honour was celebrated today when Bentley Chairman and Chief Executive Franz-Josef Paefgen was awarded the Spirit of Le Mans Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO) president Jean-Claude Plassart.
A replica of the Bentley Speed 8 will soon be added to the collection of the renowned Musée Automobile de la Sarthe in Le Mans. The Speed 8 is the legendary car no. 7 that won the 24 hour Le Mans race in 2003. The team of Tom Kristensen, Guy Smith and Dindo Capello won that year, finishing just ahead of a second Bentley team in car no. 8, which was driven by David Brabham, Mark Blundell, and Johnny Herbert. This dual success marked Bentley's successful comeback, echoing the brand's Le Mans' victories with the winged B between 1923 and 1930. For the next 71 years, the Bentley brand was absent from Le Mans.
The replica of the Bentley Speed 8 integrates numerous components that were used by the original team. The car is an exact copy, down to the most minute detail, of the original victor vehicle, which is housed in the Bentley Motors collection in Crewe, England. The Bentley Speed 8 will become the second winning car in the Le Mans museum's collection, the first being an original 1924 Bentley 3 liter. Located right at the entrance to Le Mans, the museum features over 100 historic automobiles, including more than a dozen genuine winning cars from past races.
Bentley's induction into this famed collection was marked by an official ceremony during which ACO President Jean-Claude Passart bestowed upon Bentley Chairman and Chief Executive Franz-Josef Paefgen the Spirit of Le Mans award. During the ceremony, Mr. Passart lauded Dr. Paefgen's long standing commitment to car racing. As former chairman of Audi, Dr. Paefgen was instrumental in shaping Audi's car racing program, which enabled the brand to enter Le Mans beginning in 1999; it has dominated the event without interruption ever since. After moving to Bentley, Dr. Paefgen took charge of the company's ambitious motor sports project, which allowed Bentley to stage a comeback on the international car racing scene from 2001-2003, thus ushering in a realignment of the Bentley brand.
Since 2001, Automobile Club de l'Ouest has been bestowing the Spirit of Le Mans award on individuals who have made a significant contribution to the evolution of the renowned 24 hour car racing event. Past recipients of the Spirit of Le Mans award include Ferdinand Piech, as well as racecar drivers Jacky Ickx, Derek Bell and Phil Hill.