The last Saturday in August is, by tradition, the day on which the Bentley Drivers Club holds its annual Silverstone race meeting. The 29th August 1981 was no exception and saw the BDC promote an eleven race programme on the Club circuit in front of a disappointingly small crowd. Many of the races were somewhat processional, but there were some fine mid-field scraps, especially in the handicap events.
As many of the events at the meeting are staggered start handicaps, the BDC does not use practice times for setting grid positions for any of its races, the handicappers making an assessment of which cars will be fastest in the scratch races and positioning them accordingly. Someone failed to realise just how quick the AC Daytona Cobra of Hon Amschel Rothschild realy is, planting him on the third row of the grid for the first event, an 8-lap scratch race for ACs and Crewe Bentley Specials. Pole position was given to Nick Green’s AC Cobra, which shared the front row with Paul Charmon’s similar car and Stan Hitchins. 7-litre version. Rothschild made a superb start, putting himself in second place, behind Green, at the end of the first lap, harried by Channon and Hitchins with John Atkins in another Cobra fifth and Ian Bentall’s amazingly fast Bentley Special sixth. By the end of the third lap, the leaders were lapping the tail enders, Rentall had passed Atkins and Hitchins was in front of Chances while Rothschild was trying hard to make up ground on Green, which he appeared to be doing, opening out a big gap between himself and third man Hitchins by lap 6, but during the last two laps he was baulked by back markers, enabling Green to win by some 10 seconds with Hitchins finishing third. Bentall was fastest Bentley by a very long way, finishing fifth, ahead of Atkins’ Cobra.
The second race of the day was an 8-lap handicap between pre-war Lagondas and Bentleys, and was a very complicated affair to watch since some competitors had one credit lap, while others had two. Gordon Russell’s sleek looking 3/8-litre Bentley special was on scratch, and set off at a blistering pace in his attempts to catch the rest of the field, only to retire to the paddock on the first lap when a water hose failed. Eventual winner was Bruce Spollon, driving his 41/4-litre Bentley Special, from David Rolfe’s near standard 41/2-litre Bentley. Spollon had covered full distance, while Rolfe had had the benefit of two credit laps. The gap between them at the finish was less than two seconds, while third man, John Walker (3-litre Bentley) followed home one second later. A credit to the handicapper. The first Lagonda to finish was David Hive’s attractive LG 45.
Race three was another 8-lap handicap, this time for ”Allcomers”. Again, the race was just about impossible to follow due to credit laps and mis-information from the commentator, who thought he could follow what was going on, but was no better than the rest of us. Again, the result must have pleased the man behind the figures, for the first three cars finished within less than 3 seconds of each other. First past the post was Alan Kennedy in his Morgan 4/4, followed by Steve Clayton (MGA) and M Paul (Morgan + 8). Both Charles Morgan and Bill Truer, both Morgan men, deserve credit for really trying. Morgan in his +8 set fastest lap in his attempts to overhaul the field, coming close to spinning at Woodcote on a couple of occasions, while Tuer’s diminutive, but exceedingly potent, three-wheeler kept the crowd amused as it weaved through the heavier metal, only to lose many places after a brief stop for essential adjustments at Becketts.
The 8-lap scratch race for T type MGs went to Ron Gammons’ TF, with Gerry Brown (TC) and P Cresswell in another TC coming second and third. Gammons led from pole position and was never challenged throughout the race. Event 5, sponsored by Pace Petroleum, was designed to reproduce the inter-marque contest which took place at the BDC’s first Silverstone meeting when 3-litre Bentleys and 3-litre Sunbeams raced in one class, 41/2-litre Bentleys and 30/98 Vauxhalls in another and Blower 41/2, 61/2-litre and 8-litre Bentleys and 38/250 Mercedes raced in a third. Sadly, the only entries received for this race were Bentleys, and some of these could hardly have been envisaged by WO. Once again, it was a difficult race to follow, being of 8 laps on handicap with some competitors receiving one. two or even three credit laps. Gordon Russell took advantage of the 30-second start he had been given over Harvey Hine in David Llewellyn’s 3/8-litre Bentley to carve his way past the slower cars to finish in fourth place, setting fastest lap in the process. Nick Lees driving his lather’s 41/2 Bentley finished third after a two lap advantage, while Fuad Majzub took the Pacey-Hassan to second place from a one lap start. Winner, off two laps, was John Walker in his beautifully turned-out 3-litre Bentley tourer, who really tried throughout the whole race and thoroughly deserved his success.
After another handicap race, won by John Freeman’s pre-war Aston Martin Spa Special from N Stechman’s +4 Morgan in what must have been the closest finish of the day, both cars being given identical race times, with John Smith (Morgan +4) following home third only three seconds behind, came the 10-lap scratch race for Morgans. Rob Wells in his heavily modified +8 was on pole position, and led the race from start to finish, pulling out an ever increasing lead from Charles Morgan and Graham Bryant who had a race long dice for second place in their +8s. Browning demonstrated a novel method of finishing by crossing the line backwards in sixth place. His +8 had got out of line at Woodcote, and it looked as if he had done an excellent job of correcting the oversteer when the car flicked the other way to spin through 180deg eventually coming off on the grass well down the pit-straight.
The rain and a compulsory pit stop for a wheel-change added to the complications for the 10-lap scratch race for Bentleys of all ages. Tactics played an important part in this event. Bentall being the only competitor choosing to come in after the first lap, thinking he would then have a clear run for the remainder of the race, but he was foiled by the five-stud wheel fixing of his Mk VI special which made it a relatively lengthy stop. Tim Llewellyn, on the other hand, had everything really well sorted out, making by far the quickest stop, taking advantage of the knock-off wheels of a Vintage Bentley axle, enabling him to take the race. Peter Morley in the enormous 24-litre Napier Bentley provided much entertainment in his vain attempts to transmit power to the damp track, finishing third behind Bentall.
The most exciting race isf the day was the 8-lap scratch race for three-wheeled Morgans and MGAs and Bs. Bill Nicholson (MG) led from pole, but was nudged at the end of the first lap by the MGA of Roy McCarthy, both cars spinning off, and losing many places. Nicholson obviously resented this and simply flew away. McCarthy hot on his heels, to take the lead again at the end of lap four. Richard Hutton joined the battle, he and McCarthy fighting hard for second place throughout the remainder of thc race, the decision going to Hutton by 0.1 sec.
The 8-lap handicap race for Vintage and PVT sports cars was another complicated-to-follow event, with credit laps and a couple of cars which should not have been in the race at all — PA Jackson’s Frazer Nash was post-war and although an MG TB is PV I didn’t think it is accepted as a PVT — eventual winner was Laurie Merriott in Isis smart black Alvis Speed 20 followed by Dowle’s Bentley Special and Parker’s Bentley-Royce (a 41/2 Bentley equipped with a 7-litre Phantom III engine).
The final race of the day was another walkover for Rob Wells in his extremely fast +8 Morgan. he pulled out a full half-minute over second placed man, Nick Green (AC Cobra) in just 10-laps. A long way behind, Morgan and Bryant renewed their dice of the Morgan race. Morgan again pipping Bryant. Thus ended another friendly, informal Bentley Drivers Club visit to Silverstone. — PHJW.
As we had its go so press before the final round of the Hill Climb Championshp, the final review of the year will he held over until the November issue. Meanwhile, we can report that James Thomson has clinched the Championship after a record breaking run at Prescott on September 6th, beating Alister Douglas-Osborn at Wiscombe the following weekend.