GREAT RAC] BE (Continue7i (rot
KG MAR MET QUES Novemther issue)
Before many weeks were past, however, the 44-litre Bentley took its first honours in a French 24-hour race. A contest of this nature was held on the road circuit at Montlhery on 15th August. The “44 ” appeared as the single representative of the marque. Competition was not very keen, and driven by Clement and Duller it scored an easy win in the race which was called the Grand Prix de Paris. The distance covered was 1,247.7 miles and the speed 52 m.p.h.
The Essex M.C. Six Hour Race at Brooklands was again held in 1928 on 12th May. By now no less than three 44-litre Bentleys were entered, together with two of the older 3-litre type. The drivers were W. Barnato and F. C. Clement ; H. R. S. Birkin ; B. Rubin and J. D. Benjafield ; H. W. Cook ; and W. B. Scott. The formula was rather complicated, but Birkin’s car was finally placed third and Benjafield and Rubin sixth.
Bentley v. Stutz.
The Grand Prix d’Endurance at le Mans, however, was once more the great event of the year. For the first time since the first race of the series, in 1923, the 3-litre Bentley was conspicuous by its absence on the list of entries. Three cars had been entered, but all were now of the 44-litre type. Their drivers were F. C. Clement and J. D. Benjafield ; H. R. S. Birkin and Jean Chassagne ; W. Barnato and B. Rubin. The Bentleys’ chief rival in the race was the 5-litre Stutz, and in the early stages a tremendous battle took place. Birkin and Chassagne’s car was delayed by reason of a wheel collapsing when running on -a flat tyre after a puncture, but the other two held their own at the head of affairs. Just before dawn, however, Clement and Benjafield.’s car cracked a water pipe, and as water could not be taken on under the rules, the car had to be withdrawn. Barnato and Rubin’s car was going as well as ever and soon after this took the lead. Thereafter it never lost it and finally came home the winner of the Grand Prix d’Endurance, to score the third
victory for Bentley. The distance covered was 1,658.6 miles and the average speed 69.11 m.p.h. Birkin and Chassagne finished fifth. In 1928 the Royal Automobile Club decided to hold a Tourist Trophy Race over a road circuit near Belfast, and for this event two
this event two 44-litre Bentleys were entered. In order to place all types of cars on a level footing a handicap was in use, but as the race went on it was seen that the smaller cars were given much too easy a task. The Bentleys were driven by H. R. S. Birkin and H. W. Cook, and were quite the fastest cars in the race. Although a number of cars were overhauled, the final positions of the Bentleys were 5th and 7th respectively, Birkin recording the fastest average speed of any car in the race at 65.67 m.p.h.
Handicappers in general seemed to have a grudge against large cars that year, for in the Georges Boillot Cup race at Boulogne the Bentley driven by Birkin had a hopeless task. Birkin was scratch man, and started 1 hour, 5 mins, 43 sees. after the limit man had left. In spite of a good drive, he was never in the picture. The first big race in 1929 for production cars was the new event organised by the Junior Car Club, and called the “Double-Twelve.” The idea was to have a race on the lines of the Grand Prix d’Endurance at Le Mans, but owing to local
restriction o no night driving is allowed on Brooklands Track. Accordingly the cars had to complete two spells of 12 hours each, on consecutive days, being locked up in the Paddock during the intervening night so that no overhauls could be made. Five Bentleys were entered, four 44-litre cars, handled by P. C. Clement and H. W.
Cook, S. C. H. Davis and Sir R. Gunter, W. B. Scott and Mrs. Scott, H. R. S. Birkin and N. B. Holder, two drivers per car, while the fifth car was a newcomer, one of the 64-litre speed models. Woolf Barnato and 3,r. J. D. Benjafield were to handle this car. The ” Six ” immediately took the lead, followed by Earl Howe’s Bugatti and the four “44’s.” After 10 laps the cars were allowed to come in and furl their hoods, but the Bentleys decided to carry on until they were forced to stop for fuel, when 27 gallons were taken on board in under three minutes.
The debut of the “Six.”
