WO was a racing driver, too

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W Bentley will forever be respected as the instigator of some of the greatest sportscars of vintage years.

Most ‘Bentley Boys’ of today will also know that he braved going as the passenger to Tim Birkin in a 4 1/2-litre Bentley in the 1929 Ulster TT. It shouldn’t be forgotten, however, that WO himself had been a racing driver at Brooklands, with DFP cars, before the 1914-18 war. Indeed, he fought quite a contest with Humber in breaking class-B records. In 1913 this battle saw the official speed of his DFP increase from over 66mph to 79.63mph for ten laps.

WO then took his car back to the Courbevoie works for a differential-less back axle and a hotter camshaft to be fitted, with other engine changes for greater speed. In haste the DFP was brought back to England while the Olympia Show was open, to put the 10-lap class record to 81.98mph, a speed which the manufacturers had thought impossible from this 2-litre production-type car. He responded to later challenges with speeds of over 82mph for the 50-mile and one hour targets, and accomplished a flyingstart half-mile at 89.7mph.

He did this with the DFP he drove into fourth place in the 1914 600-mile IoM TT, which was won by a 3.3-litre Sunbeam. This gallant little DFP car survived the war, being fitted with comfortable two-seater bodywork, acetylene headlamps and a driver’s ‘searchlight’, its Reg No LX 7881.

WO then competed in the 1922 TT, with Frank Clement and Douglas Hawkes, taking the Team Prize with three 3-litre Bentleys. After which he was too busy producing his inimitable cars to be a racing driver.