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Who were the Bentley Boys?In the early days of motoring, there was a group of men whose pursuit of speed and excitement became notorious in the automotive world. They were the Bentley Boys.
[MUSIC] Today, motor sport manufacturers often rely on their motor sport heritage to promote their cars but very few have a track record in endurance racing quite like Bentley. Now this is the story of the man who really put Bentley on the map, the man who first took them endurance racing A Le Mans, the extraordinary John Dolph. This is the first factory into Bentley to compete at Le Mans, driven by John Dolph and [UNKNOWN] in 1925. Back then the racers weren't dissimilar to the road cars and this one is a [UNKNOWN] bodied four seater three liter model. With a lower aerodynamic windscreen, and a large 25 litre fuel tank. It had an uprighted engine and [INAUDIBLE] suspension, too. And it weighed around 1800 kilos. It was incredibly robust. A prerequisite for endurance racing. A jealous Ettore Bugatti called it the fastest lorry in the world. But it had to be, because the racing was brutal. 49 cars started that 1925 race, and just 16 cars finished. This one ran out of fuel.>>The Bentley's first success in the [INAUDIBLE] wasn't done with official factory help. In fact, it was a privateer called John Duff that entered a back in 1923, in a race that at the time W. O. Bentley was rather snifty about entering. So before we get on to this beautiful, brutish, Continental V8 S that we're driving, perhaps we should have a bit of a chat about the Bentley Boys themselves. Who were they? Well they were Europe's wealthiest gentlemen drivers. They were chaps that were equally famous for their champagne consumption and womanizing as they were for their win at all cost attitude on track. There were a number of really larger than life characters that were involved in WO's team in the roaring twenties. Perhaps some of the most famous ones were Captain Wolf Bernardo, now he loved his Bentley so much that he ended up buying the company. But there was also Sir Tim Birkin, he was a World War I fighter ace. There was Dr Dudley Benjafield who was a Harley Street surgeon. And there was the dashing Baron d'Erlanger who's family had made a fortune in banking. But when you look him up on Wikipedia his profession is listed as international playboy. They were all larger than life characters and included celebrated adventurers, sportsmen, journalists, there was a pearl fishing magnate, mining ability, as well as professional race engineers and drivers. Many Boys, even owned swanky flats in the same part of London's Grosvenor Square. It was soon known to every bobby and [UNKNOWN] party goer as Bentley corner due to the fabulous cars parked outside. It has been said that it was the horrors of the First World War in which most of these gentlemen served actually gave these races such a zest for life but also the devil may care attitude to the dangers of motor racing. [MUSIC] The very first of the Bentley boys was Captain John. And what a character he was. He was born in 1895 to Canadian parents in China. Grew up in a mountain top hotel in China. And when the first world war broke out he was just 19. He caught a train through China, through Russia, through war torn Europe to sign up with the Allies. So enthusiastic was [UNKNOWN] to fight that he charged on ahead of his own troops and was hit by friendly fire. In typical Bentley boys fashion, he turned out quite nicely for him because he ended up marrying his nurse. After the war, he opened a Bentley dealership and sponsored an interesting new race called the 24 Hours of LeMons. He decided to enter in his own car with no factory help. He led for the vast majority of the race, but actually finished fourth Future technicality. Now, what was really interesting here was Dubrioli himself was quite sneaky about this race. But he decided at the last minute to go along and spectate. And very glad he was too, that he did, because Bentley's performance- Driven by Captain John Duff was spectacular. And he vowed there and then to go back the following year and give it his utmost support. And they're remarkable really at Le Mans. Kicked off in 1924 when they did extremely well, taking home the trophy. Actually beating the two French favorites, in a Lorraine-Dietrich, across the line after 120 It's delightful. So, those [INAUDIBLE] people who know [INAUDIBLE] about [INAUDIBLE] think 120 laps doesn't sound very impressive, considering that the winning Porsche last year did 395. But you've got to remember [UNKNOWN] and