photos of John Cobb by courtesy of the Brooklands Society
Brooklands Race Track Weybridge Surrey
Brooklands Race Track is to the south-west of London, U.K.
Brooklands was the world's first purpose-built motor racing track, and one of the prevailing regrets of my life is that I never saw it lying derelict in the 1950's. As a boy I pestered my father that we should cycle over there, but he said it was all gone, with nothing to see. In the 1960's, I had a motor scooter and looked around but don't recall finding anything. Then, in the 1970's I was working all over the district as a tv and hi-fi engineer, and the opportunity arrived to search out the remains of the track.
From it's origins in 1907, the track saw commercial use by aircraft and, during the 60's, part of the south banking was removed to allow heavy jet-planes to take off. The River Wey runs through the area and was spanned by a ferro-concrete section, known as the Hennebique Bridge. This was demolished in November 1969. Later, worst of all, Gallagher Ltd broke into the high banking at the north end, to build an office block. This latter event meant that the 2.75 mile outer track could never be repaired and used again. Nevertheless, my photos, taken in mid-2006, show that there is plenty left of the track.
The area is now highly developed and fenced off. A museum trust charges an admission fee to the central part and all areas have been cleared up. I regret this. When I saw the track in the 70's, it was almost completely open and it was possible for me to walk through an opening, left by the removal of the ferro-concrete section, and walk to the little ticket office, standing in tall grass. Test hill stood in isolation and dereliction. It all looked as you would expect it to look. Until recently, you could drive in from the east side, past the old clubhouse and on to the high banking.
The Weybridge banking is about thirty feet tall and too steep for a person to climb, even on all fours. The Byfleet banking is less tall and steep. Unfortunately, the track was not well-built and was driven on before the thin concrete was properly cured. This and the bumps and ferro-concrete section, restricted the maximum average lap-speed to around 140 mph in 1930, well below what would be achievable nowadays.
Cars on the outer track normally raced anti-clockwise though the Malcolm Campbell Circuit used part of that track in reverse. Several photographs show cars going the wrong way. Short track racing was popular with the public, who grew tired of endless lapping of the main track.
In spite of the heavy physical demands of the Brooklands outer track, several of the fastest drivers were women, the most notable being the diminutive Kay Petre, pictured left, who survived a major crash, caused by Reg Parnell, and who later helped in the design of seating for the Leyland Mini-Minor.
My own family were well acquainted with Kaye Don, one of the most successful drivers and the first to top a 130 mph average speed for a lap. As mentioned on my motoring page, two of my uncles, Pom and Dixie van Hoorn, worked for Kaye Don and an aunt, Mina van Hoorn, was his girlfriend. His dog Boro, or Burra, is buried in our old garden, in Station Road, Hampton Wick.
The old photo at the top of the page shows John Cobb negotiating the bump area. Copies of this photo and others can be obtained at one of the following links:-
These quotations are taken from the Wikipedia, online encyclopedia:-
"Brooklands was a motor racing circuit built near Weybridge in Surrey, England. The brainchild of Hugh Locke-King, it was opened on June 17, 1907 and was the first custom-built banked motor race circuit in the world. It was the first ever oval style race track built for cars.
Brooklands requirements of speed and spectator visibility led to the track being built as a 100 ft wide, 2.75 miles long, banked oval. The banking was nearly 30 feet high in places. In addition to the oval, a bisecting "finishing straight" was built, increasing the track length to 3.25 miles, of which 1.25 miles was banked.
In February 1912, Thomas Sopwith opened his Sopwith School of Flying at Brooklands. In June 1912, Sopwith and several others set up the Sopwith Aviation Company here although their main premises were at Kingston-upon-Thames." (End of quote)
In fact, the track was not actually oval or egg-shaped, but similar to a rubber band, in order to accomodate the y-junction that swiched between the outer circuit and the home straight. This curiosity meant that drivers turned inwards before turning out towards the Weybridge banking. The Byfleet banking was 21 feet, 10 inches high on a 1550-foot radius. At the Weybridge end these figures were 28 feet, 8 inches and 1000 feet. The Railway straight was a half-mile - 880 yards - and the finishing staight was 991 yards.
use of photo courtesy of the Brooklands Society
While photographing at Brooklands in 2006, I used the zoom to pick up this fine old racing car, being put on to a trailer. It appears to be Earl Howe's Bugatti.
The three curious buildings, thought to be WWII air-raid shelters, shown in one of the slides, are on the inside of the Weybridge Banking, just before the Members' Bridge. Note the height of the banking in that photo.
I was surprised to find part of the Byfleet Banking now fully open to the public gaze, due to a new access road on the inside of the track. This banking is much less steep than the Weybridge end and John Cobb, pictured at the top of the page, approached that point at around 165mph.
When I last saw the control tower, fifteen years ago, I was immediately spotted by a security officer. Now it has a couple of major retail outlets next door to it!
Acknowledgements: Sirocom Ltd: Gallagher Ltd: Brooklands Society: Brooklands Ltd: Brooklands Museum Trust: Mercedes Benz UK: Sony UK: Elmbridge Borough Council: Elmbridge Housing Trust: