End of November the world-famous Benjafield’s Racing Club held the eagerly anticipated 2017 Benjafield’s 500 event at the formidable Ascari Race Circuit in Spain, with a grid of 27 vintage cars.
The Benjafield’s 500 is a 500-mile race that draws inspiration from the Brooklands 500 events that took place from 1929 to 1937. In period it was a handicap event that allowed all manner of cars to enter with lesser cars facing up to the mighty Bentleys of the time. The Benjafield’s 500 of today follows the same format and thus attracts a diverse grid, including a Talbot team car that actually competed in the original Brooklands 500 in 1931.
In 1928 Dr J. Dudley Benjafield founded the British Racing Drivers Club (BRDC) as a social club for British racing drivers to welcome racing drivers from overseas, the first event was a 500-mile race at Brooklands taking place in October 1929. Slower cars set off first, faster cars last, but all had to aim to complete 500 miles quicker than any of the other competitors hence it was dubbed ‘the fastest race of its kind the world has ever seen’.
The Benjafields’s Racing Club takes its name from the founding member of the BRDC and accepts a maximum of 100 members from around the world, all of whom share a passion for vintage Bentleys, racing and for following in the footsteps of the Bentley Boys. The club exists to preserve the ethos and spirit of vintage racing and, to keep a mystique around the club, there is no known way of becoming a member.
Back at Brooklands, the goal was to break the 500-mile barrier faster than any other car, and that’s once again the main premise of the modern race. This year’s event represents 80 years since the final 500-mile race at Brooklands, and, as you might expect from a club whose sole ethos is to emulate the spirit of the famous Bentley Boys, the majority of cars taking part are vintage Bentleys (21 of 27) including Jonathan Turner’s 1925 3-litre ‘Number 10’ factory team car originally driven by Dr. Benjafield in period.
While the spirit of the Benjafield’s Racing Club is deeply rooted in fun and friendship, the racing shows that no love is lost when a chequered flag is there for the taking. Eight hours of racing in the Spanish sun saw victory going to Robert Abrey and Julian Riley in the 6 ½ litre Bentley with second place going to Martin Overington and Eddie McGuire in the 1929 Bentley Blower and third to Matthew Abrey and Robert Fellowes in the 1925 Bentley 3 4 ½.
Also worthy of mention is Jonathan Turner and Bert Degenaar in the Bentley 3 litre team car that convincingly led the race until lunchtime.