A BENTLEY which competed at the first ever 24 Hours of Le Mans race a century ago has sold for an eye-watering amount – after it was found rusting in a garage.
The Bentley 3 Litre placed fourth in the iconic race – driven by First World War veterans John Duffy and test driver Frank Clement in 1923.
At the time, the motor had achieved a lap record of 66.69mph – and placed fourth in the event.
The vehicle – also known as the Chassis 141 – was used in the late 1940s to transport St Bernard dogs to shows – but didn’t appear again publicly until the 1980s.
Tom Wheatcroft, who owned the Donington Car Museum, received a call from a 97-year-old woman who offered Tom the motor which was stored in her barn in Leicestershire.
The museum owner had no prior knowledge of the car’s history until it was pointed out to him later on by a motors journalist.
Eventually, collector Peter Briggs traded a Formula 1 car from his collection for the motor, which he began to restore.
The car has been bought by an unnamed British motoring enthusiast for an eye-watering $3.7 million (£3 million).
The sale was managed by Kidston SA, a company founded by the nephew of racing driver Glen Kidston, who won Le Mans 24 hours in 1930.
The Chassis 141 is set to make a historical return to the Le Mans Classic at the end of June.
Reflecting on the sale, Simon Kidston, director of Kidston SA, said: “This week the most famous motor race in the world celebrates its 100th birthday and its pioneering early competitors remain as intriguing as ever.
“This Bentley isn’t just an old car, it’s a turning point in motor racing history and a cornerstone of the Bentley legend.
“And personally, having inherited a family passion for cars which was accelerated by my ‘Bentley Boy’ uncle, helping to bring this Bentley home feels really satisfying.
“It won’t be leading a quiet life: it’ll be lining up on the grid of the Le Mans 100th anniversary race for vintage cars next month.
“I hope its original drivers will be looking down and smiling.”