R.A.C Tourist Trophy 1929

by Michael Satterfield

The Ards Peninsula in Northern Ireland was home to the 1929 Royal Auto Club Tourist Trophy, a course that took racers over 478 miles through the villages of Comber, Newtownards, and Dundonald, over 35 laps. The fastest cars and drivers from Europe were hitting record speeds, over 110 mph, as they raced through the city streets and country roads. Gentleman drivers in Bentleys, Mercedes, Alfas, Austins, Rileys, and Triumphs were paving the way for what would eventually become Formula 1.

Sir Henry Ralph Stanley Birkin who was racing his 4.5-liter Bentley, described the first lap of the race.
On the first lap, Caracciola led, and a fight began between the Mercedes and Glen Kidston’s 6 ½-litre Bentley. Almost at once the rain began to fall, and soon a storm was sweeping over the course, drenching the drivers and sending Catherine-wheels of spray from the tires. Bernard Rubin was the first to have a bad crash. He skidded, swerved wildly over the road, and in his own words, overturned slowly but gracefully. He tried to reach the switches to turn off the engine, but the engine had saved him the trouble. He and his mechanic lay underneath the car expecting another car to run into them at any moment. Their fear was luckily unfulfilled.
Sir Birkin's Mechanic for the race was none other than W.O. Bentley who was delighted with how the car performed but understood it was no match for the 7-liter supercharged Mercedes.

Eventually, the faster Mercedes-Benz SS, driven by Rudolf Caracciola would win the race, Looking at these pictures it is hard to imagine racing through the rough roads, on 4-inch wide Dunlop Tires at over 100 miles-per-hour.

Enjoy more photos below: