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BROOKLANDS CARS AT CONCORSO D’ELEGANZA VILLA D’ESTE


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This three-litre Bentley took part in the first Le Mans 24-hour race in 1923 (Gareth Tarr).


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his year’s Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este featured a class called ‘Speed Demons: Endurance Pioneers of the Golden Age’ and four of the five entrants had significant Brooklands history. Of course, being the Villa d’Este, these weren’t just ‘ordinary’ Brooklands cars; each had a special history, particularly the two Bentleys. The first Le Mans 24-hour race took place in 1923 and all of the 33 starters were either French or Belgian except for a British three-litre Bentley and this car was entered by owner Peter Briggs at the Villa d’Este. Chassis 141 was delivered to Bentley dealer John Duff in August 1922 and on the 28th of that month he took the car to Brooklands. Over the next two days he set several Class D speed records. Duff was at the Surrey track a month later to take further records, in- cluding the British Double12 hours at 86.79mph. In February 1923 the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) announced the first 24 hours of Le Mans and John Duff immediately entered 141. W O Bentley famously objected and insisted the car was a private entry although it was agreed that the car would be prepared by the company’s Experimental Department. At the last minute W O decided to attend and saw his car finish fourth – it might have won but for a punctured fuel tank. The second Brooklands Bentley on display was


Tim Birkin’s ‘Blower No.1’, instantly recognisable by its bright red monoposto body with radiator fairing. Chassis HB3402 was originally intended to race at Le Mans in 1929 but following prob- lems in testing it was withdrawn from the French


20


Two owners raced this Type 51 Bugatti at Brooklands in the 1930s (Gareth Tarr).


race, although it was to appear at Brooklands later that year. In February 1930 the car reappeared with its new aerodynamic body allegedly designed by Reid Railton and painted blue. The redesigned car first appeared at the Easter BRDC meeting on 29th March, winning the Kent Long Handicap with a fastest lap of 126.73mph. Over the next few years Blower No.1 appeared frequently at Brooklands. In the winter of 1931/2 it was given a major upgrade including increasing the engine size to 4,442cc and was repainted red. The car’s crowning glory came at the August Bank Holiday meeting in a three-lap challenge race against John Cobb’s Delage. Initially Cobb led but Birkin caught him just before the line, his last lap, timed at 137.96mph, was a record for the circuit at that time. The Type 35 Bugatti is considered one of the most beautiful of all racing cars and in simple terms the Type 51 was the upgraded version with twin camshafts and supercharger. One of the 40 Type 51s built was therefore a natural choice for the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este, the car on display being owned by Richard T Collier of the USA. Chassis 51126 was an early customer car, originally built for Count Czaykowski and subsequently sold to Aubrey Esson-Scott. Both owners raced the car at Brooklands during the 1930s.


Making up the quartet of Brooklands cars was the 1920 Ballot three-litre Grand Prix car which was displayed earlier this year at Retromobile – see the May-June Bulletin for further details of


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