In 1930, Bentley was a seriously dominant force in motorsports. The company had won most of the runnings of the 24 Hours of Le Mans up to that point, thanks in large part to the big “Bentley Blower” race cars. The cars packed big power from their supercharged engines, but were still very easy to control. So when Tim Birkin, fresh off his own Le Mans win in 1929, decided to take on Alfa Romeo’s dominance of the Mille Miglia, spirits were high at Bentley. It was believed that Birkin would easily win the thousand-mile endurance race, but a lack of “due preparation” meant that he never even started the race.

Now, 85 years later, it seems that the missed opportunity is still bothering a few people at Bentley, because Richard Charlesworth —Bentley’s Director of Royal and VIP Relations- will pilot a 1930, 4 ½-liter Bentley Blower at Mille Miglia over the course of 4 days. It’s not the same No. 2 “Birkin Blower” which failed to start the race in 1930, but it is a period-correct machine, easily verifiable as the most successful race car in the company’s history.

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Why it matters

The Mille Miglia is no longer the flat-out hardcore endurance race that it was from 1927 to 1957. It is now a classic car event which is still timed, but much less prone to fatal crashes. In order to participate, a car has to be the same model as one that participated in the original version of the race, with the 1930 Bentley 4 ½-liter Blower getting a pass because Birkin did technically qualify. It will (theoretically) be up against such prewar racing legends as the original Alfa Romeo 8C and the Bugatti Type 57C. It should be an impressive and incredibly valuable procession to watch.

Bentley Marks Birkin's Anniversary With Mille Miglia Run Exterior
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Press Release

In 1930, ‘Bentley Boy’ Tim Birkin claimed his aborted attempt on the Mille Miglia in his legendary Blower was due to a lack of “due preparation”. 85 years on, Bentley has ensured all plans are in place for a successful Blower run in the 2015 event.

‘Bentley Boys’ the Hon. Sir Henry (Tim) Birkin and Bentley Chairman Woolf Barnato were to be the first British drivers to attempt the thousand-mile Italian test of endurance, in a supercharged ‘Bentley Blower’ known as the No. 2 ‘Birkin Blower’. According to contemporary media reports, however, ‘much disappointment was felt at the news of the Bentley withdrawal from the Brescia Thousand Miles Race’.

This year, Bentley’s original 1930 4½-litre supercharged Blower is aiming to finish what its sibling never started, taking on the world-renowned cross-country route between 14 and 17 May.

Director of Royal and VIP Relations, Richard Charlesworth, who will be piloting the historic Blower, said: “When the Blower was built in 1930 the Mille Miglia was uncharted territory for British racers. Some 85 years on and the Bentley is now a familiar sight – this year will be the Blower’s fifth entry. Last year we achieved the best result ever for Bentley, and this year we are hoping to continue that success.”

One of just 50 examples built for the road, the 85-year-old Blower features its original Vanden Plas Open Sports Four-Seat body. It was described by Autocar magazine in September 1930 as having ‘the appeal of immense power, linked with great docility’ – qualities the team will be hoping to exploit in Italy.

Built for racing, all Blowers featured the legendary supercharger installation developed by Amherst Villiers. The car running the Mille Miglia this year started life in 1930 as one of the company’s first showroom demonstrators, and is still performing eight decades on. With its classic British Racing Green livery and distinctive exhaust note, the Blower is one of the most instantly recognisable cars of all time.

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