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Racing Drivers - News, Information and Profiles

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  2. Henry 'Tim' Birkin

    Legendary British driver, one of the original Bentley Boys, Henry 'Tim' Birkin went on to taking Bentley to the forefront of motor racing in the 1920's. In 1921 he turned to motor racing, competing a few races at Brooklands. Business and family pressure then forced him to retire from the tracks until 1927 when he entered a three litre Bentley for a six-hour race. For 1928 he acquired a 4½ litre car and after some good results decided to return to motor racing, very much against his family's wishes. Soon the little Bentley driver, racing with a blue and white spotted silk scarf around his neck, would be a familiar sight on the race tracks driving with the works team (the "Bentley Boys"). In 1928 Birkin entered the Le Mans race again, leading the first twenty laps until a jammed wheel forced him to drop back, finishing fifth with co-driver Jean Chassagne who heroically rescued the abandoned, damaged car, winning the hearts of the crowds; Chassagne received a trophy from W O Bentley in recognition of this extraordinary feat. The next year he was back as winner, racing the 'Speed Six' as co-driver to Woolf Barnato. If Bentley wanted a more powerful car he developed a bigger model and the Speed Six was a huge car. Ettore Bugatti once referred to the Bentley as "the world's fastest lorry".Back in 1928 however, Birkin had come to the conclusion that the future lay in getting more power from a lighter model by fitting a supercharger to the 4½ litre Bentley. When Bentley Motors refused to create the supercharged model Birkin sought he determined to develop it himself. With technical help from Clive Gallop and supercharger specialist Amherst Villiers, and with Dorothy Paget financing the project after his own money had run out, Birkin rebuilt the car at the engineering works he had set up for the purpose at Welwyn Garden City in Hertfordshire. Adding a huge Roots-type supercharger ("blower") in front of the radiator driven straight from the crankshaft gave the car a unique appearance. The 242 bhp 'Blower Bentley' was born. The first car, a stripped down Brooklands racer known as Bentley Blower No.1, first appeared at the Essex six hour race at Brooklands on 29 June 1929. However, the car initially proved to be very unreliable. W.O. Bentley himself had never accepted the blower Bentley. Nevertheless, with Wolf Barnato's support, Birkin persuaded "W.O." to produce the fifty supercharged cars necessary for the model to be accepted for the Le Mans 24 Hours race. In addition to these production cars built by Bentley Motors, Birkin put together a racing team of four remodelled "prototypes" (three road cars for Le Mans and Blower No.1) and assembled a fifth car from spare parts. Birkin's blower Bentleys were too late for Le Mans in 1929 and only two of the cars reached the start line in 1930. After an epic duel between Dudley Benjafield and Birkin's privately entered blower Bentleys and Rudolf Caracciola's Mercedes SSK all three retired, leaving the victory to the Bentley works team Speed Six of Barnato and Glen Kidston. Birkin's courage and fearless driving, in particular his selflessly harrying Caracciola into submission, are regarded as embodying the true spirit of the Vintage Racing era.
  3. Derek Bell

    British driver, five times winner of Le Mans 24 Hours, three times Daytona 24 winner and the two times World Sports Car champion. Derek began racing as an amateur in a Lotus 7 at Goodwood, winning his first ever race in March 1964, in the wet. He quickly progressed to Formula 3 and then Formula 2 with the backing of his step-father’s Church Farm Racing team, turning professional within three years when Enzo Ferrari offered him a Formula 2 drive in the Monza Lotteria. Between 1968 and 1974 he competed in 16 Formula 1 Grand Prix, racing for Ferrari, McLaren, Surtees and Tecno, with a single World Championship point to his credit, driving a Surtees to sixth place at the US Grand Prix, Watkins Glen, in 1970. Derek’s real talent lay with endurance racing, where he has become a legend. He won back to back World Sports Car Championship titles in 1985 and 1986, three 24 Hours of Daytona in 1986, 1987 and 1989 and five Le Mans victories in 1975, 1981, 1982, 1986 and 1987. Derek’s consistent team mate during this period was Jacky Ickx, racing several Porsche types together, including the Porsche 936, the Porsche 956 and the Porsche 962. The Bell/Ickx is partnership is considered as one of the most famous driver pairings in motorsport history. He was at his prime during the 1980’s and early 1990’s, becoming the most successful driver of all-time during the reign of the Porsche 956 and Porsche 962, achieving no fewer than 16 outright victories in the World Endurance Championship and 19 in the IMSA Camel GT Championship, a total of 35 wins in seven years. In 1970 he filmed the cult movie Le Mans with the iconic film star Steve McQueen becoming friends with the man who stated 'You know, I'm not an actor. I just play myself', who proved to be just as talented behind the wheel of a race car as he was on screen. During the course of filming Derek showed that motorsport, even for the silver screen, can be a dangerous business, suffering burns to his face when the Ferrari 512 he was driving caught fire following a racing sequence on the Le Mans circuit.
  4. Henri Pescarolo

