Tag Archives: Bentley

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Best of British

Celebrations for sure as a result of Bentley’s historic win but for the first time in sixty-three years three old established British sports car marques found themselves competing together in an international endurance race – we had at Silverstone Aston Martin, Bentley and Jaguar all running in the Blancpain Endurance Series Silverstone 3 hours on May 25.

Aston Martin was represented by five Vantage GT3s with the V12 6-litre engine, a works car of this type winning this race in 2013. Bentley raced officially for the first time at Silverstone with their two M-Sport Continental GT3s and the private Generation Bentley Racing Continental GT3. The Swiss Emil Frey Racing team brought their G3 Jaguar XKR.

We note that the first ever Bentley saw the light of day at the end of 1919, the first Aston Martin appeared in May 1921 and Jaguar dates back to 1931 when William Lyons (later Sir William) presented his SS car at the Olympia Show.

Here are some of their modern representatives in practice:

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One of the Vantage V12 versions of the Aston Martin.

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One of the M-Sport Bentley Continental GT3s at Luffield

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This Jaguar XKR has been developed privately by the Emil Frey team but did not ,alas, last long in the race.

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A Bentley at Brooklands! What turned out to be the winning car reminds us that the very first race win for a Bentley car took place at the real Brooklands.

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The first of the Continental GT3s to fall into private hands, chassis no. 3, is the Generation Team car.

In the Race:

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The Bentley chases the Art McLaren down the Wellington Straight

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The Bentley leads! History was about to be made!

David Blumlein, July 2014

Un Mélange Manceau

Our Special Correspondent was at the 90th Anniversary Le Mans 24 Hours. He shares with us a different but important historical perspective on the world’s greatest motor race.

2013 Le Mans 24

The week leading up to the Le Mans 24 Hour race is always rewarding for a motor car enthusiast. This year marked 90 years since the first running of the race in 1923 and on the Tuesday there was a special celebration of the old Pontlieue Hairpin – the original circuit ran deep into the southern suburbs of the city, doubling back at a tight hairpin in Pontlieue, a favourite spot for those early photographers as the cars were travelling comparatively slowly.

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The roads still exist although the more distant approach sections are unrecognisable today as they have to cross the ring road. The corner was suitably adorned with signs of the time:
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The President of the A.C.O. Pierre Fillon unveiled the traditional sign marking the corner, having arrived in a contemporary (and boiling!) Vinot-Deguingand, a French marque which took part in the very first race.
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The 1924 –winning Bentley also did some runs. The corner was foreshortened for 1929-31 by which time the A.C.O. had purchased the land between the start/finish area and Tertre Rouge. Here they opened in 1932 the section of track which still comprises the Esses, and Pontlieue fell into disuse from then onwards.

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Present at the ceremony was the 1923-winning 3-litre Chenard et Walcker.
Chenard et Walcker (not to be confused with another French marque, Chenard, the cars of Louis Chenard one of which ran at Le Mans in 1924) was in the mid-Twenties France’s fourth largest car manufacturer, turning out some 100 cars a day in its factory at Gennevilliers in Paris. Not only did it take the first two places with its o.h.c. 3-litres in the first race in 1923, but a smaller-engined version won the 2-litre class in 1924.

2013 Le Mans 24

The company is also remembered for the exciting little Henri Toutée-designed 1100 c.c. “tanks” which had widespread success in sports car races in 1925/26. Two such cars, one with a larger engine, ran as private entries at Le Mans as late as 1937, albeit with no success.

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The museum at the circuit can always be relied upon to vary the exhibits and some recently loaned cars are worthy of mention. This year sees a serious revival of the Alpine marque with Renault not only developing a new production Alpine sports car (in collaboration with Caterham) but also adapting an Oreca 03 LMP2 car to run in the 24 Hour race as an Alpine A450. It was, of course, 50 years ago that Jean Rédélé’s company made its first venture into endurance sports car racing with the M63 coupés; there is one currently on show in the museum.
Their first attempt at Le Mans was unfortunately shadowed in tragedy – one of the Project 214 Aston Martins dropped all its oil on the Mulsanne Straight on the Saturday evening causing a number of cars to crash seriously, one of which was the M63 of the young Brazilian Alpine agent, Christian “Bino” Heins. His car flew off the circuit, struck a telegraph pole and exploded in flames, giving the poor driver no chance of survival. Despite this setback, the Alpine cars went on from 1964 to score manifold victories in endurance races in the smaller categories, especially with their A210 coupés.

