Ride Along: The Yorkshire Buccaneer Rally
Photography by Jayson Fong
There’s something very special about pre-war W.O Bentleys and the way they express performance – they’re incredibly big and intimidating and were once described by Ettore Bugatti as “the fastest lorries in the world”. Strangely, despite their place in history, pre-war cars like these Bentleys are often under-appreciated and perceived to be slow moving museum pieces. However, at last month’s Yorkshire Buccaneer rally, part of a series of unique events held by the Benjafield’s Racing Club, a collection of these almost century year old machines came together to tear across the countryside, reminding me why they should never be forgotten.
It was a chilly and early start to the one-day rally, but the the initial sight of 41 cars with an approximate value of £35million in the driveway of Bowcliffe hall was rather special and all was forgiven. Among those in the line, were 25 pre-war W.O Bentleys, including the first Works car to race at Le mans in 1926, ‘Number 10’ owned by organiser Jonathan Turner, a pair of ‘Blower’ Bentleys, a humble Austin Seven, a Ford Falcon, and a few 911s and Jaguars.
After being warmed up for the journey ahead with bacon butties, the teams set off towards Bramham Park for the first of several stages. If there is ever a place that pre-war cars looked at home, it is here. With over 200 acres of farmland, rolling hills and tree lined gravel paths, Bramham was the perfect place to put the power down on roads that these machines were built for. As the cars approached the crest and appeared in front of Bramham House for a brief moment, it was difficult to miss the wide smiles of the teams enjoying the opportunity to powerslide their chariots- not a move you’d expect from a museum piece.
It was at this moment covered in splotches of mud that I realised that the Yorkshire Buccaneer was by no means an ordinary rally or even close to what I was expecting. Rather, the day went on in a completely unexpected direction with a series of special stages including drag racing in an empty airfield, manoeuvring these beasts round a go-kart circuit, getting navigators to hold onto buckets of water through chicanes and a super special stage which may have involved the blindfolding of drivers…
However, before long the end of the day would ultimately come to a close with the final stage at the Harewood Hillclimb. It was here I was given the full experience of vintage performance. Jumping into the passenger seat with Bentley expert William Medcalf at the wheel, I was treated to a hot lap in a 4½ Litre Bentley. Wind in my hair, with no sign of a safety belt in sight we slid from side to side up to the summit.
I was left feeling impressed. The Bentley proves to be an incredibly capable car despite its age. There’s definitely a catch though, something I noticed as I watched William skillfully work the industrial factory sized gears as the tyres screeched. Performance is relative and only truly possible to extract when in the right hands. Ultimately, being good at driving isn’t enough. You must also know how to operate these cars. Perhaps more than anything else, it’s this human element that makes me appreciate Bentleys and those who keep them on the road even more.
As the sun began to set, the Benjafield’s Racing Club came together on the top of the hill, watching as the last cars made their final run of the Yorkshire Buccaneer. It was picturesque: a motorsport venue that has hardly changed since it started, surrounded by some the world’s oldest sports cars. A fitting end to an action packed and unforgettable day watching these aged cars where they belong – on the road, getting dirty and being appreciated without a museum in sight.