Trading paint on a racetrack has always been precarious for all involved. But for open-wheeled racecars like today’s F1 or Indy cars, any contact is almost instantly catastrophic. First you lose grip, then if the car goes sideways or airborn even a tiny bit, you lose all downforce. The results of a track clash were even more stark in the early days of Le Mans racing. Racing back in the day was 1000X more dangerous than today — so just imagine the balls it would take to pass a race-leading Mercedes-Benz on the side grass of the Mulsanne straight!
That is exactly what Henry Birkin did with his Blower Bentley during the 1930 race. The huge power would not — could not — be contained by slower traffic.
The Birkin Blower eventually retired the 1930 LM victory to teammates in a Speed Six Bentley, with Birkin forced out of the race after six hours of dueling engine howls.
Birkin’s drive that day went down in race history, however, and showed his fearless spirit when driving a seriously fearsome machine.
The wild racing style of Birkin ultimately caught up with him: the legendary driver was killed three years later after another death-defying brawl on four wheels.
His legend lives today, though: trust the car, never lift off, always be passing.
The 2015 Bentley GT3 racecar met this racing hero recently to cap the 2015 season’s two big wins, earned through equal parts sheer speed and driver cunning — as in the grand Bentley Boy tradition.
The racing link to Bentley road cars is very overt lately: the GT3-R road car is the top Conti GT, sharing most of the racecar’s looks and speed.
Check out the rendezvous below in photos, plus snaps of the GT3-R street variant and GT3 race season action shots in the third gallery below. Speed on, B-Boy style!
2015 Bentley GT3 with 1930 Birkin Blower LeMans Icon
GENERATIONS OF SPEED: BENTLEY CONTINENTAL GT3 AND THE BIRKIN ‘BLOWER’
Dec 3, 2015
- Racers past and present come together to mark extraordinary year of motorsport
- 2015 saw Continental GT3 win two major international GT championship titles
- This year marks the 85th anniversary of the famous 1930 Le Mans win
- Cars met at the British Racing Drivers’ Club – founded by Bentley Boy, Dudley Benjafield
(Crewe, 3 December 2015) With the chequered flag set to fall on the 2015 motorsport season, Bentley is celebrating a remarkable run of results by bringing together two generations of racer – the Continental GT3 and legendary 4.5 Litre ‘Blower’.
The current GT3 and its illustrious forebear from 1929 met at Silverstone in front of the British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC), the motorsport organisation founded in 1928 by Bentley Boy and Le Mans winner, Dudley Benjafield.
They may be separated by more than eight decades but the two racing cars share Bentley’s indefatigable passion for innovation, competition and, above all, speed.
Bentley Continental GT3 in 2015 – A Season to Remember
In just its second year of competition in GT racing, the Bentley motorsports programme has gone from strength to strength in 2015.
With teams competing on four continents, the Continental GT3 scored multiple pole positions, race wins, podiums and, at the end of the season, won the highly-competitive Blancpain Sprint Series and took the overall team title in the GT Asia Series.
Other highlights from the season include a best-ever finish at the 24 Hours of Spa, a four-car assault on the Nürburgring 24 Hours and successful completion of the grueling Bathurst 12 Hours.
With a driver line-up featuring Le Mans winner, Guy Smith, former BRDC Young Driver of the Year, Steven Kane, and 2015 Blancpain Sprint Series champion, Vincent Abril, next year’s racing promises to be even more fruitful.
Bentley’s Director of Motorsport, Brian Gush, said: “As the team prepares for another exciting racing season in 2016, it’s rewarding to look back on 2015 and to see how far we’ve come. We’re racing on four continents in the world’s largest and most competitive GT races and series. From Bathurst to Silverstone and Macau to Monterey, we’re competing with the best that GT racing has to offer.”
The Birkin ‘Blower’
One of just five ever made for racing, the Blower was used by the original Bentley racing team – the Bentley Boys – of the late 1920s, and is still performing over eight decades later.
This year marks the 85th anniversary of the Woolf Barnato and Glen Kidston Le Mans victory in 1930. While the supercharged Blower wasn’t the winning car that day, with Tim Birkin at the wheel its heroic performance embodies the true spirit of the vintage racing era.
In the 1930 race, Birkin and his Blower diced for the lead with Mercedes ace, Rudi Carracciola, passing him flat out down the Hunaudières straight with his nearside wheels on the grass. Birkin successfully pushed the Mercedes to breaking point, but also had to retire with six hours to go, and the race was eventually won by Barnato and Kidston in their Speed Six.
Featuring its original Vanden Plas Open Sports four-seat body, the Blower was described by Autocar magazine in September 1930 as having ‘the appeal of immense power, linked with great docility’.