Crossing Every Continent in the World
The Endurance Rally Association (ERA) New Zealand Classic Rally is a rally that every vintage Bentley enthusiast should compete in, at least once in their life. With an average distance of 343km a day for 23 days, the competitors see every terrain the country has to offer. From dusty country tracks, grueling rainforest roads and breathtaking canyon roads. The event relies on three important factors in equal measure; consistent levels of driving skill, a diligent navigator and a car that is up for the challenge. We spoke to husband/wife team Martin and Olivia Hunt, who took part in the rally across New Zealand’s beautiful landscape in a Bentley 4½ Litre and father/daughter team Bill and Olivia Holroyd who also took part in their stunning Bentley 4½ Litre.
Rallying is described by many as the best way to travel the world. You receive an incomparable bond between your navigator and your machine while visiting some of the most dramatic and obscure locations such as the Milford Sound in New Zealand, which is aptly named “Fiord land”. Martin Hunt claims “I think it’s more enjoyable to rally in a vintage Bentley than a modern car like a Porsche 911, you get more of a reception when you stop – a real sense of achievement.
Everyone wants to see the Bentley, it attracts such a crowd!”. Vintage Bentleys are perfectly suited for the New Zealand Classic rally due to their ability to adapt from tarmac to gravel which you can slide with confidence. Bill Holroyd adds “most of the rally was on gravel and dusty roads. The Bentley is built for gravel and can slide quite controllably, which on hairpin bends with steep drop-offs can provide some excitement… Provided they are properly prepared the Bentley can handle anything that the rally can throw at it”.
The harsh roads in New Zealand can be demanding on both the occupants and the machine, whether you’re competing in a 1974 Porsche 911 or a 1927 Bentley 4½ Litre. The Bentley 4½ Litre of Martin and Olivia Hunt had many tweaks and adjustments made to handle the conditions in New Zealand as seamlessly as possible.
With over 25 years preparing vintage Bentleys for endurance rallying, the team at Vintage Bentley know how to bring together a competitive Bentley while preserving the car’s originality. “Before each rally the car goes to Vintage Bentley for a complete going through. Over the years we have had some extensive rebuilds done on the brakes and the suspension gets worked on after virtually every event. The only modification needed this year were two new magnetos to help add a little reliability as a “just in case” measure. The New Zealand Classic was the best part of nearly 5,000 miles and we had no problems at all, not even a puncture!” says Martin Hunt. Bill Holroyd in the nearly identical Bentley 4½ Litre says “William goes over every single component of the Bentley. He knows what the car will go through during the rally. Most people underestimate what a beating the cars are going to receive, but William knows what to do instinctively. Nothing is left to chance. The great thing about William is he is only at the end of the phone. He shipped a set of tyres out for us from the UK because our old ones were getting pretty bald!”.
Over the course of the 23 days and 6,500 kms of endurance rallying through New Zealand, the pair of Bentley 4½ Litres performed flawlessly and proved time and time again that the only way to rally is vintage Bentley style! With approximately 50 years spanning between the competing cars, it is a true testament to the driving and navigation skills of Martin and Olivia Hunt and the preparation of the car by the Vintage Bentley team back in West Sussex.