Racing Drivers

Henry “Tim” Birkin

August 17, 2013

Tim BirkinSir Henry ”Tim” Birkin is known as one of the Bentley Boys.

Tim Birkin was born in 1896, in Nottingham, Great Britain to wealthy family. His parents were Sir Thomas Stanley Birkin and Hon. Margaret Diana Hopetoun Chetwynd. In childhood, Henry Birkin gained the nickname Tim, which stuck right up to Birkin’s death.

Tim Birkin started his motor racing career in 1921. But after just a few races, business and family reasons forced him to retire for many years. He returned to race tracks in 1927 driving a Bentley 3 Litre in a six hour race at Brooklands.

In 1928 Birkin entered the Le Mans 24 Hour race driving a 4½ Litre Bentley with Jean Chassagne. Their Bentley led for the first 20 laps until a tire burst and the jammed wheel caused a delay. They finally finished fifth in the race. Next year Tim Birkin achieved his biggest victory when he and Woolf Barnato finished first at Le Mans driving Bentley Speed Six ”Old Number One”.

Tim Birkin was convinced that supercharging was the easiest way to increase engine power output. When Bentley refused to build a supercharged model, Birkin decided to develop it himself. With the financial help from Dorothy Paget the first supercharged conversion of the 4½ Litre, known as the Bentley Blower no.1 was built in 1929.

Supercharging the engine improved the car’s performance, but unlike the naturally aspirated 4½ Litre, the Bentley Blower proved to be quite unreliable. Tim Birkin drove the Bentley Blower in Le Mans in 1930 but did not finish. He drove the car to the second place in the French Grand Prix at Pau in 1930. That same year, Birkin broke the Brooklands track speed record lapping it with the average speed of 135.3 mph.

Bentley Motors withdrew from racing in 1930 and closed down the following year but Birkin continued his racing career. In 1931 he drove Maserati in the Grand Prix races and Alfa-Romeo in the sports car events. He won the 1931 Le Mans with Earl Howe in an Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 LM. In 1932 he raised the Brooklands Outer Circuit lap record to 137.96 mph in a Blower Bentley.

In May 1933 he came third in the Tripoli Grand Prix driving a new Maserati 8C 3000. During a pit stop he burnt his his arm badly against Maserati’s hot exhaust pipe. He returned to England but didn’t tell anybody about his injury. The wound turned septic and caused blood poisoning. Tim Birkin died on 22 June 1933 in London.

Tim Birkin driving Blower in Brooklands