Woolf Barnato, known among the Bentley Boys as ‘Babe’, a name at odds with his reputation of being a ‘useful’ heavyweight boxer. Immensely wealthy, inherited from his family’s South African diamond mining fortune.
He ploughed money into Bentley Motors and eventually became its chairman, as well as one of its leading race drivers.
Barnato could well have been associated with one of the leading rivals to the Bentley marque, the French built Bugatti. He was a friend of its manufacturer, Ettore Bugatti, who famously dismissed Bentleys as ‘Les camions le plus vite’ – the fastest trucks.
Woolf Barnato supported W O Bentley’s racing programme, with its annual forays to Le Mans, although there would be two years without further success after the 1924 win before the team began its legendary series of victories.
“The best driver we ever had” said W.O. Bentley of Woolf Barnato. Indeed Barnato exerted as powerful an influence on Bentley Motors as its founder. He was an all round sportsman. Barnato was one of the Bentley Boys outstanding drivers, recording wins in 1928, 1929 and 1930, at Le Mans.