It's one of the oldest car companies still around today.
Luxury vehicles like the 2022 Bentley Continental GT Speed offer levels of speed that would have seemed impossible a century ago. Though Bentley says the Speed is a true driver's car, the leather-clad behemoth weighs in at more than 5,000 pounds. A track day car it is not. Looking at Bentley's current lineup of sumptuous yet swift luxury vehicles, it's easy to forget that the UK brand has one of the richest motorsport pedigrees in the automotive industry.
In fact, Bentley celebrated its first-ever race win more than 100 years ago. The historic Bentley EXP2, the company's second model ever built, won its first race on May 16, 1921.
The EXP2 is the oldest existing Bentley in the world, built by W.O. Bentley himself. The preceding EXP1 was lost to history, perhaps cannibalized to build other cars. With Bentley works driver Frank Clement at the wheel, the EXP2 took home the win at the Whitsun Junior Sprint Handicap at Brooklands motor circuit, the world's first banked race track. Though it only competed against other Bentley 3-Litre models, it marked the first of many victories for the EXP2 and the Bentley brand.
The car later went on to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1924 (Bentley's first Le Mans victory) and 1927, driven by Clement and John Duff. Between those two Le Man's wins, Duff captured 21 world records in 1925. With its massive racing pedigree, Bentley produced and sold 1,622 3-Litre models until the model left production in 1929. The EXP2 produces 175 horsepower from its 3.0-liter four-cylinder engine, a far cry from the modern-day Continental GT Speed with 650 hp. With only 1,500 pounds to haul around, the EXP2 could achieve a 79 mph top speed.
"Motorsport success is a huge part of Bentley's heritage, as it is for the Bentley Drivers Club. We were therefore determined to mark the centenary of the first Bentley racing win on May 16, 1921, at Brooklands on the very same date this year with the actual car, EXP2 itself, kindly provided by Bentley Motors," said Bentley Drivers' Club chairman Richard Parkinson.
"We will continue as a Club to celebrate '100 years of Bentley Racing Success' at our Annual Silverstone Meeting on August 7, which I am delighted to say Bentley Motors is supporting with a display of significant cars from the Heritage Collection."