Kennelm Lee Guinness
Kennelm Lee Guinness experienced his first motor racing when rode as mechanic to his older brother Algernon who owned several fast Darracqs. He was one of the pre-Great War and early twenties set which counted amongst its members Louis Zborowski, Clive Gallop, Bertie Moir and Henry Segrave, all exponents of large and very large cars during that period.
In 1914 he won the Isle of Man T.T. race for Sunbeam having been one of the official works drivers since 1913.
Some time later at the 1921 Brooklands Easter meeting Guinness eventually got a big black and white V-12 Sunbeam wound up and put in a lap of 120.01 mph earning himself a coveted Brooklands 120 mph badge. In the Autumn of 1921 Guinness was timed down the Railway Straight at 135 mph, entering the finishing straight at 140 mph. KLG was awarded a cup by the BARC for his achievement and for running a truly thrilling race against a very fast Vauxhall and that infamous old Lorraine Dietrich "Vieux Charles Trois" which Malcolm Campbell had managed to retrieve from France after the Great War.
During practice on the 16th May 1922 KLG was timed by friends on the Railway Straight at 144 mph and on the following day in windy conditions he clocked an official 140.51 mph one way to take a new Brooklands lap record of 123.39 mph along with several other speed records over various distances. His official 137.15 mph flying kilometre record was to stand unbeaten for another seven years. In this car he went on to win the 1922 Duke of York race at 122.67 m.p.h. on his best laps.
He was particularly known for his success in 1½ litre Talbot Darracqs in which he won three consecutive races, The Brooklands 200 Mile race, Le Mans and the Penya Rhin Grand Prix.
In 1924 Guinness scored his second 200 Miles Race victory and also won the Swiss Voiturette GP at Meyrin, Geneva. His last race, the San Sebastian GP in Spain, brought disaster when his 2 litre supercharged Sunbeam was deflected by ruts and crashed down an embankment. Guinness's riding mechanic was killed, while he himself suffered head injuries which seriously affected him and contributed to his death in 1937. Another version of the cause of the crash at San Sebastian was as follows: The track marshals, misunderstanding the stewards' instructions to spread sand on the slippery Lasarte course, used clay instead, turning the surface into a skid pan. This was the cause of several crashes, the worst of which caused Guinness's to skid off the road with fatal consequences for the riding mechanic and serious injuries for Guinness, who thereafter suffered with bouts of black depression. He did lend a hand to Henry Segrave in America for the 200 m.p.h. record in the big red twin-engined Sunbeam - another car which now resides at Beaulieu - alongside the V12 Bluebird car.
His initials were perpetuated in "KLG" spark plugs, which he began developing in 1912 in Putney Vale, near London. Using mica instead of porcelain, his aim was to produce a few plugs for racing, but they proved so successful that demand 'mushroomed'. The war in 1914 brought immense orders from the Services, and the KLG spark plug became far more widely known than its creator.
Henry Segrave second from the right after winning the 1924
200 Miles Race
This site was last updated 01/04/04