Bentleys at Silverstone
THE TRADITIONAL last-Saturday-in-August Bentley Drivers Club meeting at Silverstone had two anniversaries to celebrate this year—the 50th year since the last Bentley win at Le Mans, when two Speed Six Bentleys came home first and second to give the British Company its fifth win in the eight year history of the race and the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Morgan Motor Company. The former was marked by a race with the nearest thing current day regulations would allow to a Le Mans start, and the latter by an enormous parade of Morgans. The racing was without serious incident and was blessed with fine weather which helped to make a most enjoyable day's sport tor competitors and spectators alike.
Events started with a display of replica First World War aircraft, which should have been followed by the appearance of the Hon. Patrick Lindsay's Spitfire, but sadly this failed to appear — it was rumoured that Tony Bianchi, who should have been at the controls, was suffering the effects of the French fishermen's blockade.
The first race, starting promptly at 1.00 p.m.. was an eight lap handicap race for a selection of cars, ranging from Peter Askew's incredibly fast 4/4 Morgan, through a number of +8s, to a series of Mk. VI Bentley specials, with a couple of Jaguars thrown in for good measure. Credit laps made following the race rather difficult, and the commentator was as confused as anyone else, but the timekeepers declared Graham Bryant as the winner (Morgan +8) with Alan Kennedy second (Morgan 4/4) and Malcolm Paul third (Morgan +8).
Race two was another eight lap handicap, this time for pre-war Lagonda and Bentley cars, although one Bentley was seen to be running with a post-war engine. With the exception of Harvey Hine (driving David Llewellyn's well-known 3/8-litre Bentley Special) and Gordon Russell in his single-seater 8-litre car, all the other competitors had credit laps. First away was one of the three Lagondas, Colin Bugler's 4 1/2 tourer, with a start of one lap and 1 min. 15 sec. over Hine. Richard Black was campaigning his white 3-litre, fitted with beaded edge front tyres, John Walker his slightly later Speed model 3-litre, fitted with an immaculate blue four-seater body and full length wings. while Stanley Mann had an extrernely stark special Speed Six. Tim Llewellyn was at the wheel of "Bluebell", a special 4 1/2, George Tabbenor in his enormous Speed Six, spoilt for me by Union Jacks and small wheels, andd David Rens in one of the least sporting of vintage Bentleys, a 4-litre. James Crocker's nippy little Rapier and David Hine's rather larger Meadows engined car were attempting to uphold Lagonda honours, and were very evenly matched, Crocker having the advantage on the corners. Black, who had two credit laps succeeded in holding all the opposition at bay, and won the race from Grafton's 4 1/4 and Bugler's Lagonda. Hine and Russell were trying very hard throughout the race, Russell getting very sideways at Woodcote on occasions, but neither was able to make much impression on their very stiff handicaps.
The field for the third event was made up entirely of Morgans — ranging from Rob Wells' Modsports +8, which led from start to finish, to apparently standard early fifties +4s. Wells set a tremendous pace, and no-one was able to keep anywhere near him. Peter Askew (4/4) was chasing Bruce Stapleton (+ 8) for second place while Graham Bryant led a small gaggle of +8's which were evenly matched and all trying to get into fourth position.
Vintage Bentley's featured in the Pace Petroleum Handicap race, over eight laps. Once again, the two powerful 8-litre-engined cars of Russell and Llewellyn were at the back of the field, and had enormous handicaps to overcome. Richard Black won once again, his 3-litre being followed home by David Rolfe's 4 1/2, from Harvey Hine in Tim Llewellyn's "Bluebell". Mandy Collings, who is probably the youngest driver racing at the moment, being but 17 1/2, years old, did very well to finish sixth in her Speed Six Bentley, five places ahead of Tabbenor's car which shared the same handicap. Fuad Mazjub was racing a very neat special bodied 3-litre car, managing to come home just ahead of Mandy, but unable to catch Walker's 3-litre which finished fourth.
