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For video highlights of the meeting click here
The Bentley Drivers Club’s 72nd annual race meeting at Silverstone – an institution on the British club motor-racing calendar – saw another day of fantastic racing at its very best, albeit behind closed doors, on Saturday 22 August.
The Club was keen that this year’s meeting would go ahead, even though the current Covid-19 restrictions meant, unfortunately, that no spectators could attend the circuit to watch the track action.
Despite this, and the absence of the traditional lunchtime track parade of Club members’ Bentleys along with any paddock attractions or traders’ stalls, the 10 races on the card produced some thrilling action around the testing National circuit of the historic Northamptonshire venue.
Although spectators couldn’t watch the racing first-hand, live streaming was offered via the Club website, which attracted a healthy number of views, and a highlights package, again on the Club website, is due to be uploaded in the near future (thanks to BDC member Simon Laidlaw and his team).
Bentleys of all ages – many raced by Club members – shared the entry list with Morgans, TVRs, MGs, Jaguars, Allards, Alfa-Romeos, Alvises, Aston Martins, Lotuses, ACs, Austin Healeys, Austin Minis, Triumphs, Frazer Nashes, Fords, and many more marques besides – including an Ariel Atom.
The usual exciting mix of Bentley scratch/sealed handicap and handicap encounters was supplemented by a BDC Pre-War event – new for this year – and races for the BDC Classic Challenge & Morgan Techniques Trophy; Allcomers scratch & TVRCC Challenge; Allcomers handicap; Aero Racing Morgan Challenge series, FISCAR (Fifties Sports Car Racing Club); and AMOC Jack Fairman, Innes Ireland Cup & Mike Hawthorn Challenge with JEC XK (see list of race winners below).
The BDC celebrated victories for five of its Members.
Bentley Scratch including Sealed Handicap
Michael Higginbotham (pictured) retained the coveted Times Trophy and his Bentley scratch race crown in his incredibly quick Mk VI Special, taking his fifth win in the event by the comfortable margin of 24.461 seconds, and remains unbeaten since 2017.
Despite a tardy start from pole position after ‘bogging down’, allowing eventual second-placed finisher Paul Forty’s similar car to grab the early lead, The Gadget (as Michael’s Mk VI is known) had assumed an unassailable lead by the second of the 12 laps, claiming both the overall and Group A honours along with the overall fastest race lap.
Paul Forty took the Group B spoils and William Elbourn Snr (3/4½ Litre), who came 10th overall in the 15-car field, earned the sealed handicap honours. Ewen Getley (3/4½ Litre) was the first Vintage Bentley home in third spot. One of the race’s most thrilling battles – as ever – involved 3 Litre ‘twins’ Jock Mackinnon (eighth) and Club President Duncan Wiltshire (ninth) who took the chequered flag after a race-long battle just 0.222 seconds apart.
One of Michael’s main rivals for overall victory was due to have been current BDC Racing Driver of the Year Oliver Llewellyn in Penny but the legendary 3/8 Special was blighted by an oil pressure problem in qualifying and failed to make the grid.
A surprised Richard Frankel, at the wheel of his 1921 3 Litre TT – the oldest Bentley in the world currently racing – took a popular victory in the Bentley handicap.
He won the eight-lap encounter by 15.423 seconds from David Ratcliffe (3 Litre Speed) after being flagged off fourth in the traditional pit-lane start, making up a deficit of 1min 15 secs on David, the first starter.
Richard’s surprise and delight as he was pointed towards the winner’s circle after the race was apparent. As his overjoyed team crew descended on him, Richard exclaimed that he didn’t know he had won!
Last of the 14 starters Ewen Getley, who was flagged off 3 mins 10 secs after David, scythed through the field to score his second third-place result of the day and take fastest lap into the bargain.
Unfortunately, veteran Randal Stewart (3 Litre), now aged an evergreen 80, had his enjoyment cut short after just three laps by an oil leak.
The fifth BDC winner was Oliver Llewellyn (Allard J2) who enjoyed some consolation for failing to make the start of the Bentley scratch race by utterly dominating the FISCAR encounter. Despite starting from pole position, a poor start saw Oliver drop back before recovering to steam through the pack and win by a commanding 57.223 seconds.
New for the 2020 meeting was a BDC Pre-War race won by Chas Reynolds (Morgan Super Sports), fifth quickest in qualifying, the event attracting a healthy grid of 20 cars including the two Bentleys of James Morley (3/4½) and Jock Mackinnon. The sealed handicap winner was Daniel Ghose (Alfa-Romeo 8C 2300).
Unfortunately, the Bentley duo was both eliminated in the same incident during the latter stages of the 15-minute race. James, who was running a strong fifth, spun his 3/4½ sideways at Copse corner shortly after passing Jock, resulting in a collision; luckily, neither driver was injured although the latter’s 3 Litre suffered a twisted front axle, bent chassis leg and a broken front spring.
Elsewhere, Bill Lancashire and Oliver Bryant (both Plus 8s) each won the two Aero Racing Morgan Challenge Series races, the latter streaking through from the back of the grid, with William Plant (4/4) second on both occasions.
Ben Eastick’s T Type failed to make its eagerly awaited appearance in the Allcomers Scratch race (including Group C Bentleys) after his car’s new gearbox suffered a broken selector.
BDC President Duncan Wiltshire said: “Although this year’s meeting was a much pared-down event due to the Covid-19 restrictions, it allowed us to focus on producing a really good race programme which was well subscribed with entries and generated some fantastic racing.
“We were also able to offer our absent spectators something new in the form of live online streaming and we were hugely encouraged by the response this generated. We were also really pleased with the excellent turn-out of marshals without whom the meeting would never have happened.
“All in all, I think it’s fair to say that this year’s BDC Silverstone has been a big success.”
Race 1 – Bentley Scratch: 1st overall & Group A: Michael Higginbotham (Mk VI Special); Group B: Paul Forty (Mk VI Special); Sealed handicap: William Elbourn Snr (3/4½ Litre)
Race 2 – Aero Racing Morgan Challenge: Bill Lancashire (Plus 8)
Race 3 – FISCAR: Oliver Llewellyn (Allard J2)
Race 4 – Bentley Handicap: Richard Frankel (3 Litre TT)
Race 5 – BDC Classic Challenge with Morgan Techniques Trophy: Richard Plant (Morgan Plus 8)
Race 6 – Allcomers Scratch, including Bentley Group C and TVRCC Challenge: Darren Dowling (TVR Sagaris)
Race 7 – BDC Pre-War race: Chas Reynolds (Morgan Super Sports); Sealed handicap: Daniel Ghose (Alfa-Romeo 8C 2300)
Race 8 – AMOC Jack Fairman, Innes Ireland Cup & Mike Hawthorn Challenge with JEC XK: Eike Wellhausen (Lister Jaguar Knobbly)
Race 9 – Allcomers Handicap: David Moorhouse (Austin Mini)
Race 10 – Aero Racing Morgan Challenge: Oliver Bryant (Plus 8)
For more information contact: Stuart Newman, Communications Manager, Bentley Drivers Club. Tel: 01295 738886; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org