Clement's car actually only packed 17 VHP. Then they went on to dominate the race for the next four years. Until inevitably The money ran out, and Bentley withdrew from all forms of motorsport in 1931. Back to John Duff though, his post Le Mans career was no less colourful. He broke both of his ankles when he went over the banking, I think at Brooklands. And his doctor advised that he take up some form of sport to help him recuperate, so he took up fencing. Then went to Hollywood and became a stuntman. He first started doing sword-fighting tricks. And then became an all around stuntman. He eventually met his end in 1962 I think it was, in Epping Forest, in a horse riding accident, after having been a champion soldier for two. What a full life he lead and what a character. And of course all of these, Successes in the 1920s gave W.O. Bently exactly what he wanted, lots of publicity. In fact, he would have said something like, I would be perfectly happy for my cause to circulate the morning, Glorious Solitude, as long as I got the front page of the daily mail on a Monday morning. [MUSIC] So, what do you think the Bentley boys would have made of this Continental V8 S? This is a fabulous car, isn't it? I mean, it's got plenty of power, it's got how many times more power than what they had? This thing though, it's pretty hefty. What is it? 2.2 tons? 2.3, so would you make of this Bentley Continental GT V8 S. Well, it's a fantastic Machine, isn't it? It does remind me a little bit of Dolly Parton. If you'll just excuse me while I go off on a bit of a tangent now, because- Okay, go on then. The Continental, like Dolly Parton, the famous country and western singer, has rather an old chassis that's been kept fresh with endless face-lifts. And every time people look at it and expect a little bit more they respond by giving it a bit more, umph! [LAUGH]. With only [UNKNOWN] cost a lot of money to look this cheap. And this does not look cheap. No it's a little bit unkind Because this is one of the finest finish Stuff cabins of all the things we've flagged in recent years. It's a big car though isn't it? It's a strange car from many angles, you don't really grasp how big and how wide it is. Park it up, you're gonna struggle to open the doors in most places in Europe anyway. But we do love it, and if for nothing else, we love it for that sounds. May I? Stand on that. [SOUND] [LAUGH] [SOUND] The details are lovely. See that mesh grill? That was originally Duff's idea and lives on in Hot Bentleys today. The wings on the Bentley B have a different amount of feathers, originally done to deter forgeries. And check the linen stitched quilted leather and carbon fiber trim. It's the kind of car with endless little details, cosmetic and performance, which really grabs your attention attention. [NOISE] We wouldn't see a racing Bentley take the coveted title at Le Mans for another seventy-three years until Guy Smith and Mark Blundell took their LNP cars to that famous one, two victory in 2003. And, interestingly, like those Le Mans prototype cars, this also had And Audi developed a V8, the same one as you'll find in the S8 super saloon. So this is the V8S, so this has 521 brake horsepower. 21 more than the standard V8. And a 502 pound foot of torque. Now this thing can sail on to 192 miles per hour. And it'll sprint to 60 in about 4.3 seconds, which is pretty impressive when you consider that this thing weighs 2.3 tons. But you know what nobody wants to hear, stats. And certainly nobody wants to hear our bloody voices. I think what they want to hear is some engine now. Let's go find a tunnel. [NOISE] In 2016, the Bentley Continental GT3 is set to go racing at the grueling 24 hours of Nurburgring and the Bathurst 12 hours. But today we're here to see the modern day Bentley boys and belles racing in the [UNKNOWN] GT Endurance series here at Silver Stone. The GG3 Silhouette is unmistakably continental, but Doors, boot lid, and bonnet are now hand crafted in carbon fiber. More than 1000 kilograms of excess luxuries have been stripped from the GT3. Gone is the leather trim, the double glazing, the plush carpets. Miles of wiring. And over 50 ECUs in the relentless pursuit of speed. Bentley's technical partners, M Sport Limited, have also switched out the eight speed [INAUDIBLE] auto for a six speed sequential box [UNKNOWN] adjustable dampers. And it has competition brakes the size of manhole covers. John does have to fix his own car to win at [UNKNOWN] but today's [UNKNOWN] boys and bells have quite a team. Times may have changed. The Bentley is still making history racing today. [SOUND]