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Bentley: an English sporting icon about to score a century

There’s the Le Mans victories, in 1924, 1927 and 1930. There’s the triumphs in the Alpine Trials, gruelling pre-war races through over 20,000 kilometres of Northern Europe. There’s Woolf Barnato – the de facto leader of the band of motoring revellers known as The Bentley Boys, who purchased the company in 1926 with the inheritance from his diamond magnate father – setting off from Cannes in a 6½ Litre Bentley Speed Six and reaching London before Le Train Bleu even managed to reach Calais from the same starting point (and winning £100 in the process).

The marque so eloquently lauded by the late British broadcaster Llew Gardner – “To see one gliding, with supercilious grace, through a crowded street is to catch a glimpse a world of dinner at Whites, of fat cigars and nightcaps of Napoleon brandy,” he wrote in The Sunday Express – has very rich folklore when it comes to sporting prowess, as well as the luxury credentials Gardner was so moved by.

And, Bentley is clearly proud of its sporting pedigree. This year it will be 100 years since Walter Owen set into motion his plan to build “a fast car, a good car, the best in its class” and, to mark the occasion, at the Geneva International Motor Show in March, the brand will introduce a special edition model. Details remain allusive for now, but the vehicle will be inspired by one of those racing models that elevated Bentley to iconic status between the wars.

Stay tuned, aficionados of ultra-luxe sports cars.

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