Guest writer Kevin Parrott visited Brooklands in Surrey to see what remains of the world’s first racing circuit.
Brooklands racetrack in Surrey is a long-dormant 2.75mile concrete oval.
Underneath the modern industrial estate, supermarkets and newly-built houses, there lays the remains of a track with a very special claim.
Brooklands was the worlds first purpose built motor sport venue. It opening in 1907, just a few years before the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and long before the sound of engines echoed around Monza’s famous banking.
‘The Brickyard’ used a similar but slightly smaller oval design when it was completed two years later.
Britain’s love affair with motor sport was born here in Weybridge, Surrey. This was where the culture of competition and innovation, the relentless pursuit of speed, pushing of the boundaries of automotive technology took root.
As well as the technical strides being made here in the heat of competition, the attraction of the public to witness the spectacle also gained ground and motor sport was for the first time a sport for spectators.
Brooklands was built with this in mind. It had a capacity of around 280,000 – a huge number even by today’s standards.
The track hasn’t seen action since 1939 – 11 years before the modern world championship began. But its legacy is kept alive by a team of passionate enthusiasts of all things motor sport at the Brooklands Museum.
It is fitting therefore that in it’s current guise as a museum, that one of the immaculately preserved team sheds which housed team’s bespoke cars on the site of the track, currently holds an exhibition dedicated to Grand Prix.
I was shown around the exhibition by the friendly staff at Brooklands museum.
Amongst examples of many cars and aeroplanes (Brooklands had an illustrious second life in aviation) I find a 1991 McLaren MP4/6 show car, a 2001 Jordan EJ11 (ex Frentzen) a 1957 Cooper-Climax T43 and a 1961 Assegai Alfa Romeo F1. Suspended upside down from the ceiling of the shed was a 1994 Simtek.
I made my way out to the preserved section of the steeply banked track, which is an imposing and eerie presence.
Not crumbling and overgrown, it bears a resemblance with the banking at Monza which opened some 15 years later.
Over the years, this long-dormant monster has born witness to the breaking of many records and, sadly, more than a few bones as well.
The bravery of the racers of this first chapter in motor sport history, hurling aeroplane-engined cars around a speed bowl, is humbling.
As you can see from the aerial picture below, parts of the circuit have already been lost to property development. The owners recently started an initiative encouraging fans to buy a yard of the track to help preserve it:
Bill Boddy, a motor racing journalist and historian with a deep history of Brooklands, passed away last week. If you want to learn more about the circuit I strongly encourage you to seek out some of his books, including his 2006 work “Brooklands Giants: Brave Men and their Great Cars”.
For more information on visiting Brooklands Museum visit their official website.
Aerial map of Brooklands
Pictures from Brooklands
This is a guest article by Kevin Parrott. If you want to write a guest article for F1 Fanatic you can find all the information you need here.
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