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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

There is also a type of windscreen known as "Brooklands" or "Brookland screen".
Location Surrey, England
Opened 1907
Closed 1939
Surface Concrete
Turns 3
Banking 30°

Brooklands was a 2.75-mile (4.43 km) motor racing circuit and aerodrome built near Weybridge in Surrey, England. It opened in 1907, and was the world's first purpose-built motorsport venue.[1] The circuit hosted its last race in 1939, and was also one of Britain's first airfields. Today it is home for the Brooklands Museum, a major aviation and motoring museum, as well as a venue for vintage car, motorcycle and other transport-related events.



The Brooklands circuit was the brainchild of Hugh Locke-King, and was opened on 17 June 1907 as the first purpose-built banked motor race circuit in the world. Following the Motor Car Act 1903, Britain was subject to a blanket 20 mph (32 km/h) blanket speed limit on public roads: at a time when nearly 50% of the planet's new cars were produced in France, there was a concern that Britain's infant auto-industry would be hampered by the inability to undertake sustained high speed testing[2].

Apparently drawing inspiration from the development at Brooklands, the Indianapolis Speedway was built soon afterwards and held its inaugural race in August 1909.

Requirements of speed and spectator visibility led to the Brooklands track being built as a 100 ft (30 m) wide, 2.75 miles (4.43 km) long, banked oval. The banking was nearly 30 feet (9 m) high in places. In addition to the oval, a bisecting "Finishing Straight" was built, increasing the track length to 3.25 miles (5.23 km), of which 1.25 miles (2.01 km) was banked. It could host up to 287,000 spectators in its heyday.[3]

Owing to the complications of laying tarmacadam on banking, and the expense of laying asphalt, the track was built in uncoated concrete. This led in later years to a somewhat bumpy ride, as the surface suffered differential settlement over time.

Along the centre of the track ran a dotted black line, known as the Fifty Foot Line. By driving over the line, a driver could theoretically take the banked corners without having to use the steering wheel.

Eleven days after the circuit opened, it played host to the world's first 24 hour motor event, with Selwyn Edge leading three specially converted Napier cars around the circuit. Over 300 red railway lamps were used to light the track during the night. Flares were used to mark the upper boundary of the track. Edge drove his car for the full duration, with the drivers of the other two cars taking the more familiar shift approach. One of S. F. Edge's leading drivers, Miss Dorothy Levitt, was refused entry despite having been the 'first woman to compete in a motor race' in 1903, and holding the 'Ladies World Land Speed Record'. Women were not allowed to compete for several years.

The world record for the first person to cover 100 miles (160 km) in 1 hour was set by Percy E. Lambert at Brooklands, on 15 February 1913 when driving his 4.5 litre sidevalve Talbot. He actually covered 103 miles, 1470 yards (167.1 km) in 60 minutes. A contemporary film of his exploits on that day can be viewed at the Brooklands Museum.

During World War I, Brooklands closed to motor racing and was requisitioned by the War Office. Vickers Aviation Ltd set up a factory in 1915, and Brooklands soon became a major centre for the construction, testing and supply of military aeroplanes.

Motor racing resumed in 1920 after extensive track repairs and Grand Prix motor racing was established at Brooklands in 1926 by Henry Segrave, after his victories in the 1923 French Grand Prix and the San Sebastián Grand Prix the following year raised interest in the sport in Britain. This first British Grand Prix was won by Louis Wagner and Robert Sénéchal, sharing the drive in a Delage 155B. The second British Grand Prix was staged there in 1927 and these two events resulted in improved facilities at Brooklands.

During the late 1930s Brooklands also hosted massed start cycle racing events organised by the National Cyclists' Union (as the sport's governing body, the NCU banned such events from public roads). In 1939, it was used as a location for the Will Hay film, Ask a Policeman.[4]

When World War II broke out in 1939, motor racing ceased and the site was turned over to war-time production of military aircraft. Some of the track was damaged during this time by enemy bombing and sections were also covered by temporary dispersal hangars. Racing never returned to Brooklands.

Brooklands Aerodrome

Brooklands also became one of Britain's first airfields. In 1908 it witnessed the first taxiing and towed flight trials of a British full-size powered aircraft by a British pilot, Alliott Verdon-Roe. In the summer of 1910, Hilda Hewlett and Gustave Blondeau opened Britain's first flying school at Brooklands. Hewlett and Blondeau also started their aircraft manufacturing company, Hewlett & Blondeau Limited, on site before moving to larger premises at Leagrave, Bedfordshire. In February 1912, Thomas Sopwith opened his Sopwith School of Flying and, that June, Sopwith, with several others, set up the Sopwith Aviation Company here, although their main premises were at Kingston upon Thames. Blériot, Martinsyde, and Vickers later produced military aeroplanes at Brooklands which became Britain's largest aircraft manufacturing centre by 1918. Many flying schools operated here before 1914 and the aerodrome became a major flying training centre between the wars.

In World War II, the site was again used for military aircraft production, in particular the Vickers Wellington, Vickers Warwick and Hawker Hurricane and was extensively camouflaged. Trees were also planted into some sections of the concrete circuit to help screen the Hawker and Vickers aircraft factories there. Despite these efforts, the Vickers factory was badly bombed by the Luftwaffe on 4 September 1940 with at least 87 aircraft workers killed and 419 injured. From 1944-72 Vickers (and later BAC) also used nearby Wisley aerodrome which offered a longer runway and less built-up surroundings.