So far the Bentleys had been occupying the first five places, but now the 14-litre Alfa Romeos driven by Tvanowsky and Ramponi began to draw ahead on handicap. At the same time the ” Six ” developed a bad vibration, which was traced to a wrecked dynamo coupling. So the radiator was taken off, the dynamo removed, the radiator replaced and once more the great car continued its steady lapping at 92 m.p.h. But the officials suddenly remembered that the rules demanded that cars must have dynamos, and so Barnato and Benjafield were forced to retire. Ramponi now led, with Ivanowki second and Clement third. But the cars were all very closely matched on handicap, and each pit stop caused a change in the order. The end of the first 12 hours showed Ramponi in the lead, having
averaged 77.37 m.p.h. Davis and Gunter second, at 81.58 m.p.h. and Ivanowki third. Next morning Birkin was the first Bentley driver to get going, followed by Davis. At this stage fresh rivals for the lead appeared in the shape of Bertelli’s Aston Martin and Casse’s Sahnson. During the morning rain fell, and Davis nearly destroyed his chances when he skidded with great violence into a sandbank, fortunately without damaging the car. For the rest of the race the duel between Ramponi, driving his Alfa Romeo singlehanded, and the Bentley driven by S. C. H. Davis and Sir R. Gunter, held the attention of the crowd. One by one their team-mates had been dropping out, Ivanowski being hindered with dynamo trouble, Birkin’s Bentley with a worn thrust bearing in the transmission, Clement’s car with a big-end gone, while the Scotts were delayed with an irritating fuel starvation. At 20 hours Ramponi still led, with Davis second and Casse a dangerous third. Then the Alfa’s battery’ box came adrift, and some excitable work with rope was accomplished. Davis Slipped by, and Ramponi took up the chase with intense concentration. It was the Bentley’s turn next, and Gunter had a bad moment when a tyre collapsed as the car was cornering, the tread smashing the mudguard. This had to be secured, and so the red Alfa was ahead once more. Slowly the Bentley crept up, and the situation was complicated when the pit staff saw the white line of the breaker strip on one of the tyres. The Bentley was called in by officials to secure a bonnet clip, but the tyre was left as a lengthy stop would be fatal. At last the finish came, and after a quick calculation it Was found that the Alfa Romeo had won by .00:3 on formula, a distance of 31 miles in 24 hours ! The
31 miles in 24 hours ! The Bentley’s average speed was 81.39 m.p.h.
Four cars were entered for l,e Mans. Barnato and Birkin drove the ” Six,” the rest being 41-litres handled by Clement and Cha,ssagne, Kidston and Jack Dunfee, Benjafield and the Baron d’Erlanger. The ” Six ” took the lead straight away and Birkin increased his lap speed to 81.1 m.p.h. the fastest so far recorded at Le Mans. The early opposition of two Stutz was removed when both these cars had to retire with the failure of their petrol tanks. A certain amount of trouble was experienced with batteries and head-lamps during the night section, but the race was almost a walk-over for the -marque, finishing in the order of Birkin and Barnato, Kidston and Dunfee, Benjafield and &Erlanger, Clement and Chassagne. Birkin’s speed was 73.627 m.p.h. Once again the Bentley Six was driven to victory, this thne by Barnato and Dunfee in the Essex Club’s 6 Hour Race. Two supercharged ” 4A’s ” took part for the first
time in this race. The Irish Grand Prix at Phoenix Park provided a wonderful scrap for some distance between Thistlethwaite’s Mercedes-Benz and Birkin’s ” blown ” fourand-a-half Bentley. For lap after lap these two went round with only a short distance between them, until on the 27th circuit the gasket of the ” Mere” blew, and the car retired. On handicap Ivanowski was leading with his Alfa Romeo, and Kidston took up the chase, driving the Bentley ” Six.’ Great excitement marked the end of the race, for the Italian
car crossed the line 14 seconds ahead of the Bentley. Birkin was third, Wood fourth, Cook fifth, Scott seventh, and Rubin eighth, so the tna;,que had ample compensation for inis,sing first place.
The T.T. race in the autumn of 1929 was a repetition of the Mercedes-Bentlev duel, the opponents this time being Kidston on the ” Six ” and Rudolf Caracciola on an S.S.K. “Mere.” These two had a terrific tussle for sonic time, until rain came on and Kidston got into a bad skid coming down I3radShaw’s Brae, ditching his car most spectacularly. Rubin had already turned his ” 4A ” over, without personal injury, and with Harcourt Wood’s retirement the team was considerably weakened. Birkin (with ” W.0.” in the mechanic’s seats had a long-drawnout fight with Otto Merz, the Mercedes No. 2, and eventually finished 11th in the race, which was won handsomely by C aracciol a.
Bentley wins the first “500.”