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With a 3-litre limit slapped on prototypes from 1968, Alpine saw the opportunity to go for outright wins and Gordini developed a V-8 engine for them. This was initially tried out in an A210 coupé, this one-off prototype being re-named the A211.
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The car was raced briefly and came to Le Mans for the Test Day, but it was clear that the engine was too powerful for the chassis and the all-new A220 was designed.
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This is a V.P., a Verney-Pairard, the work of two enthusiasts, Just Emile Verney who had driven in every Le Mans race from 1931, and Jean Pairard, a Parisian industrialist. They were keen to create a not-too-expensive sporting car with a view to gaining the support of the Regie Renault for small series production. One of Pairard’s engineers, Roger Mauger, drew up a tubular chassis with all-round coil spring independent suspension and a Renault 4cv engine at the rear, the whole bodied by the French coachbuilder Antem. They took their first car to Montlhéry for some trial runs and the performance caught the eye of Franςois Landon, head of the Regie’s Competition Department. He recommended that they try for records and the car, duly adjusted aerodynamically with full wheel spats, ran in October 1952 at Montlhéry, taking eight International Class H records. The Paris Salon was just opening and Renault took over the car, giving it pride of place on their stand and re-naming it a Renault R1064!

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This car ran with the necessary lights etc. at Le Mans in 1953 along with a new coupé V.P. which had an oversize cockpit roof to accommodate the corpulent Pairard! The “Renault R1064” retired in the seventh hour while the little coupé, much handicapped by its excessive frontal area, finished last. No long-term support for V.P. was forthcoming from Renault and the R1064 reverted to being a V.P. once more! It then received revised bodywork for 1954 when it returned to the 24 Hour race.
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At the Drivers’ Parade, mercifully dry until the very end, it’s back to Chenard et Walckers. The real gem was this Torpille seen above.
At the 1927 Paris Salon Chenard et Walcker introduced two 1500 c.c. sports cars: one was a production version of their little “tank”, the Y8, and the other a more conventional model with cycle wings, this Torpille, the Y7. The latter was sold in “bleu France” as seen here, and both models were used in national competitions by private owners – no more works cars from the Gennevilliers company.

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In the Thirties they made some technically interesting models such as this Super Aigle 24. Their Super Aigle range adopted front-wheel drive at the 1934 Paris Salon when Citroën more famously did the same, and they also used torsion bar independent suspension. This Super Aigle 24 dates from 1936 and has a Cotal electromagnetic gearbox. Alas, these advanced features did little to save the company which was taken over by Chausson who substituted Ford and Citroën engines. By the early post-war period the Chenard et Walcker name was on a forward-control 2-cylinder van soon to be Peugeot-powered and then Peugeot produced.
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Perhaps it was appropriate that this year’s Alpine drivers should have been chauffeured in a Renault – a 1904 3.7-litre 4-cylinder Type U model.
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There are always representatives of the pioneering De Dion Bouton company in the parade. Here we see an example of their popular ID model, dating from 1919. It is interesting to note that the company gave up using their famous De Dion rear axle as early as 1911/12 yet it is still used on today’s little Smart!

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And so to the race. First, a small tribute to Allan Simonsen, by all accounts a lovely person and a highly-rated driver who tragically lost his life on just his third lap of the race. Here he is completing his second lap and starting his third fateful one just moments before disaster struck.