After the war, the circuit was in poor condition and it was sold to Vickers-Armstrongs in 1946 for continued use as an aircraft factory. New aircraft types including the Viking, Vickers Valetta, Varsity, Viscount, Vanguard and VC10 were next manufactured and delivered from there.

In 1951, construction of a new hard runway required a section of the track's Byfleet Banking to be removed to allow Vickers Valiant V-bombers to be flown out to Wisley.

After considerable expansion with increasing commercial success in the 1950s, the Vickers factory became part of the new British Aircraft Corporation in 1960 and went on to design and build the BAC TSR.2, One-Eleven and major parts for Concorde. The factory contracted in size in the mid-1970s, became part of the newly-formed British Aerospace in 1977 and finally closed in 1988-89 although BAE Systems still retain a logistics centre there today.

In 1987 the site also become home to the Brooklands Museum, which is dedicated to preserving and interpreting the site's motoring and aviation heritage. From 1990 to 2003 the Museum staged regular fly-ins for visiting light aircraft using the Northern half of the original runway and staffed these events with an all-volunteer team. In early 2004 the central area of Brooklands including the hard runway and remaining racetrack was sold to DaimlerChrysler UK Retail and Mercedes-Benz World opened to the public on 29 October 2006. This development incorporates a vehicle test tracks and an off-road circuit and includes a conference centre and extensive Mercedes-Benz showrooms.

Following significant earlier work by The Brooklands Society (which is entirely independent of Brooklands Museum), certain buildings, structures and remaining sections of the track first became the subject of preservation orders in the mid 1970s and this legal protection was reviewed by English Heritage and increased by the DCMS in 2002). A draft Brooklands Conservation Plan was instigated by English Heritage and prepared in 2003 by DCUK consultants Terence O'Rourke and is due to be officially adopted in 2010.

Present day

Part of The Members' Banking today.

Modern companies based at Brooklands today include Argos, BAE Systems, Currys-PC World, JTI, Marks & Spencer, Mercedes-Benz World, Mothercare, Procter & Gamble, Sony UK, The Storage Pod and Tesco.

Brooklands Museum houses many historic aircraft including the Vickers Wellington bomber recovered from Loch Ness in 1985, a British Airways Concorde, G-BBDG, the UK's first production Concorde, and more recently the 40% scale model "G-CONC" gate guardian from Heathrow. There are also many other civil and military aircraft on display including a Vickers Vanguard, Viscount, VC10. The majority of these exhibits were built at Brooklands or have close associations with the site. The VC10 was built and first flown at Brooklands and after airline service with British United and later British Caledonian Airways, became the official VIP transport for the Sultan of Oman until retired in July 1987 and donated by the Sultan of Oman's Royal Flight.

Brooklands made a notable TV appearance when it featured in the 1990 'The Disappearance of Mr. Davenheim' episode of Agatha Christie's Poirot, when Hercule Poirot investigates a crime committed involving a racing driver. The banking of Brooklands was also used as a 'road location' in an episode of The Bill where the CID foiled an armed robbery and resulted in a 'shoot out'. American car enthusiast Barry Meguiar (President and CEO of Meguiar's) has featured the Brooklands on his Speed Channel show Car Crazy.

Although the circuit is no longer driveable, it can still be simulated in the Spirit of Speed: 1937 game for the PC, in which it was re-created in detail. Several other video games also feature Brooklands.

In 2009, BBC Top Gear presenter James May announced plans to recreate the full length Brooklands using Scalextric track and cars.[5] This was undertaken with a team of 350 volunteers building the track from an uncounted number of pieces of Scalextric track, navigating ponds and roads, closely following the route of the old Brooklands track. This event broke the Guinness World Record for the longest ever Scalextric track in the world, intended to measure the original 2.75 miles (4.43 km) of the original Brooklands circuit but in reality recording 2.95 miles (4.75 km) in length (due to the need to navigate modern features that block the original course). The episode was shown on BBC2 on 17 November 2009 as part of "James May's Toy Stories".

Brooklands Centenary

Brooklands motor course celebrated its centenary on 16/17 June 2007. Throughout 2007, various special events were organised by Brooklands Museum in order to celebrate its 100th birthday. Events included use of the Byfleet banking for the first time in nearly 70 years, a Formula One car demonstration by Mclaren-Mercedes, driven by Gary Paffett in conjunction with Mercedes-Benz World and a 24-hour slot car race to commemorate S.F. Edge's achievement of driving for 24 hours averaging over 100 mph (161 km/h).[6]

People associated with Brooklands



Notes and references

  1. ^ Although auto racing at the Milwaukee Mile in the United States predates Brooklands by four years, that venue was built as a horse racing track in the 1870s.
  2. ^ "How Brooklands started". Autocar 127 (nbr 3731): page 43. 17 August 1967.  
  4. ^ Ask A Policeman
  5. ^ "May to attempt Scalextric record". BBC. 7 August 2009. Retrieved 2 January 2010.  
  6. ^

External links

Coordinates: 51°20′56″N 0°28′21″W / 51.34889°N 0.4725°W / 51.34889; -0.4725



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