15/6/1888 - 15/2/1970
The only professional racing driver the original Bentley company ever employed. He was also in charge of their experimental department. He took Bentley's first victory in the 1922 Tourist Trophy race on the Isle of Man and won Le Mans in 1924 with John Duff. Frank Clement died 52 years ago, he was 82
Frank Clement was the only professional racing driver the original company ever employed. He was also in charge of Bentley's experimental department.
In 1921 he achieves their first racing success winning the Junior Sprint Handicap at Brooklands in Surrey
The 1922 Tourist Trophy race on the Isle of Man was Bentley's first serious team event with three 3 litre cars entered. The race was one of the wettest on record and the loor boards of W.O.'s Bentley disintegrated shortly after the start. The weather eventually improved and all three Bentleys finished with Clement in 2nd, W.O. 4th and Hawkes, who had plug trouble, in 5th to win the team prize.
In 1923 the ACO organised the first 24 hour race at Le Mans. W.O. felt that the whole thing was crazy, but John Duff, one of Bentley's London agents, secured works support and entered with Clement. The Bentley led the race at one point, but a stone holed the petrol tank causing them to run out of fuel some distance from the pits. They eventually came home 4th.
The following year Duff returned with Clement again and with increased support from the works. That year the race required all cars to run for 20 laps with the hood up. Duff set a record for raising the Bentley’s hood, completing the task in just 41 seconds. Duff and Clement brought the Bentley home to take the win, ten miles ahead of the second placed car.
It was 1927 before Bentley won at Le Mans again though not without considerable drama. Clement and Callingham led the first lap with Baron d’Erlanger in the No. 2 Bentley third on the road. Clement eclipsed the fastest lap on his second lap at a speed just shy of 72mph.
As night fell Callingham was on the run from Arnage to Maison Blanche when he saw the No. 11 2.0-liter Theo Schneider sideways in the road. Unable to avoid it he crashed and was throw out. Shaken he started to walk back toward Arnage to warn the oncoming cars when George Duller arrived at speed in the No. 2 car and also crashed pushing the Callingham Bentley back into the road.
Davis in the No. 3 was approaching White House at over 80mph when, sensing something was wrong, he braked hard. Unable to clear the mass of wreckage he clipped Duller’s car which then fell on him.
In a matter of seconds the entire three-car Bentley team was wrecked or crippled at White House. However Davis was convinced that his car could be saved and set about getting the crippled car back to the pits for repair. The car, known as 'Old No. 7', was eventually able to continue and, in the final hour of the race, caught and passed the leading car to win at an average speed of 61.35mph.
Later that year Clement won the Montlhery 24 hour sports car race with George Duller, a well known jockey, in a 4½ litre Bentley.
He won the BRDC 500 Brooklands in 1929 with Jack Barclay and in 1930 finished second at le Mans behind Barnato and Kidston in another Bentley.