Ben Eastick retained his Times Challenge Trophy crown with a superb victory in the Bentley scratch race at a baking hot 74th annual BDC Silverstone race meeting on Saturday.
The BDC’s Competitions Captain scored a commanding victory on the road, or a narrow one if you take into account the pre-determined starting time penalties which were applied after the race.
Ben’s potent 6.2-litre supercharged T Type single-seater crossed the line at the end of the blue-riband 10-lap event some 32.9 seconds ahead of runner-up Oli Llewellyn’s 3/8 Special – which, in the final reckoning, gave him the spoils by just 2.9 seconds. The penalty time difference between the two cars was 30 seconds in Oli’s favour.
With the BDC Competitions Committee unwilling to risk leaving the cars sitting on the grid for fear of boiling over in the sweltering temperatures, which hit the mid 30°Cs in the afternoon, the decision was taken to switch the Padgett Motor Engineers-sponsored race (and indeed all events bar the Bentley Handicap) to a rolling start.
Ben’s T Type was, as expected, the class of the field, leaving Oli – who started second on the grid aboard ‘Penny’ – to race as hard as possible to keep the gap on the road to less than 30 seconds. Ultimately Ben was – just – able to eke out an advantage large enough to earn him his second Times Challenge Trophy success.
An excellent grid of 31 cars started the combined Times Challenge Trophy and Pre-War Challenge event (the latter race for marques other than Bentleys), and by the time the chequered flag had fallen, pole-sitting Ben had lapped all but five of his rivals. For good measure, he also recorded the overall fastest race lap of 1min 10.790 secs (83.42mph) – the perfect performance.
Third place, as in 2021, went to the current BDC Racing Driver of the Year, Clive Morley, who displayed his usual verve and commitment at the wheel of his 3/4½ Litre. After penalties had been applied, the seasoned Clive was classified as finishing some 50 seconds clear of fourth place.
The next highest placed Bentley runner was impressive debutant Vernon Moore, who convincingly won the battle of the Mk VI Specials to come home fourth in the Times Trophy encounter.
Class winners in the Times Trophy were Ben (Class D), Oli (Class C), Clive (Class B) and Club President Duncan Wiltshire (Class A), who finished a fine eighth in the Bentley race in his 3 Litre.
Other good Times Trophy results were scored by the 3/4½s of Richard Hudson and Neil Sandwith, respectively fifth and sixth.
Elsewhere, James Morley’s race was unfortunately ruined when his 3/4½ Litre fell foul of a puncture, causing his retirement on only the second lap. Jock Mackinnon, forsaking his usual 3 Litre for a 3/4½, was forced to briefly pit to have a detached ignition lead repaired, dashing hopes of a good result.
And four-time Times Trophy champion Tim Llewellyn, reacquainted with his old steed ‘Bluebell’, frustratingly lost positions when the 4½ Litre (now owned by fellow Club Member Bert Degenaar) experienced axle tramp.
As last year, Chris Mann’s Alfa-Romeo 8C Monza took the honours in the Pre-War Challenge race.
For the want of those aforementioned 2.9 seconds, Oli Llewellyn would have enjoyed a Bentley ‘clean sweep’ after roaring through the field to dramatically win the Bentley Handicap encounter, grabbing the lead on the final lap.
After being flagged off third-last of the 23 cars in the pit-lane start, with three mins and 10 secs to make up, Oli had eventually passed one his main rivals, Stuart Morley (3/4½ Litre), by the halfway mark of the P&A Wood-backed eight-lap thrash.
Showing great determination, his 3/8 Special caught and passed second placed Vernon Moore’s Mk VI Special on the final lap to claim victory by the narrow margin of just five seconds.
There had been concerns, the day before Saturday’s meeting, that race day may have to be cancelled due to the searing heat affecting drivers, marshals, spectators and, of course, the cars. Ultimately motor racing won the day, but ‘Penny’ demonstrated her ‘displeasure’ at racing in such conditions when Oli parked up in parc ferme after the Handicap race and she promptly dispensed all the water from her over-worked radiator!
Vernon, himself, had started with a 2:50mins gap to make up, being flagged off 20 seconds ahead of Oli. Completing the podium in third place was the evergreen Adam Stacy-Marks – starting fifth with a 50-second penalty – whose 3/4½ Litre Speed Model LM was classified 2.4 seconds behind Vernon.
Last-starting Ben Eastick had hoped to make it a Bentley double in his T Type but, despite a determined effort, was ultimately unable to make up a 3:50mins time gap and was classified eighth.
The packed race programme featured 10 events. Among the highlights, the seemingly unbeatable Oliver Bryant won both AR Morgan Challenge races – a repetition of his double successes in 2018, 2019 and 2021 – and Richard Bridge claimed the spoils in both MG Midget & Sprite events.
Races 1 & 8: AR Morgan Challenge: Oliver Bryant (Plus 8)
Race 2: Bentley Scratch race for Times Challenge Trophy: Ben Eastick (T Type single-seater), Pre-War Challenge: Chris Mann (Alfa Romeo 8c Monza)
Race 3: FISCAR: Ted Shepherd/Andrew Shepherd (AC Ace Bristol)
Race 4: Bentley Handicap: Oliver Llewellyn (3/8 Special)
Races 5 & 9: MGCC Midget & Sprite Challenge: Richard Bridge (Austin Healey Sprite Mk2)
Race 6: BDC Classic Challenge: Eike Wellhausen (Lister Jaguar Knobbly), Morgan Techniques Trophy: Philip St Clair Tisdall (Morgan Plus 8)
Race 7: Ecurie Classic Racing: Allan Ross-Jones (Triumph TR4), Hawthorn Challenge: Alistair Dyson (Jaguar Mk2)
Race 10: BDC Open: Ben Eastick (T Type), Allcomers race: Alan Davenport (Centaur Mk 14B-17), TVR Challenge: Andy Race (TVR Sagaris GFT)
Off track attractions
Aside from the racing, there was plenty to enjoy as the Club once more embraced the summer garden-party ambience for which it’s renowned.
The ever-popular Bentley procession saw around 100 Members cars of all ages take to the track for a few laps at lunchtime, with many a camera clicking from the spectator enclosures.
The paddock was full of attractions to enjoy, including R Type/R Type Continental-themed displays from both the Club and the Bentley Motors Heritage Collection to commemorate the model’s 75th anniversary. There was also a 1922 Isle of Man TT display outside the WOBMF garage, to mark the centenary of Bentley winning the Team prize at the prestigious 1922 race, and a line-up of prize-winning cars from this summer’s Concours.
And Members were also able to enjoy delicious buffet lunches in a garage well decked out with a fantastic display of racing images.
Unfortunately, the planned ceremony to mark the 65th anniversary of the Club funding the LC McKenzie scrutineering bay built in 1957 was cancelled due a lack of time.
Looking back on the meeting, Club President Duncan Wiltshire said: “Despite the sauna-like conditions making the day tough for everyone, the racing was once again top drawer, and we were pleased to hear how many spectators and media enjoyed the occasion.”
For a full list of race results please click here.
See our social media channels for images from the meeting throughout this week.
Image: Chris Dicken
- Full report and images in October's Review.