Richard Hewitt reports On The Bentley Divers Club Silverstone meeting, to which the DTEC TVR racers were invited to enter a race as Guest Driver.
When Graham Walden floated the idea amongst the DTEC racers of joining the Sports Racing and GT Challenge (SRGTC) Invitation Race at the 75th Anniversary Meeting of the Bentley Drivers’ Club at Silverstone National circuit in July, I immediately wanted to join in the fun of a 30 minute race on a circuit I had not raced at previously. Three cars arrived on the day – Andy Holden’s Sagaris GT, Graham’s RV8 Tuscan and my RV8 Griffith to mix it with Lotus, Caterhams, E Types, a ’65 Mustang and even a 1970s Capri!
The SRGTC standard races are for pre-1976 sports racing and GT cars + replicars such as Cobra kit-cars. Our grid did not have as wide a variety as the race series normally attracts, nevertheless it looked like tasty racing to me.
The BDC event also featured the Aero Racing Morgan Challenge and various other vintage and 1950s sports-car races, as well as a variety of Bentley races on the Saturday and Sunday. There must have been over 100 vintage Bentleys in the paddock, including the 1933 Napier-Railton Special, a 24 litre 535bhp, 2 ton, 170mph monster. However this car was out-done by a 42 litre Bentley Special with a former marine engine – who says size doesn’t matter!
Qualifying on Sunday morning saw all 3 TVRs posting good times, though Andy pitted early due to battery charging problems. The race grid was a standing start, so Andy’s car, which is prepared for endurance racing, started from the pit-lane. Graham had qualified second behind a Caterham S7 and I was in the middle of a 12 car grid just behind a Ram D Type Jaguar and a Kougar Jaguar, with an E Type immediately behind me. I had an atrocious start being unable to find a gear above first until after the first bend when I eventually slotted fourth gear! The rest of the field shot past, including Andy out of the pit-lane and I was left playing catch-up, having lost at least 10 seconds to every car. Patience was the key and I soon hauled in the back markers, Mustang, Ford Capri and Lotus Esprit, then began closing down the E Type ahead of which I had qualified. I passed the E Type after about 10 minutes and began looking for the D Type and Kougar Jaguar.
Meanwhile Andy had soon established himself as front runner and was lapping in an impressive 60 seconds, while Graham was posting 64 second laps and I was on 69 seconds coincidently matching my 69 race number! After 30 minutes, Andy and Graham were 1-2 followed by the Caterham, Ram D type, Kougar Jaguar then me in sixth place.
Having watched various other races, it was interesting to note that a fully race prepared Bentley Turbo R driven by one of the owners I know from a local RR/Bentley garage looked fast, but was only posting times of 1minute 13 seconds and a friend’s Morgan +8 race-car’s best lap was 1minute 11 seconds. So the guest cars proved to be great ambassadors for TVR in a very mixed race environment.