    Henri Jacques William Pescarolo (born 25 September 1942) is a former racing driver from France. He competed in the 24 Hours of Le Mans a record 33 times, winning on four occasions, and won a number of other major sports car events including the 24 Hours of Daytona. He also participated in 64 Formula One World Championship Grands Prix, achieving one podium and 12 championship points. Pescarolo also drove in the Dakar Rally in the 1990s, before retiring from racing at the age of 57. In 2000 he set up his eponymous racing team, Pescarolo Sport, which competed in Le Mans until 2013. He wore a distinctive green helmet and wears a full-face beard that partially covers burns suffered in a crash. Pescarolo began his career in 1965 with a Lotus Seven. He was successful enough to be offered a third car in the Matra Formula 3 team for 1966, but the car was not ready until mid-season. However, in 1967 he won the European Championship with Matra and was promoted to Formula 2 for 1968. That season he was team-mate to Jean-Pierre Beltoise and achieved several second places and a win at Albi, which led to him being given a drive in Matra's Formula One team for the last three races of 1968. His career suffered a setback, in 1969, when he crashed on the Mulsanne Straight at Le Mans whilst testing the Matra sports car. Pescarolo was badly burned and did not compete again until mid-season. He returned at the German GP where he drove a Formula 2 Matra into fifth place winning the small capacity class, in his only Grand Prix race that season. For 1970 Pescarolo was signed full-time by Matra for their Formula One team and once again as team-mate to Beltoise, put in a solid season with a third place at the Monaco Grand Prix being the high point. He also won the Paris 1000 km and Buenos Aires 1000 km sports car races partnered with Beltoise. Pescarolo was not retained by Matra, and in 1971, 1972, and 1973 with Motul sponsorship, he drove for the fledgling Formula One team run by the young Frank Williams, but with little success. In 1974, Pescarolo drove for BRM, again with Motul backing, but the team's best days were gone and a ninth place in Argentina was his best result in a season with many retirements. Pescarolo did not compete in Formula One in 1975 but returned to the championship in 1976 with a Surtees privately entered by BS Fabrications. Although neither car or driver was considered to be competitive, failing to qualify for 2 of 9 Grands Prix entered. Pescarolo did begin to show speed in the final 5 races, event scoring a season's best finish of 9th at the 1976 Austrian Grand Prix. After Pescarolo's retirement from Formula One, he went on to start his own team, which competed until 2012 in the Le Mans Endurance Series and the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which he won as a driver four times (1972, 1973, 1974 and 1984). His team, Pescarolo Sport, was notably sponsored by Sony's PlayStation 2 and by Gran Turismo 4. During the five years that Pescarolo has campaigned Courage C60 prototypes, so many modifications have been made to the model that Courage allowed the team to name the car after themselves, such was the differences between their model and the standard C60. In 2005, it was developed further still to meet the "hybrid" regulations, before the change to LMP1/2 format. In 1977, 1978 and 1979 Pescarolo drove in Australia's most famous motor race, the Bathurst 1000 for touring cars held at the Mount Panorama Circuit, driving on all three occasions with 1974 race winner John Goss. Unfortunately, all races resulted in a DNF for the Goss built Ford XC Falcon GS500 Hardtops, completing only 113 laps (of 163) in 1977, 68 in 1978 and 118 in 1979. The 1977 race saw Pescarolo's Le Mans rival Jacky Ickx win the race in a semi-works Falcon driving with Allan Moffat. Pescarolo holds the record for Le Mans starts with 33 and has won the race on four occasions as a driver. He has yet to win the race as a team owner, coming very close in 2005 with the Pescarolo C60H. His team did manage to win the LMES championship in the same year. His team was also second at Le Mans in 2006, followed by a third in 2007 behind a pair of diesel-powered prototypes.
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