“Doc” or “Benjy” was a works Bentley driver who was responsible for forming the British Racing Drivers’ Club. Educated at the University of London and having served in Egypt during World War I, Dr J.D.Benjafield specialised in bacteriology and pathology from his surgery in London’s Wimpole Street.
He began racing purely for pleasure at Brooklands in 1924 and made the first of seven starts at Le Mans a year later for Bentley. He shared with Autocar sports editor Sammy Davis in 1926 and ran a strong third only for Davis to crash following brake failure with 20 minutes to go.
Le Mans winner for Bentley
Benjafield and Davis were paired again in 1927 in the redoubtable “Old Number Seven” Bentley. Their victory proved heroic – Davis surviving a multiple accident at Maison Blanche as dusk fell that eliminated the rest of the team. The car was heavily damaged but with running repairs made, the sole remaining Bentley limped home to win after 24 hours. He retired a year later but finished third in 1929 with André d’Erlanger as his co-driver.
Bentley withdrew from the sport in 1930 but Benjafield remained a Brooklands regular and his MG Magnette was third in the 1934 500-mile race. His final appearance at Le Mans was with a Lagonda in 1935 and he quit racing altogether the following year.
Founder of the British Racing Drivers’ Club
It was away from the track that Benjafield perhaps made his most lasting contribution to the sport. He regularly hosted dinner parties for his racing friends and the BRDC was formed at one of these in April 1928. Benjafield remained a committee member until his death after a lengthy illness in 1957.