Bentley celebrates 100th anniversary of first race win
It's been 100 years since the Bentley EXP2 won first the race win for the British brand. So, to mark the historic achievement, the EXP2 returned to the famous Brooklands Racetrack in Surrey, United Kingdom to lead a flock of 3 Litre classic Bentleys.
The EXP2 is the oldest Bentley in the world, and only the second car of the name ever built in 1921. The granddaddy Bentley led a field of 24 3 Litres from across the UK which formed up on the remaining section of the banked Brooklands circuit where Bentley took its first win on May 16, 1921.
On that day, the car took victory in the Whitsun Junior Sprint Handicap at the hands of "works" driver Frank Clement, starting a series of race wins for the 3 Litre model that culminated in two victories at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Bentley’s first in 1924, driven by Clement and John Duff, and again in 1927.
Between those successes, in 1925 Duff also used a 3 Litre to secure a total of 21 world records over the course of 24 hours.
The British marque said these early victories for the 3-Litre engrained motorsport in its foundations, and paved for the way for more than 1,600 3-Litre models to be produced and sold.
The collection of 3-Litres and the event itself was organized by the Bentley Drivers’ Club.
Bentley Drivers' Club Chairman Richard Parkinson commented: “We will continue as a Club to celebrate ‘100 years of Bentley Racing Success’ at our Annual Silverstone Meeting on August 7 which I am delighted to say Bentley Motors is supporting with a display of significant cars from the Heritage Collection.”
Bentley also shared a short story behind the "oldest Bentley in the world."
After founding the company's founding in 1919, it took two years for founder WO Bentley to develop the engine and chassis of his first production 3 Litre. He produced 1,622 examples of that car between 1921 and 1929.
Crucial to that development were the "Experimentals," or EXPs for short. EXP1 came first, the very first car to wear the winged badge. EXP1 was lost to history, possibly given its parts to create the EXP2, which clearly survived.
The EXP2 was originally constructed with a two-seat body as a development testbed for the engine and chassis. It was later rebodied with dark red bodywork and an aluminium hood, crafted by coachbuilders JH Easter.
Its first race was only nine days before its first win. At the hands of Frank Clement, it competed at Brooklands on May 7, 1921 but failed to finish.
Whatever problems encountered in that first race were dealt with the following weekend, and when the car took to the track again on the 16th it came home victorious for the first time.
EXP2 carried on with its split career of development testing and racing for two years, before being sold in September 1923. The car was completely rebuilt to its original specification around 25 years ago, and is now one of the most important members of the Bentley Heritage Collection.
Today's Flying Spur, meanwhile, looks light years ahead of those aforementioned classics.
The latest-generation Flying Spur packs a host of gizmos. That includes traffic sign recognition, hands-free trunk opening, top-view camera, welcome lighting, and automatic dimming mirrors, to name a few.
Photos from Bentley