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In the archive we have this portrait of Joel Woolf Barnato (1895-1948) who became Chairman of Bentley Motors in 1926. He was a financier, Member of the Royal Automobile Club and also a keen racing driver. Barnato was a known as one of the ‘Bentley Boys’, who were a social circle of British motorists who enjoyed driving Bentley cars, and he was nicknamed ‘Babe’ due to his robust, heavyweight boxer stature.
Barnato won Le Mans three times as a driver; once in 1928 driving with Bernard Rubin in a Bentley 4½ Litre, in 1929 with Sir Henry ‘Tim’ Birkin in a Bentley Speed Six (‘Old Number One’), and in 1930 with Glen Kidston in a Bentley Speed Six (‘Old Number One’).
In 1930 Barnato unofficially raced his H. J. Mulliner-bodied formal saloon 6½ Litre Bentley Speed Six in the ‘Blue Train Races’. Le Train Bleu ran between Calais and the French Riviera and during 1920s-30s motorists attempted to beat this train with their automobiles. Barnato made £100 bet that he would beat the boat-train from Calais to London. By crossing the channel with the ferry from Calais to Dover and then travelling on the public roads, he managed to meet his destination and win the bet. After this race, the Bentley 6½ Litre and the high-performance Bentley Speed Six cars were nicknamed the ‘Blue Train Bentleys’ by Barnato in memory of that race.