Celebrating 110 years of engineering innovation at Brooklands as historic finishing straight reopens
- Credit: Archant
As Brooklands Museum prepares to re-open its original finishing straight on Saturday June 17, 110 years after the race track first opened to the public in 1907, Rebecca Younger takes a look at its motor racing history
Originally published in Surrey Life magazine June 2017
Brooklands, the birthplace of British motor sport and aviation, opened to the public in June 1907 and quickly became a focal point for motor racing and aircraft production, as well as destination of choice for 1920s and 1930s high society.
The earliest flight trials took place here as early as 1908 and, more than 80 years ago, Britain’s first and only 24-hour motor race, the Brooklands Double Twelve took place here. In deference to local residents’ objections to night-time racing there, the race, organised by the Junior Car Club, ran as two 12-hour daylight stints on consecutive days.
Just as the Le Mans 24-hour race does, the Double Twelve attracted the finest drivers, with names like Giulio Ramponi, Freddie March and John Cobb gracing the winners’ rostrum.
Today those halcyon days of racing and flying are evoked at the 32-acre site through a year-round programme of events and activities, allowing visitors to see and experience the vast collections of vintage racing cars, motorcycles, bicycles and aircraft.
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This year, the annual Brooklands Double Twelve Motorsport Festival, held on the weekend closest to the date the track first opened to the public is extra special as it not only marks 110 years since the track opened to the public but will also see the original Finishing Straight, which has been buried under a hanger since 1939, re-opened.
• Brooklands Double Twelve Motorsport Festival takes place from 10am to 5pm on Saturday June 17 and Sunday June 18. Tickets: £11 adults, £6 children. Brooklands Museum, Brooklands Road, Weybridge, Surrey KT13 0QN. Tel: 01932 857381. Web: brooklandsmuseum.com
A history of Brooklands firsts
• June 17, 1907: The world’s first purpose built motor-racing circuit opens to the public at Brooklands
• April 20, 1908: The first official motorcycle race takes place at Brooklands
• November 8, 1909: New World Land Speed Record is set by V.Hemery, driving a Benz at 125.95mph
• September 25, 1913: Adolph Pegoud, flying a Bleriot monoplane, becomes the first man to loop-the-loop in Britain
• June 15, 1919: First non-stop trans-Atlantic flight in a Brooklands-built Vickers Vimy, is flown by Alcock and Brown
• April 28, 1921: Douglas Davidson, riding a Harley Davidson, becomes the first motorcycle rider to achieve 100mph over the flying kilometre
• May 17, 1922: Kenelm Lee Guinness sets the third and last World Land Speed Record established at Brooklands, driving at 133.75mph
• August 8, 1926: First British Grand Prix held at Brooklands
• October 7, 1935: Ultimate Brooklands lap record of 143.44mph is set by John Cobb, along with the highest official speed of the track at 151.97mph
• June 29, 1962: First flight of Vicker VC10 – the largest jetliner built solely in the UK – takes off from Brooklands
• March 2, 1969: First flight of Concorde, 30 per cent of which was built at Brooklands, is made from Toulouse in France
• August 23, 1995: New World Cycling Speed Record is set by Bruce Bursford (207.9mph) using a special static rig