(On August Bank Holiday Saturday the Bentley Drivers Club held its annual Silverstone meeting, notable for plenty of variety, slick organisation and some exciting racing. It also featured one of the biggest, if not the biggest ever, parades of Bentleys in which everything from early 3-litre to Mulsanne circulated enthusiastically, including a 30/98 Vauxhall gatecrasher (we refrain from saying whose!) and Faud Majxub’s 3itre with the Harry Varley 16-valve 2.6-litre engine.
Racing opened with an eight-lap handicap for slower cars (these handicaps were confusing by reason of some runners having credit laps) which Paul Stafford’s AC Ace Bristol ran away with, at 71.89 mph. By now the park for non-competing Bentleys contained some 34 “proper” WO cars, and others continued to arrive — we were reminded of the 3-litre we saw cruising at 70 mph along the M5 after VSCC Prescott, which is what vintage sports-cars should be able to do!
MGs and three-wheel Morgans indulged next in a five-lap scratch battle, in which Innes-Kerr’s MGA and Kirkpatrick’s MGB went one either side of Blair’s Super Aero Morgan in an exciting battle for second place, after O’Neill’s MGB GTV8 had won easily at 83.58 mph.
The popular Bentley/Lagonda Handicap followed over five laps, and was won by Gurney’s 3-litre at 54.3 mph, from Bentall’s 41/2litre and Thompson’s 3/41/2-litre — all Bentleys of course! Keen’s March Special Rapier retired in vast clouds of smoke.
Nineteen MGTs then contested a ten-lap championship round, which had several race-long duels; Clewley came home first, at 76.31 mph in his TB, but Buisti lapped quickest at 79.3 mph in another TB. All had roll frames and looked very professional.
It was now time for the eight-lap Vintage & PVT Handicap, with a big field from which Judy Hogg retired her International Aston Martin. Sayer’s Riley Sprite took first place at 74.35 mph, but from scratch the Bentley-Napier lapped fastest at 79.08 mph.
More exciting, the AC Cobras and Crewe Bentley Specials were set a ten-lap scratch contest. We were told, boxing commentary fashion, that Atkins’ Cobra had had 48 wins out of 96 starts, which sounded promising; but it failed to appear. So it became a tussle between Paul Channon’s smart hill-climb 4.7 Cobra and Hitchins’ sister car, the latter going in to the lead two laps from the end, to win at 86.98 mph after a best lap at 89.61 mph. Trentham’s Mk VI/S1 Bentley indulged in a pit-pause, Shepherd had an early spin in his Cobra and Hescroff’s vintage AC with the Victor Bruce “Montlhéry” body was content with only six laps. Third place went to Alan Padgett’s well-known Mk VI/S1 Bentley.
The ten-lap scratch race for four-wheeled Morgans (thirty in all, some on slicks, with roll-bars) was truly impressive and produced very close dicing. With the bored-out 3.9-litre multi-carburettor Rover V8 engine some 300 bhp is claimed. Grahame Bryant’s consistently reliable Morgan with only 31/2 litres managed to lead all the way, winning at 92.74 mph from Tony Morgan-Trip’s bigger Plus-8, which did fastest lap of the day at 94.74 mph. These two gradually left the third-place car, Rob Wells’ 3.9 Plus-8, far behind. Julian Ghosh, forsaking Vauxhall vintagery for Peter Garland’s Morgan, had a fine dice with Jones, both in “3.9-ers,” until the former had a monumental spin going into Woodcote a lap from home— he was overtaken only by Jones. It was a splendid demonstration of how Morgans cling to the road.
The eight-lap Vintage & PVT scratch race saw Morley in the Bentley-Napier (now using his spare “Lion” engine) stay ahead of the Avon-Bentley and the Bentley-Royce, although smoking a little breathlessly towards the end of a race run at 78.75 mph — the aero-engined giant lapping at 80.96 mph. So three different Bentley Specials (although one kids Standard Avon chassis) were 1-2-3, the first normal Bentley being Harvey Hine’s, in fifth place behind Sayers’ Riley.
Perhaps the car of greatest interest to the spectators was George Daniels’ Birkin blower-41/2 single-seater, placed eighteenth after lapping at 69.16 mph. A dedicated enthusiast, George drives it to and from meetings, doing some 400 miles this particular weekend. Of the decidedly special Bentleys, Overton’s 41/4 had a Wade blower and two big SU carburetters, and Ian Bentall’s sported six carburetters; Bullings’ Mk VI, from an earlier race, featured six copper exhaust-pipes and an enormous cheesegrater-protected silencer.
The twelve-race meeting continued with David Newton’s Porsche Turbo taking the eight-lap Allcomers Handicap “for faster cars” at 86.42 mph, from O’Neill’s MGB GTV8 and Channon’s Cobra. Windage’s lightened Morgan 4/4 with Ford 1600 Kent engine retired, while the MG lapped fastest at 89.2 mph.
Then we had another of these handicaps, this time for “average” cars, won by Reynolds’ Morgan “mike” at 75.62 mph, with Adney’s Morgan Plus-4 second, Kirkpatrick’s MGB third. Raeside, in his brother’s slick-shod Morgan Plus-8, lapped at 80.29 mph.
Came the Bentley Handicap and all eyes should have been alerted to see Sandy Collings’ “limit” 3-litre come in the victor at 61.85 mph, having kept ahead of Davis’ 3-litre. Padgett lapped at 84.02 mph.
An enjoyable day’s sport, which an overcast sky could not detract from, closed with an Allcomers eight-lap scratch race, won by Bryant’s Morgan Plus-8 (90.86 mph) from Wells’ 3.9-litre Plus-8 (in its first season and on road tyres). WB