Bentleys at Ghent

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This is a great Bentley year, with Jubilee celebrations organised by the Bentley D.C., but of greater interest to those who associate the pre-war Bentleys with high-speed action are the timed kilometre runs which this Club causes to happen as the opening of another season’s activities. Although these runs take place in May, for the record here is a resumé of what took place. The speeds are taken with acknowledgement from The Bentley Drivers’ Club Review and they certainly reflect the greatest credit on those who prepared cars for the timed runs and drove them on this occasion. Remembering that these are the mean of runs in opposite directions the best speed attained, 123.79 m.p.h. by Wilcock’s special 8-litre Bentley, would not have been a bad show by a professional entry pre-war. Wilcock came from his hide-out in the Channel Islands. Next quickest was Goddard’s 8-litre, helped by its turbo-supercharger, of which Motor Sport scooped a description some years ago. It clocked 120.85. m.p.h. But wait, a piston broke on the return run and much if not all of the measured distance had to be done without help from the engine, otherwise the engineer from Australia might have made f.t.d. Then Russ-Turner did a rousing 116.08 m.p.h. in the ex-Birkin blower-4½ which, although it got round Brooklands at nearly 138 m.p.h. in its racing days, now has more wind-drag even when stripped than it had to contend with then (no reflection on the 1969 driver!) and, anyway, was using its low-compression cylinder block, the h.c. one having developed a crack on the way to Silverstone for a prior engagement.

Next in speed order came Sowden’s 8-litre with 113.84 m.p.h. and Godia’s modern S3 Continental did a very respectable 112.18 m.p.h. Guy Shoosmith’s Speed Six replied with 109.65 m.p.h., Rumsey’s R-type Continental showed these to be ton-up stately carriages, with 105.82 m.p.h., and a Jensen 541 chipped in with 104.19 m.p.h. In the absence of her indisposed father Anne Shoosmith then showed the paces of that gentleman’s new version of the Crewe cut, in the form of a Mk. VI Special—103.42. m.p.h.

A “hot” Hillman Imp just topped 100 m.p.h. to put the Bentleys in their place and two presumably vintage 4½-litres Managed 96.63 and 81.76 m.p.h.

The Bentley D.C. is impartial and the Jensen and the Imp were not regarded as gate-crashers. Indeed, Guy Shoosmith was allowed to run his 1921 3-litre Sunbeam, which is the straight-eight T.T.-type car which Panks drove in fairly recent V.S.C.C. events when it was owned by Rootes. Shoosmith has fortunately acquired it, so there is no fear of it following the 1924 G.P. Sunbeam to Monaco. He hopes to run it on the road, which will be in the spirit of the ‘twenties when such cars were driven to and from speed events, and at Ghent it was timed at 90.75 m.p.h. for the two-way kilometre. Finally, Major Bailey, who normally favours Crewe cuts or a cut-down Derby Bentley, left these at home on this occasion to act as Club reporter but took his Lancia Flavia Vignale coupé, which did not disgrace itself—it did 94.99 m.p.h.

At a time when some speculative people drive their vintage cars no farther than to the next auction sale, isn’t it splendid to find chaps prepared, in direct contrast to these mercenary folk, not only to race their Bentleys but to subject them to this flat-out stuff, where speed cannot be exaggerated? All credit, too, to the Koninglyke Automobielclub der Vlaanderen which makes it possible.—W. B.

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