Benjafield’s club revives 500-mile race, but with vintage vehicles

Event in Spain celebrates Brooklands 500 and its slowest-start-first handicap format

From 1929 to 1937, the British Racing Drivers Club staged 500-mile races at the Brooklands track in England, but unlike the 500-mile race at Indianapolis, the British events were governed by a handicap system that allowed less powerful vehicles to compete against even the mighty Bentleys of the day.

In 1990, the Benjafield’s Racing Club was organized to keep the spirit of those early days of racing — and of the famed if raucous Bentley Boys — alive and to honor Dudley Benjafield, bacteriologist and amateur Bentley racer, 1927 Le Mans-winning driver, and the first treasurer of the British Grand Prix.

The club is limited to 100 members from around the world, but that doesn’t stop it from taking on significant projects. Most recently, it staged the Benjafield’s 500 at the Circuito Ascari near Malaga, Spain, where 27 vintage cars, including a 1932 Alvis Speed 20 SA, a 1931 Talbot 105 works car that raced in the Brooklands 500 in 1931, and the famed No. 10 factory 1925 Bentley racer formerly driven by Dr. Benjafield, were on the starting grid.

The former Brooklands 500 handicap system was used, with the slower cars starting first and the fastest cars last, but with all sharing the goal of being the first to complete a full, 500-mile drive. Of the 27 cars, 21 were vintage Bentleys.

Benjafield’s club revives 500-mile race, but with vintage vehicles

Vintage Bentleys (and others) raced for 8 hours in the Spanish sun

“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,” the club said in its post-race news release.

“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.”

“Benjafield’s 500 is a fantastic re-enactment of a historic race that is as much a social event as it is a race,” said race organizer Chris Lunn. “It’s about people coming together to celebrate an almost 80-year-old legacy all in the spirit of driving some of the greatest cars ever made.

“Benjafield’s Club events are notoriously good fun,” he added, “as you might expect for a club where entry is strictly limited to those who have done something either very good or very bad.”

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