Monday Editorial: Should History be Left in the Past

by James Broomhead
The works Bentley wins in their first UK race since 1930. But does it matter? (Credit: Brecht Decancq/Brecht Decancq Photography)

Before the podium finishers could finish drinking the remains of their bottles of Champagne at Silverstone there were several people asking the same question; when was the last time a works run Bentley won a race in the UK?

You could argue it’s a worthy question. This is a great British brand winning at a British track. Bentley’s history on the race track goes back as far as the early 1920s, and includes several victories at the highest level.

However, you could also argue ‘what does the history matter?’

That – if you’re supporting that argument – is certainly a valid point. The only thing the Le Mans winning teams of the 20s and the M-Sport run team of the weekend’s victory have in common is the winged B on the front of their cars.

So, does history have a place in modern racing? Should we – as those reporting on the current events – be leaning on history to help tell, or at least frame, the stories of the present.

Is racing history only good for the anoraks or the fact fiends.

Bentley’s win in the Blancpain Endurance Series at Silverstone was far from the only event of the weekend that conjured up images of motorsports history.

Few events in the racing calendar are as steeped in history and the tradition it spawns as the Indianapolis 500.

Take, if you will, the victor’s drink of milk. It owes its place in the festivities of the 16th and Georgetown purely to history of the race. Should winners be greeted with the more regular bottles of Champagne (the spraying of which is another custom that history has seen enshrined). If we’re in favour of removing history from modern racing then what sort a surface for a track is bricks anyway, let’s get the finish line properly paved.

However, perhaps the largest piece of history that came up during the weekend was the Monaco Grand Prix. Like the Indy 500 the Grand Prix by the Med has its own special traditions – the podium position drivers driving down to park on the pit straight. However, the Monaco Grand Prix itself is a piece of history squatting awkwardly in the middle of modern racing.

Everything about the track means it should – objectively – be consigned to the same page in the books as the F1 years on the Nordschleife, the original Spa-Francorchamps circuit and Rheims.

However, to have an F1 season without a trip to Monaco is unthinkable.

The drivers themselves – and whether history has a role to play in racing is more their choice than anyone’s – seem keen to acknowledge what has gone before them. From Simon Pagenaud’s Ayrton Senna lookalike helmet at Indy to the Bentley driver’s confession that the history of the brand gave them a formidable set of results to live up to with the company’s latest racing venture.

I’ve made my mind. I’m off to try to find a Bentley’s last win in the UK.

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