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Bentley Drivers Club – An institution on the British racing calendar

Words: Stuart Newman – Photos above- Full Throttle Photos

The Bentley Drivers Club’s popular annual race meeting – an institution on the British motor-racing calendar – once again saw another day of fantastic club racing at its very best at Silverstone on Saturday 4 August.

Regarded by the Club as ‘more than just a race meeting’, it was the good old days revisited as Members and spectators alike mixed frenetic track action and the more sedate Bentley track parade with socialising and browsing the myriad paddock attractions on a baking hot and sunny summer’s day.

The event, which prides itself on generating a friendly and relaxed atmosphere for car enthusiasts of all ages, drew an excellent crowd to witness arguably the largest gathering of Bentleys from the legendary marque’s almost 100-year history anywhere in the world.

Bentleys of all ages – many raced by Club Members – shared the entry list with Morgans, Aston Martins, Austin Healeys, Jaguars, ACs and MGs, and many more marques besides, all tackling the testing National circuit at the historic Northamptonshire venue.

Above: A rapid Michael Higginbotham heads a determined Tim Llewellyn with Vivian Bush (3 Litre) behind. Photo credit: Peter de Rousset-Hall

The usual exciting mix of scratch and handicap races was supplemented by events for the AR Motorsport Morgan Challenge, FISCAR (Fifties Sports Car Racing Club), Jon Gross Memorial Trophy for Aston Martins and BDC Sports Car Challenge on a packed nine-race programme (see list of race winners below).

The BDC celebrated wins for five of its Members.

Michael Higginbotham took overall victory in the Padgett Motor Engineers-sponsored Bentley Scratch, Pre-War Team Challenge and Bentley Sealed Handicap race, earning victory over Tim Llewellyn’s epic 8.4-litre 3/8, called ‘Penny’, by just 3.5 seconds after a fantastic scrap which had the crowds on the edge of their seats.

Michael also secured the Group A honours in the 13-lap encounter, enabling him to hang on to the coveted Times Trophy which he also won at last year’s meeting. For good measure, he also set the fastest race lap.

Above: Alastair Payne’s R Type Special leads Sebastian Welch’s 3 Litre. Photo credit: Peter de Rousset-Hall

Gerard McCosh (Mk VI Special S2) finished third overall and claimed the Gooda Trophy for winning Group B, while William A Elbourn, driving not a Bentley but a Riley 12/4, finished eighth overall and won the Pre-War Challenge prize. And Oliver Llewellyn, one of the BDC’s younger racing members, secured the Sealed Handicap honours in his 4½ Vanden Plas as well as finishing fourth overall, just two seconds off a podium place.

The BDC’s fifth victor was Alastair Payne (R Type Special), who won the eight-lap P&A Wood Bentley Handicap race by just over four seconds from Gerard McCosh – his second podium spot of the day – with Sebastian Welch (3 Litre) narrowly seeing off Tom Commander (Mk VI Special) for third place. Unfortunately, Simon Worthington’s extremely quick Turbo R (the sole ‘modern’ Bentley racing on the day) was forced to retire after making rapid early progress – but not before setting the fastest lap.

Elsewhere, super-quick Oliver Bryant comfortably scored two victories in the AR Racing Morgan Challenge Series double-header, with Keith Ahlers and Philip Goddard, also driving Plus 8s, joining him on the podium on both occasions.

One of the highlights of the BDC’s annual social calendar, this year’s meeting also featured the traditional and popular lunchtime track parade of around 100 Members’ Bentleys, covering all production eras: Vintage, Derby and Crewe.

A display of classic Bentleys, all judged winners at the BDC’s recent Concours d’Elegance at Stonor Park, added their own pristine touch to proceedings in the paddock while budding racing drivers were able to follow in the wheeltracks of British heroes Stirling Moss and Lewis Hamilton by testing their skills lapping the Silverstone circuit on a hi-tech Pirelli Formula 1 simulator.

There was also much for Bentley buffs to check out elsewhere, including at the BDC’s Club shop, the WO Bentley Memorial Foundation garage and various traders’ stalls.

Above: Alastair Payne receives the P&A Wood Bentley Handicap spoils from Chris Hammond, with runner-up Gerard McCosh (left) and Sebastian Welch alongside. Photo credit: Phil Kroll/philkroll.com

In closing the day, BDC Chairman Ron Warmington declared: “Today’s meeting has been the best I’ve ever attended here at Silverstone – and, as always, one of the highlights of our Club’s social calendar.”

Above: Michael Higginbotham, overall winner of the Padgett Motor Engineers-sponsored Bentley Scratch, Pre-War Team Challenge and Bentley Sealed Handicap event, alongside runner-up Tim Llewellyn (left) and Gerard McCosh. Photo credit: Phil Kroll/philkroll.com

Race winners:

Race 1 – AR Motorsport Morgan Challenge: Oliver Bryant (Morgan Plus 8)

Race 2 – Jon Gross Memorial Trophy for Aston Martins: Chris Woodgate (AM DB3)

Race 3 – Padgett Motor Engineers Bentley Scratch, Pre-War Team Challenge and Bentley Sealed Handicap: 1st overall and Group A: Michael Higginbotham (Mk VI Special); Group B: Gerard McCosh (Mk VI Special S2); Pre-War Challenge: William A Elbourn (Riley 12/4); Sealed Handicap: Oliver Llewellyn (4½ Vanden Plas)

Race 4 – FISCAR: Jim Campbell (Austin Healey 100/4)

Race 5 – P&A Wood Bentley Handicap: Alastair Payne (R Type Special)

Race 6 – AR Motorsport Morgan Challenge: Oliver Bryant (Morgan Plus 8)

Race 7 – Barry Hopkinson Ltd Allcomers Sealed Handicap: John Gray (Lotus Elan)

Race 8 – BDC Sports Car Challenge: Tim Parsons (Morgan 4/4)

Race 9 – Bentley Open & Allcomers: Steve Chaplin (Phantom P79)

 

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