Bill Tuer treated the crowd to a demonstration of three-wheeler Morgan motoring when he won the fifth event of the day, an eight lap all-corners handicap. A later four-wheeled version of the Malvern marque owned by N. Stechman came second, followed closely by Alan Wiseberg's MG-B. Poor Stuart Harper, whose three-wheeler Morgan is well known to the followers of the VSCC racing scene, dropped out of the race when the front end of his prop-shaft broke— the rear end had broken at the Hawthorn Trophy Meeting in July. Further down the field, David Taylor and Derrick Edwards were having a tremendous dice in a pair of pre-war Aston Martins, the decision finally going to Taylor's rather special car.
Before the main race of the day, the track was filled with over 70 Morgans, ranging in age right back to the first days of the company, and all apparently different. One grey and red four-wheeled version had crew clad in evening dress with hair dyed to match the colour of the car. Commentary was given by Peter Morgan.
The big race was entitled Le Mans Retrospective 50th Anniversary Dash for The Times Trophy for Bentley Cars, and was to be run over ten laps. The start was to be Le Mans style, and just to add to the flavour of the event, competitors had to stop in the pits at some stage after their second lap and before their eighth to change a wheel, using a jack which had to be carried in the car. The field was lined up in echelon along the outside edge of the GP circuit at Woodcote, engines turned off, and drivers facing their cars some 20 yards away, helmets and goggles in place. Eddie Hall, who had driven Derby Bentleys in competition in the thirties and fifties, had come over from his home in Monaco to drop the flag, and he drivers dashed In their cars. It was difficult to see quite who was first away, but there was not much in it. The pit road was far more interesting than the actual race, with scrutineers dashing about checking that wheels had been replaced securely in the hurried pit stops. Quickest stops were the least hurried, and David Llewellyn scored well here, which must have helped him to win the race. Gordon Russell, who came home second, was rather flustered during his stop and tripped across his exposed stub-axle, but quickly recovered and was away with little wasted time. Mandy's brother Craig was driving the Collings' Speed Six, and employed a lump of wood to raise the front axle instead of a jack. Others were using trolley jacks, nearly breaking their backs as they lifted them out of the car, some were using modern hydraulic pillar jacks, while there were plenty of very vintage screw jacks in evidence. The Vintage group, having knock-on hubs, were at a distinct advantage over the later cars, although Ian Benthall managed to bring his Mk. VI special into third place, making fastest lap of the race in the process. Charles Teall was fourth with his very pretty, if somewhat over polished, Mk. VI special, but he was a whole lap behind the first three.
And so to event seven, a splendid dice between three-wheeled Morgans and MG cars, over eight laps. Bill Nicholson led with his MG-B from start to finish, but the real racing was for second place, with Bill Tuer's thrce-wheeler chasing Eric Hoult (MG-A) for second place, and succeeding in taking and holding on to it until a burnt piston put him out of the race at the end of the sixth lap. Vic Ellis in another MG-A was third.
Vintage and PVT cars formed up on the grid for the eighth race, an eight-lap handicap. The result went to David Taylor's hot Aston Martin Le Mans, which again had a thoroughly good dice with Derrick Edwards' Ulster Aston until the latter went sick, followed by Nick Lees' Riley Special. David Roscoe's 4.3-litre Alvis Special came storming through the field to finish third, just pipping James Crocker into fourth place at the finish.
Last race of the day was on a scratch basis, over ten laps, and was for all-comers, but with classes for members of the AC Owners Club and for Crewe Bentley Specials. Rob Wells ( +8 Morgan) was in pole position, once more, and led from the start to finish some 30 seconds ahead of a close bunch who had been battling throughout the race for second place, which finally went to Nick Green (AC Cobra), some three seconds ahead of Charles Morgan (+8) and Martin Colvill in another Cobra. In winning this race, Rob Wells achieved what is believed to be the fastest lap of the club circuit by a Morgan — a shattering 59.4 sec. — equivalent to 97.45 m.p.h. — P.H.J.W.