Famous British marque Bentley has confirmed that it is to reduce its attack on this year's Le Mans 24 hours race to just one car. Bentley returned to the famous French race in 2001 after an absence of more than 50 years and is to return again this year, but with only one version of its EXP Speed 8.
The Volkswagen-owned make is also to compete at the opening round of the American Le Mans Series, the Sebring 12 Hours in March, in preparation for Le Mans.
After a best-of-the-rest third place behind Audi at La Sarthe last year, Andy Wallace, Butch Leitzinger and Eric van de Poele will be the sole entry in 2002. Lead driver of the second car last year Martin Brundle, confirmed two weeks ago that he would not be driving this year, due to his Formula 1 commentary commitments.
The loss of one car leaves British sportscar ace Guy Smith and former Le Mans winner Stephane Ortelli, who partnered Brundle last year, without a drive for the endurance classic.
Bentley will use a new 4-litre engine in its car this year and while it does not expect to beat Audi, the Apex Motorsport-run team is aiming for the top step of the podium in 2003, when it will field an all-new car.
Bentley chairman elect Franz-Josef Paefgen said: "We would like to repeat, if not better, our 2001 podium position this year, but believe me, we are definitely aiming for the top step in 2003 with the new car."