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And here is his class team-mate passing the tragic spot at Tertre Rouge where the public road joins the private section of track. At the specific request of Simonsen’s family the Aston Martin team carried on racing.
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Looking back at that first race ninety years ago, it is interesting to reflect on one or two similarities with today. In 1923 the organisers used army searchlights to illuminate the corners – here is the Dunlop Chicane illuminated using more modern technology:
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And the public road leading to the Arnage corner is still basically as it was –

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the left-hander at Indianapolis then the short straight to the right-hand bend.
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And here is the road out of Arnage looking up towards what are now the Porsche Curves but used to lead to the Whitehouse Corner – that road is still there.
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The gruelling nature of this race is reflected in the general state of some of the cars by Sunday. Here is the Murphy Team’s Oreca 03 looking distinctly grubby.
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And two AF Corse Ferraris which have seen some battle, this was #71

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And #51 was not much better
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The sudden rain showers can catch out the best.
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But to cross the line after 24 hours is worth all the effort:

David Blumlein July 2013

 

 

The Greatest Show on Earth?

2012 Windsor Castle Concours of Elegance

To have been in the UK during 2012 was to be in a place at a very special time. Dominating the August and September months were the London Olympics and Paralympics, never has a city and a nation embraced the Games with such fervor and passion, we surprised ourselves, we amazed others.

Perhaps the positive mood of the British public was set in the months before the Games when there were prolonged celebrations of the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth ΙΙ. Over the length and breadth of Britain, events were held to commemorate 60 years of service to the Nation. Some of these were on a huge scale like those in London, some more intimate like street parties, but all with a common purpose, a collective thank you from the British people to our Monarch.

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The Automotive aspect of our culture was naturally also part of these celebrations with an event that claimed the status of “Instant Classic” without any shadow of doubt. In early September Windsor Castle was the setting for a new show, the Windsor Concours of Elegance. A simple concept really, bring 60 of the world’s finest automobiles into a unique setting, Windsor Castle. Of course creating such an meeting is no simple matter, meticulous planning and years of sheer hard work went into the preparation, we should give thanks to those involved, they know who they are.

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The setting, Windsor Castle, is one the Queen’s three Official Residences and is widely thought to be her favourite. Originally built by William the Conqueror after 1066, the palace is both the oldest castle in continuous occupation and largest inhabited castle in the world. The public can visit large parts of what is Her Majesty’s home and there is the added attraction of ceremonies like the Changing of the Guard. In fact Windsor Castle is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the UK, around a million visitors each year. Staging a Concours at such venue was a major coup for the organisers, almost beyond value and typically the event was to benefit a number of charities that deal with the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

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Almost beyond value could also be a description applied to the cars on display both within and without The Upper Ward and the Cambridge Gate and down The Long Walk. After clearing security, a standard procedure for any visitors to the Royal Palaces, it was time to make the trip up to the George ΙV Gateway.

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There was a small display of Bentley, Jaguar, Land Rover and McLaren cars both old and new, it set the tone for the weekend.

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Woking’s finest were on parade including the debut of the latest model, the 12C Spider, stunning even in this august company.

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The latest version of the GT3 racer was parked up.

2012 Windsor Castle Concours of Elegance

A little further on was an old friend, the Bentley Speed 8 that TK, Dindo and Guido Smythe raced and triumphed in at Le Mans in 2003.

2012 Windsor Castle Concours of Elegance

Still showing signs of battle, it was a moment when the brand recaptured the spirit of the WO days and his legion of “Bentley Boys”. Five wins in seven years in the 20’s is an Audi or Porsche like performance record, perhaps it most appropriate that the revival has taken place as part of the Volkswagen family.

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And on that note……………….

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It was time to leave the display behind and head up to The Upper Ward………………

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Where some truly sublime cars were awaiting – Embiricos Bentley 4¼ Litre Pourtout Coupé and Avions Voisin C-25 Berline Aérodyne anyone?

More tomorrow.

John Brooks, December 2012

A Very Classic Car Show

To Birmingham’s NEC with The Special Correspondent for the 2012 Footman James Classic Car Show. The Show has expanded this year to fill even more halls and the extra space is very welcome.

