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Celebrating Brooklands: A Pioneer in Motorsport and Aviation

Brooklands Circuit
Brooklands Circuit in June 1907 for the 24-hour record

Today marks the anniversary of a monumental milestone in automotive history. On June 17, 1907, Brooklands, the world’s first purpose-built banked motor racing circuit, officially opened its doors. Nestled in Weybridge, Surrey, this iconic track was the brainchild of Hugh Fortescue Locke King, who envisioned a space where British automotive engineering could flourish free from the constraints of public road speed limits. At a cost of £150,000 (over £16 million today), Brooklands was a marvel of its time, boasting a 2.75-mile track that included steep banked curves and a 100-foot-wide surface​​.

The Birth of a Racing Icon

The Brooklands motor circuit was conceived in response to the Motor Car Act of 1903, which imposed a blanket 20 mph speed limit on public roads. This restriction threatened the growth of Britain’s auto industry by limiting high-speed testing opportunities. To counter this, Locke King commissioned Colonel Capel Lofft Holden of the Royal Artillery to design the circuit. Construction began in 1906, resulting in a 100-foot-wide, 2.767-mile-long, banked oval with nearly 30-foot-high banks in some areas. The track included a bisecting “Finishing Straight,” extending the total length to 3.369 miles​.

The Brooklands Circuit Layout
The Brooklands Circuit Layout

The decision to use uncoated concrete instead of asphalt was driven by the challenges of laying tarmacadam on the banking and the high costs of asphalt. This led to the track’s somewhat bumpy surface in later years due to differential settlement over time. A unique feature of Brooklands was the “Fifty Foot Line,” a dotted black line along the track’s center, theoretically allowing drivers to navigate the banked corners without steering​​.

Inaugural Events and Early Influence

The track was inaugurated on June 17, 1907, with a luncheon attended by many of Britain’s motor manufacturers. A procession of 43 cars, including one driven by Charles Rolls, followed the luncheon. The first competitive event, held on June 28-29, featured three cars attempting to break the world distance record for 24 hours. The first official race meeting took place on July 6, 1907, drawing over 10,000 spectators​​.

Brooklands quickly became a premier venue for motor racing, influencing the development of other tracks like the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which held its inaugural race in August 1909​.

Dual Heritage: Motorsports and Aviation

Brooklands wasn’t just about cars; it was a hub for early aviation too. The infield area of the track became one of Britain’s first aerodromes, hosting pioneering aviators like A.V. Roe and Tommy Sopwith. By 1918, it was the largest aircraft manufacturing center in Britain, producing military aircraft such as the Wellington and civilian planes like the Viscount and VC-10​​.

Innovations and Legacy

Brooklands was not just a track but a crucible of innovation. It introduced various race formats and became the birthplace of British motorsport traditions. The term “paddock,” still used in racing today, originated here, reflecting the horse racing influence on early motor racing culture.

During the interwar years, Brooklands hosted the first British Grand Prix in 1926, and it was the base for Sir Malcolm Campbell’s land speed record-breaking cars. The 1930s saw the addition of the Campbell Circuit, a road course within the original track that catered to the evolving demands of motorsport.

A Living Legacy

Today, Brooklands is much more than a historical site; it’s a living museum and a testament to over a century of automotive and aviation innovation. The Brooklands Museum continues to celebrate this heritage, offering a range of exhibits and events that draw enthusiasts from around the world.

As we celebrate this anniversary, we remember Brooklands not just as a race track but as a symbol of human ingenuity and passion for speed, flight, and engineering excellence. Whether you’re a motorsport aficionado or an aviation enthusiast, Brooklands stands as a beacon of the relentless pursuit of progress and adventure.

For more detailed insights into Brooklands’ storied past, visit the Brooklands Museum and Racing Circuits Info​.


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