Bentley at the 24 Hours of Le Mans

Le Mans Bentley

Bentley’s early history was greatly influenced by the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the oldest sports car race in endurance in the world. Participation of the company in the race and the success in 1924 when the Bentley 3 Litre Sport won Le Mans played an important role in Woolf Barnato’s decision to finance Bentley Motors Limited and save it from closure.

W. O. Bentley, the founder of Bentley Motors Limited was persuaded to take part in the very first 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1923. This race was won by Andre Legache and Rene Leonard for Chenard et Walcker, while Captain John F. Duff and Frank Clement who were racing with the Bentley 3 Litre Sport took the fourth place. But one year later, the two drivers won the first Le Mans for Bentley.

Le Mans Bentley

In 1925, Duff and Clement failed to finish the race with their Bentley 3 Litre. Dr. Dudley Benjafield and Sammy Davis who took over the wheels of Bentley 3 Litre Speed model one year later did not managed to finish the race either. However, they were given another chance in 1927 and this time they won another Le Mans for Bentley. At the 24 Hours of Le Mans of 1927, they were driving the Bentley 3 Litre Sport “Old No.7”. The very same race was also competed by Frank Clement and Leslie Callingham driving the new Bentley 4 ½ Litre “Old Mother Gun” which, however, finished the race only in 15th place. The Bentley 3 Litre Super Sport that was driven by Andre d’Erlanger and George Duller was placed 17th.

In 1928, the Bentley’s team at the 24 Hours of Le Mans was taken over by the company’s chairman Woolf Barnato and won the race with Bernard Rubin. They were driving the Bentley 4 ½ Litre “Old Mother Gun”. Sir Henry Birkin and Jean Chassagne who were driving the Bentley 4 ½ Litre took the 5th place, while Dr. Dudley Benjafield and Frank Clement failed to finish the race. Le Mans BentleyTogether with Henry Birkin, Woolf Barnato repeated the success at Le Mans of 1929 which was completely dominated by Bentleys that took the first four places. At the Le Mans of 1930, Woolf Barnato (this time with Glen Kidston) achieved another victory for Bentley with the Bentley Speed Six “Old Number One”. Frank Clement and Richard Watney who were driving Bentley Speed Six finished second. One year later, however, Bentley withdrew from the race.

Bentley started competing at the 24 Hours of Le Mans again in 2001. But the Team Bentley has not managed to win the race for Bentley until 2003 when Rinaldo Capello, Tom Kristensen and Guy Smith came in first before Mark Blundell, David Brabham and Johnny Herbert who were driving the second Bentley at the race.

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