The last race of 1929 was a new event on the Calendar, the 500 Miles Race at Brooklands organised by the British Racing Drivers’ Club. This proved a wonderful finale to the season for Bentleys, F. C. Clement and J. D. Barclay sharing the driving of the winning car, at 107.32 m.p.h. and S. C. H. Davis and Clive Dunfee bringing the ” Six ” into second place at 109.40 m.p.h. Birkiu appeared for the first time with the single seater ” 41 ” which was later to become the lap record-holder. After a short but speedy run, however. the car was withdrawn. The 1930 racing season opened with a triumph for the Six, which carried off the honours in the J.C.C. double twelve hour race. It had been hoped that the Bentleys would compete against a big Mercedes,
but the latter was unable to start. The competition in consequence was not very serious, and the first Bentley driven by Woolf Barnato and F. C. Clement scored an easy win, covering a total distance of 2,080.34 miles and averaging 86.68 m.p.h. The second Bentley, driven by S. C. H. Davis and Clive Dunfee covered 2,056.34 miles. The duel with the Mercedes, however,
was not long delayed, and the occasion was none other than the famous Grand Prix d’Endurance at le Mans. In view of this challenge, Bentley had made ample preparations. The cars were really divided into two teams, the three Sixes, driven by P. C. Clement and R. Watney ; S. C. H. Davis and Clive Dunfee ; and W. Barnato and G. Kidston ; and two 41-litres, now fitted with superchargers and driven by H. R. S. Birkin and Jean Chassagne, and
J. D. I3enjafield and Ramponi. A third 4i-litre, which was to have been driven by Harcourt Wood and Jack Dunfee was unable to start. The race was scarcely well started when the Bentley policy became apparent. The 44-litre were to go all out in an attempt to wear down the solitary Mercedes driven by Caracciola and Werner. If they died in the attempt, the Sixes would be moved up into the forefront. Throughout the early stages of the race a terrific duel was fought out between the Mercedes and the 4i-litres, although the latter were suffering severely from tyre troubles. At last, however, they began to weaken under the strain, and the Sixes came up to take their place. Clive Dunfee took a corner too fast and ditched his car irretrievably, but the other two carried on. Thus it continued until during the night the Mer
cedes burnt its dynamo out, the battery became exhausted and it was forced to stop for lack of lights.
The Bentleys now had things all their own way and the two remaining cars captured the first two places. Barnato and Kidston, on the winning car, covered 1,821 miles in the 24 hours, the average speed being 75.88 m.p.h. The second car, driven by Clement and Watney covered 1,760 miles. Thus Bentleys scored their fifth win in the Grand Prix d’Endurance.
The Bentley-Mercedes duel was renewed a month later in the Irish Grand Prix at Phoenix Park, but in a shorter race the bigger car was less at a disadvantage and the supercharged 4i-litre had to admit defeat. H. R. S. Birkin made third fastest time, behind Caracciola’s and Howe’s Mercedes and was placed fourth on handicap.
The 44-litres appeared again in August for the T.T. race in Ulster. On this occasion, however, they did not appear to be in their usual winning form. Birkin, after running for some time in fourth place, crashed at Ballystockart and had to retire. Kensington Moir on the first of the Bentleys was placed fourteenth in the general classification, but had the satisfaction of winning the 5-litre class.
The last season
The last big race of the year was the “500 ” at Brooklands, and the event attracted a number of 44-litres. Birkin’s car was again the special single-seater, but curiously enough an ordinary 4-seater driven by J. D. Benjafield and E. R. Hall proved the fastest of the team. In the end this car put up the highest speed of the race and was placed second on handicap with an average of 112.12 m.p.h.
1930 was the last real racing season undertaken by Bentleys. After that year the increasing difficulties of the old firm prohibited expensive participation in racing. No history of Bentley achievements
would be complete without some reference to the famous single seater 4i-litre ” blown ” car with which Sir Henry Birkin competed with such success during 1930, 1931 and 1932. This car was quickly brought to a pitch of extraordinary high speed, and it found a worthy pilot in” Tim ” Birkin, one of the most brilliant drivers ever seen at Brooklands since that track’s construction. During those three years no B.A.R.C. meeting was quite up to standard without his presence, and his hurtling progress round the track from the scratch mark is a sight that will live for ever in the minds of all spectators who were privileged to witness it.
The most historic performance of this wonderful combination was undoubtedly the match race against John Cobb’s 10-litre Delage at the August Bank.Holiday of 1932. The Delage made the faster getaway, and led for nearly the ,whole race, until Birkin swooped off the Members Banking and passed Cobb just before the finishing line to win by 25 yards at a speed of 125.14 m.p.h. The present laprecord of Brooldands Track stands, of course, to this day to the credit of the late Sir Henry Birkin and his single seater Bentley at a speed of 137.96 m.p.h. The new Bentley which now makes its appearance, therefore, has a magnificent record behind it, which at least the town
of le Mans and all those who have visited it for its motor races will never forget.