The Benjafield’s Racing Club Is Keeping The Spirit Of The Bentley Boys Thriving
Photography by Petra Sagnak
You may not know of Benjafield’s Racing Club, a tight-knit group of pre-war Bentley enthusiasts that came together in 1990, but their spirit in upholding some of Britain’s most quintessential racing culture deserves some attention. Formed around a deep appreciation and admiration for the 1920s-early 1930s-era “Bentley Boys,” this club is all about upholding the attitude and spirit that made the Bentleys such successful racing cars in their heyday—the group’s namesake comes from Dudley Benjafield, one of the more influential of the original Bentley Boys, as well as a seven-time Le Mans competitor and one-time overall winner of the much-lauded endurance race. Beyond the motorsport success of Bentley at places like Brooklands and Le Mans though, the club celebrates the style of living that made the whole time so memorable. With parties, camaraderie, and an insatiable love for what were at the time the most advanced racing cars around (what with overhead cams, superchargers, and more cutting edge tech attached to these big machines), the spirit lives on in Benjafield’s Racing Club.
As a female, it took almost two years for me to convince the group to stretch their no women travelers rule—a Benjafield’s member typically travels with men only. I had met one of the members, Eddie, McGuire, and with the utmost kindness he invited me to join the club on a journey from London, England to the Schloss Dyck Classic Days in Germany.
I flew to England, took a train, and Eddie picked me up at the station in his Bentley. Already that was a very special moment to me, and a totally wild sight to take in, this monstrous car amongst the typical commuter vehicles near the station. He then took me to their meeting point, the fruit farm, which is somehow the “headquarters” of the Benjafield Club, as it used to be the workshop of vintage Bentley legend Stanley Mann, who passed early last year. From there, we took off as a little convoy of big Bentleys en route to the Euro tunnel, and were lucky enough once we arrived to be able to enter the train all together for our trip from England to France across the channel. After reaching land again in Calais, the group set off for Belgium.
Riding in a vintage Bentley is a wholly unique experience: very exiting, and thankfully for a multiple-country adventure like this one, more comfortable than I would have thought. We thundered down the local motorways at speeds of around 160kph, making good time between gas stops. John Lloyd, one of the drivers, is close to 90 yeas old, and still drives these long distances in his Bentley all on his own—though I’ve been invited to join him for some drives in the future. The enthusiasm and vitality of this club was pretty astounding to say the least.
Before Classic Days, we spent the night in a nice little Belgian hotel to rest up for what would be a big weekend coming up. We had a fantastic dinner together that night, and took off to Germany the next morning. During the three days at the Schloss Dyck castle near Cologne, I joined the club in taking part in the driving events.
Then on the last day, on the final lap, an oil pipe broke on Eddie’s Bentley. Although some of the Benjafield members had already left for the trip home, some of them returned back to Schloss Dyck to assist their comrade in fixing the car right on the side of the road. Sort of like how Dudley Benjafield and his co-driver Sammy Davis repaired their Bentley during the same 24 Hours of Le Mans that they would go on to win outright. Maybe a little less at stake in our scenario of course, but still a cool link to history all the same. Camaraderie is one of the golden rules of their club, and I have been so fortunate to be able to cover this in action with my camera.