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Australia’s first Le Mans winner

In addition to the latest round of the Repco Supercars Championship occurring in Darwin, it also marks the annual running of the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Australia has enjoyed great success thanks to drivers Vern Schuppan (1983), Geoff Brabham (1993) and David Brabham (2009) greeted the chequered flag, but during the roaring 1920s another was making his name in what was an iconic line-up.

The ‘Bentley Boys’ were a famed group of wealthy British motorists during the 1920s competing in the world’s most prestigious events and keeping the British brand’s esteemed reputation alive.

Led by Bentley owner Woolf Barnato, it proved a short yet memorable part of the brand’s history as the era ended when the Great Depression arrived in the 1930s and excesses were cut leading to Rolls Royce purchasing the brand in 1931.

However, an Australian was part of the ‘Bentley Boys’ albeit he was hardly known outside of his home country.

Bernard Rubin was the son of a pearl salesman born in Melbourne and moved with his family to London in 1908 at the age of 12.

Serving for the Royal Garrison Artillery in World War I and the Royal Flying Corps led Rubin to be badly injured where he required three years of treatment to walk again.

Although based in England, Rubin’s interests in Australia didn’t end as he bought property in the Northern Territory following his father’s death in 1919 before an interest in motorsport developed.

Rubin’s inclusion in the ‘Bentley Boys’ was due to his close association with Barnato and he made his debut at Brooklands in 1928 finishing sixth.

Remarkably, Rubin then teamed up with Barnato at Le Mans and took victory for Bentley despite damage during the race.

It was a short career behind the wheel for Rubin as after his Le Mans success he arrived the next year to defend his title, but the pursuit only lasted seven laps.

In August 1929, Rubin’s career ended when his Bentley overturned during the RAC Tourist Trophy as he transferred to team ownership aiding in Henry Birkin’s efforts.

Rubin and Birkin took class victory at the Mille Miglia in 1933 until tragedy struck at the Tripoli Grand Prix. While reaching for a cigarette during a pit stop, Birkin burnt his forearm on the exhaust and died five weeks later.

Finally Rubin turned his attention to the air and setting records, but he soon became sick and died in 1936 of pulmonary tuberculosis.