Of course it being the NEC there are always a few issues………….the lighting in the exhibition halls remains sub-standard and arguably in breach of Health & Safety legislation, and the level of grumpiness shown by those unfortunate to travel to Birmingham by car was at an all time high. Tales of 45 minutes to get parked at the facility were common, not excusable at such a venue. On the other side of the ledger, those of us arriving by train were greeted by an enthusiastic bunch of staff, who cheerfully steered us all the way to the other side of the site. One could not fault that welcome, so credit where credit is due, more to the point the staff were still there and still cheerful we came to leave.

Once inside the Show there was a bewildering array of automobile heritage, the quality of the content certainly matches any other event of its kind, anywhere. There were so many jewels to see, such as the Aston Martin Atom, a prototype built in 1939. This was the only example of the marque that David Brown drove before acquiring the company in 1947, all of the glories that followed can be traced back to this advanced car and the impression it made on DB.

While in the fullness of time out Special Correspondent will produce one of his Rare and Interesting pieces I propose to have a quick look at what was on offer that caught my eye. A car that represented a significant step in the German Auto industry was to be found on the Audi stand. The work of Paul Jaray back in the ’20s inspired Ferdinand Porsche when designing the Wanderer Type 8.

Porsche would develop the aerodynamically efficient shape when producing one of his masterpieces, the Volkswagen. Jaray’s Ugly Duckling turned into a swan.

The Coventry Transport Museum’s collection provided another pioneering vehicle, the Ferguson R4 Prototype. Harry Ferguson designed a four wheel drive system back in the early ’50s, it featured independent suspension and Dunlop disk brakes and Maxaret anti locking device, all very advanced for the time.

The backbone of the Classic Car Show is the support provided by the car clubs. Stand after stand featured great cars backed up by real enthusiasm and deep knowledge of those manning the exhibition. Questions, no matter how basic, were generally answered with patience and good humour. So while virtually all the stands had something to interest there were some that I preferred to others. A tad Orwellian I suppose, all exhibits are equal but some are more equal than others…….Bugatti for instance had several fine cars, all promoting the scene at Prescott…………….from the early days to the present.

The Maserati stand also had a nice bunch of cars, I have always been a fan of the Trident, even more so since visiting the factory a few years back.

Strange, but Ferrari does not appeal to me in the same way, though who could resist this Dino?

This gorgeous Continental was the pride of the Bentley/Rolls Royce stand.

One strange trend that was more common than might have been expected was adorn a “barn find” with some straw…………..what this achieved was anyone’s guess.

And of course the trend was taken to the next level with a string of onions draped on a Citroën Traction Avant……………..no stereotypes here then, no none at all……………..what next we hesitate to enquire?

There were a few competition cars at the Show, mainly sportscars such as the Jaguar XJ220 that won its class at Le Mans in 1993 but was subsequently disqualified, a casualty in the long running conflict between TWR boss, Tom Walkinshaw, and Alain Bertaut of the ACO.

No such problems afflicted the Aston Martin DBR9 in 2007, with a convincing GT1 class win.

Less successful was this TVR, first retirement in the 1962 race.

Shows such as this always throw up a few oddities, who could resist a chance to sit in a truck used by the Great Train Robbers?

Try explaining Del Boy to an American, eh Rodders?

And this optional extra for all aspiring Bond villains would prove very tempting on the M25 morning commute.

Candidate for the worst colour scheme on display………this Lea Francis Lynx, representing the end of the line for the marque.

The 2012 Footman James Classic Car Show was another resounding success and if you have even a sniff of petrol in your veins you should seriously consider making the trip in 2013, I will be there certainly.

Here is a gallery of images, please excuse the weird colour in some shots, them pesky lights again.

John Brooks, November 2012

 

 

 

The Brooklands Battleship

New Years Day…….the plan had been to biff along to Brooklands for the traditional meeting….a late change to the running order means that Hampton Court Palace is now the destination.

Byfleet Banking

However as a substitute here is a snap from the glory days on the banks……The Brooklands Battleship’ – Blower 4 1/2 litre Bentley being driven by Sir Henry Birkin at Brooklands where it set a lap record of 137.96 mph in 1932……may I wish the one or two readers who stop by this remote outpost of the motorsport empire a happy and healthy 2012.

John Brooks, January 2012