The British automaker might have a number of reasons for restricting itself to the LMP2 class. Chief among them is likely the presence of both Porsche and Audi in the top-tier LMP1 category, and parent company Volkswagen's likely reluctance to send another one of its brands into the same fight. Another is budget: developing and fielding a competitive LMP1 program can be as costly as running an F1 team, whereas the prospect of sourcing and adapting an LMP2 chassis from an approved supplier would cost Bentley far less. But another factor not to be discounted is that Bentley may be choosing its battles carefully.
Where the LMP1 prototypes are constricted largely to Le Mans and the FIA World Endurance Championship of which it is part, there are several series that top out at LMP2 – most notable the IMSA SportsCar Championship where Bentley is tipped to focus first, but also in the European Le Mans Series and Asian Le Mans Series. In fact [SPOILER ALERT] an LMP2 entry just won the 24 Hours of Daytona for the first time, beating out the Daytona Prototypes against which they compete. Those are bragging rights that Bentley could be keen to capture, and if it plays its cards right, it could sit out the LMP2 class at Le Mans and in the WEC altogether, rather than compete for second-tier victory behind its big brothers in LMP1.
That would make this program radically different from the last time Bentley built a Le Mans prototype. In the early 2000s, Bentley fielded successive versions of the Speed 8 (pictured above) with a little help from Audi, winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans outright in 2003. The company then shut down the program, only to return to racing with the Continental GT3, developed with longtime Ford rally partner M-Sport and offered to privateer teams. The new program would slot somewhere in between the two, and offer Bentley the opportunity to seize its own bragging rights in a potentially high-profile category.