Bentley Drivers Club at Silverstone
THE last Saturday in August BDC Meeting at Silverstone is one of those annual institutions which changes only imperceptibly from year to year, and is thus an example of what Club racing was like fifteen or twenty years ago: no championships to encourage ruthless driving and unfriendly paddock behaviour, very little commercialism and a relaxed organisation — simply racing for fun. Sadly, the crowd which came to enjoy the spectacle this year was rather thin, but this did not spoil an enjoyable day’s sport, with some most unlikely cars competing in an interesting selection of events.
One characteristic of the BDC meeting which always causes the spectators confusion, and often completely confounds the commentators, is the large number of staggered start handicaps. These are confusing enough in themselves, but when credit laps are involved, one needs a brain like s computer to follow the progress of the race. At Silverstone on August 28th this year, some of the races had two and even three credit laps. so all praise to the commentators that they were itiwaYs entirely accurate about race progress. Racing started with an Allcomers handicap over eight laps, although nearly half the mixed held only had to cover seven laps in the time scratch men Fred Campbell and John Atkins (both 41 Morgans) had to complete the full distance. It was Bill Thee with his much modified and indecently fast pre-war 3-wheel Morgan who led from start to finish, having been given a lap’s credit, and the handicappers must have been pleased to see a trio of Morgans occupying the next three places finishing within a second of each other in an exciting end to the nice — made all the more exciting when second place man. I.1,d Shelley, crossed the line with smoke and oil billowing can
of his car, making it really close as Mike Thomas and Chris Browning who dead-heated for third place) were closing up fast, but Shelley managed to hold off the opposition just long enough. Post-race inspection showed that his oil filter had come adrift.
Event two was for Bentley and Lagonda cars, all of which had to he pre-war, or more accurately be constructed of pre-war designed components. Again on handicap and over eight laps, it was Craig Collings with a 3-litre Bentley who won, having started with a two lap credit, followed by John Macdonald with his very recently rebuilt Lagonda Rapier, again with two laps credit. Bruce Spollon made a superb start in the ex-Jack Bailey 41/4 Bentley special and drove immaculately to finish third, having covered the full distance, some twelve seconds behind the leader. It was good to see Ann Shoosmith handling the 41/2-litre Bentley Le Mans Team Car with enthusiasm, to finish in fifth spot just ahead of David Hines rapid Lagonda. Gordon Russell, who had started from scratch position in his single seater 8-litre engined special, tried hard, but could not manage better than eightb place, even though he passed most of the field (wice during the race.
Before the third race of the day, there was a fascinating parade by cars of the W.O. era which were loaded with ex-employees of the Cricklewood company — and a surprisingly large number of them there were. Amongst them, although not actually an ex-Bentley employee, was a colourful character by the name of Lim Peng Ham. This gentleman was the foremost builder of Bentley specials in the immediate pre-war years in Malaysia, and he was instrumental in the organisation of what must have been about the only race meeting to take Place during the war—the Johore Grand Prix of 1945.
After that rather nostalgic interlude, the nest race was the first scratch start event of the day, for ACs and post-war Bentley specials. The front row of the grid saw Martin Colvill on pole position with his very fast Cobra. Paul Channon, in another Cobra, and Ian Bentall’s extremely effective Mk. VI special. Colvill led from start to finish, with Channon occupying second place and Bentall third, followed by Charles Teall’s immaculately prepared supercharged R-type ,SPeLial. The only real dice of the race took place between John Baker’s Tojeiro AC and David Newman’s Mk. VI special.
