Back in 1924, at Brooklands, JG Parry Thomas — whose living depended largely upon such exploits — joined jockey-cum-racer George Duller and inventor Lionel Rapson to break the world’s long-distance records up to 15 hours at the helm of Rapson’s 6178 cc Lanchester. Their speed after 12 hours bettered that of previous, longer records. A lap speed in excess of 100 mph was maintained, but there were delays when the experimental Rapson tyres persisted in throwing treads, necessitating 16 changes during the 12-hour stint. The magneto also proved troublesome, and the Lanchester ran on its Delco coil-set until a new one could be fitted. Even so, the 95.66 mph average over 12 hours took that and the intermediate world records from Sunbeam, and deprived Aston Martin of the longer duration records. These impressive figures stood until April 26 this year.
That was when HRH Prince Michael of Kent, whose participation in many types of motorised sport is of inestimable value (it must be in his blood as his father, as the Duke of Kent, used to frequent the Bentley pits at Brooklands), joined Stanley Mann, Vaughan Davis and Philip Greenwood on Millbrook’s banked, two-mile test track. At the wheel of the famous 1927 Bentley ‘Mother Gun’, powered by a 6 1/2-litre engine, they broke the UK 1000-mile record. The car was rebuilt by Robin Jackson in 1937, resurfacing as the Bentley-Jackson Special. In the ’60s, Vaughan Davis discovered it languishing in a Sussex barn and set about its restoration, assisted in the later stages of the project by acknowledged Bentley expert Mann.
The record they set out to beat stood at 95.27 mph, and this was beaten by 55 min 33.25 sec. Subject to official confirmation, the 1000-mile UK record now stands at 104.49 mph.
In case anyone asks, the world record stands at 172.80 mph to the 25-litre Mormon Meteor.
Seven pit stops were made, Clay, Russell and Duval topping up with 12.5 gallons in 30 seconds. The eighth stop was to allow Prince Michael to drive the last lap (another first, as no British royal had previously done this). The Bentley ran at 3100 rpm on a 2.86 axle ratio. No oil was needed. Mann set the fastest lap, at 118 mph, four miles from the end. The event was sponsored by at least 17 companies, on behalf of the Brooklands Museum Trust. Esso fuel and oil was used, as were Dunlop’s 700×19 racing tyres. Warmest congratulations all round.