Race four was reserved for Bentleys of the W.O. era, although not many of the cars competing in this ten lap handicap race would have been recognised by W.O. as products of his factory. With only three cars on scratch, one car with one lap advantage, eight with two, and three with no less than three credit laps, the race was impossible to follow, but it was Craig Collings who took the flag, having started with the three laps advantage, followed twenty seconds later by Tim Houlding (41/2), again with three laps advantage, and David Rolfe (41/2), who had only two credit laps. There was a brief moment on the start line when one car found itself starting the race in reverse, but otherwise the race’s only excitement was provided by Tim Llewellyn (8-litre engined 3-litre) and Russell trying their hardest to overcome their stiff handicaps. Another Allcomers handicap followed, again over eight laps, but this time the emphasis mason the slower cars. Just to confuse the issue, there was one very quick Morgan in the event, and rather than give everyone else credit laps, Tom Hind.’ +8 was awarded debit laps, and he found himself having to cover ten laps in an eight lap race! Needless to say, this produced some spectacular driving on his part, and he managed to get himself to within 20 seconds of the leader at flagfall. At a rather slower pace, there were other excitements in this event, with Judy Hogg (Ulster Aston Martin) holding off Michael Billingham (AC Ace) until the last but one lap, when the latter squeezed past to take the lead, which he held to the finish, and Dave Sapp’s determined efforts to take second place rounding Woodcote for the last time with his 4,4 Morgan, only to be met with Judy Hogg’s equal determination that he shouldn’t. The results gave Judy the benefit by a fraction of a second. Howard Chivrall’s threewheeler Morgan was not far behind, giving the handicappers a very satisfactory result. Vintage and Post-Vintage cars featured in the sixth event, another 8-lap handicap, but this time confined to cars built pre-war. David Caroline’s Morgan Super Aero was on scratch, while at the other end of the field was George Proudfoot’s 4,4 coupe of the same make with a full credit lap and 85 sec. In between mesa varied selection of pre-war cars including Alvin, Aston Martin, Bentley, Lagonda, MG and Riley. Without any, doubt, the highlight of the event was the sight of Caroline darting about the track in his efforts to overcome his handicap: his line through Woodcote was never the same twice, and he
certainly never had his diminutive car pointing in the direction of travel, but he was fastest car on the track by a significant margin. Nonetheless, he only managed to make up to eighth place, Bruce Spollon having given a polished performance to finish first ahead of Jeff Archer (Aston Martin) and Bill Symons (Alums).
Event seven was a Morgan benefit, with members of the Morgan Sports Car Club competing for the Morris Stapleton Trophy over ten laps from a scratch start. With Rob Wells’ extremely rapid +8 Morgan on pole position, there was never much doubt about who would win the race, but the initial laps saw a hard dice between Grahame Bryant and Fred Campbell, both in +8s, for second spot. Campbell’s challenge ended after four laps when a brake grabbed on the approach to Woodcote, throwing the car sideways and losing him time; nonetheless hr finished third, five seconds down on Bryant. It was good to see Andrew Armstrong out in the very attractive SLR coupe Morgan.
In celebration of Bentley’s team win in the 1922 Isle of Man TT, the eighth race was for Bentleys only and included a pit stop during which a wheel had to be changed tor at least removed and replaced, within the ten laps. Llewellyn led at the end of the first lap, followed by Rental! and Russell who had Teall chasing him hard. After two laps, Llewellyn was still in the lead, followed by Bentall, as they both came into the pits. Teall was ahead of Russell, and was saving his pit stop for later, so was leader on the road at the end of the third lap, when he also pitted, handing the lead over to Bob Bradley’s Mk. VI Special, which in turn pitted and gave the lead to Fuad Majzub with the still-unpainted Pacey-Hassan. By this time, of course, Llewellyn was well and truly back in the race and picking up places in a very determined fashion — from tenth on lap three, be was sixth on lap four, third on lap five and re-took the lead on lap six, never to relinquish it. Russell, who had made a very fast pit stop, beating Llewellyn back on to the track, was second and Rental’, whose pit stop had been delayed by his five-stud wheels, a distant third, despite setting fastest lap.
An MG A, B and 3-wheel Morgan race sounds like a very three-legged affair, but this 8-lap scratch race provided some of the best racing of the afternoon, with a particularly memorable race-long dice for the lead between Eric Hoult (MG A) and Bill Tuer with his 3-wheeler. After a rather poor start, Thee was close behind Hoult at the end of the first lap, even closer after two laps and alongside after three. Thereafter, Tucr tried all he knew trout-fun Houk, and managed to outbrake the latter a couple of times into Woodcote, setting fastest lap in the process, but the MG driver always just managed to reach the line ahead, and so it was on the last lap, Tuer rounding Woodeote marginally ahead, but Hoult half a length in front at the line. Caroline was third, 14 sec. behind the leaders.
To conclude the day’s racing, we were looking forward to a tussle between Martin Colvill’s late-entered Ford GT40 and Rob Well’s Morgan, but this came to nought when the differential of the GT40 succumbed on the start line, leaving Wells with another runaway win. John Atkins was second, over half a minute behind, having kept Colvill’s Cobra ahead of the +8 Morgan of Bryant throughout the race. A race-long duel for fourth place was decided in favour of Tom Hindes who managed to retake fourth spot when Norman Stcchman had a major moment at Woodcote, both + 8 drivers finishing within two seconds of each other. — P.H. J.W.