Top Gear's James May is banking on Brooklands

Top Gear presenter James May's bond with the historic Brooklands motor-racing circuit in Weybridge grew stronger on Tuesday as he accepted custody of part of the iconic members' banking from land speed record holder, Richard Noble

Top Gear presenter James May’s bond with the historic Brooklands motor racing circuit in Weybridge grew stronger on Tuesday as he accepted custody of part of the iconic members’ banking from land speed record holder, Richard Noble.

Last year, May organised the first race in 70 years around the track, but this time he was on hand to launch Brooklands Museum’s new fundraising scheme, Banking on Brooklands.

The new initiative, which allows supporters to ‘buy’ custody of a square yard of the circuit, aims to raise �250,000.

“This represents a very important step on the accelerator,” said Lord Trefgarne, chairman of Brooklands Museum Trustees.

“We need an increasing level of funds to ensure that Brooklands fulfils its promise not only to preserve but also to enhance its rich legacy of British pioneering development in both motor racing and aviation for future generations.”

A total of 2,000 separate square-yard sections are being released with prices starting from �95 and sections named after circuit legends (see below).

Most Read

It’s been an important year for Brooklands Museum, which has recently received the freehold of its site from former landlord Japan Tobacco International and seen plans for Cobham Bus Museum’s long expected move to join them in Weybridge come closer to fruition.

Brooklands Museum, Brooklands Road, Weybridge KT13 0QN: 01932 857381. Get your hands on a piece of history at

Photo: Karen Sutton

BANKING ON BROOKLANDS: the personalities behind Surrey's motor racing and aviation history Top of the banking: �150

1: LOCKE KING, Hugh Fortescue 1848-1926Born at Woburn Park in 1848. Married Ethel Gore Browne in1884. Inherited his father’s Weybridge property, including Brooklands House in 1885. Provided the land and funds to build the Brooklands Racing Circuit in 1907, which in turn led to it being the greatest manufacturing centre of aircraft in Britain throughout most of the 20th Century.

2: COBB, John Rhodes. 1899-1952  (Napier-Railton, Delage)Set the Outer Circuit record at Brooklands for all time, driving the Napier-Railton in 1935 at 143.44mph, and set the Land Speed Record driving the Railton-Mobile Special in 1947 in Utah at 394 mph. 

3: H�M�RY Victor 1876 – 1950 (Benz)Raced on the Continent, in the USA and at Brooklands.  In 1905 took the Land Speed Record to 104.65mph driving the 200hp Darracq.  Driving a Benz he also took the Land Speed Record at Brooklands in 1909 and took more World records in 1912, with a Lorraine-Dietrich. 

4: STRAIGHT, Whitney 1912-1979 (Duesenberg, Maserati)Raced on the Continent and at Brooklands.  Took the fourth fastest lap record at Brooklands in the Duesenberg at 138.15 mph in 1934. Awarded the Brooklands Mountain Championship in 1933 driving a Maserati.  Distinguished RAF war-time career and Chairman of BOAC and Rolls-Royce.

5: STANILAND, CHRIS 1905 – 1942 (Multi-Union, Bugatti)Drove the Multi-Union at 141.45mph - the third fastest Outer Circuit lap.Made a considerable impact on the motor racing scene in 1920s and 1930s, as well as being Fairey Aviation’s top test pilot.  Started racing motorcycles at Brooklands around 1924, and driving Bugattis on the track two years later.  In 1931 he won the JCC Double Twelve Hour race with the Earl of March.

6: STEWART, ( alias Hawkes, n�e Glubb) Gwenda 1894-1990  (Miller, Duesenberg)Holds the Women’s Outer Circuit lap record, taken in 1935, driving the Derby-Miller at 135.95mph.  Also holds the outright record at Montlhery at 145.94mph.  Took many other records on both two and four wheels.

7: HOWE, The Earl Frances Henry Richard Penn Curzon 1884-1964  (ERA, Bugatti)One of the best loved figures in motor sport. Winner of the 1931 Le Mans race. Represented motor racing as Chairman of the RAC Competition Committee and President of the BRDC.

8: GARDNER Major A.J.T. (“GOLDIE”)   (MG, Austin 7)Well-known MG driver at Brooklands and in the Tourist Trophy races in Ulster.  Started racing in an Austin Seven in 1926, changing to MGs in the 1930s, where he achieved a 120mph lap with an MG Magnette, as well as a class win in the BRDC 500.  In 1939 he took records in the streamlined ‘Magic Magnette’ at 203mph for the flying mile in Germany.  He continued record breaking in Belgium and the USA after the war. 

9: CAMPBELL, Sir Malcolm 1885-1948 (Bugatti, Darracq, Lorraine-Dietrich, Sunbeam, Itala, Ford)Drove more racing and record breaking cars at Brooklands than any other driver.  Famous for his ‘Blue Bird’ racing and Land Speed Record cars.  By 1935 he had raised the Land Speed Record to 301 mph. 

10: LAMBERT, Percy 1881-1913 (Talbot, Austin)The first time 100 miles covered in 1 hour was in February1913 at Brooklands by Lambert driving a Talbot.  Killed on the track later the same year while attempting to beat his own record.

11: BIRKIN, Sir Henry “Tim” 1896-1933 (Bentley)Leading member of the Bentley racing team. Brooklands driver and record-breaker.  Famous for his team of supercharged Bentley cars and ‘The Bentley Boys’ who epitomised the ‘Glamour’ of Brooklands in the 1930s. Birkin achieved the 5th fastest Outer-Circuit lap record at 137.96mph in a single seater Bentley special.

Middle section of banking: �125

12: EYSTON, George 1897-1979 (MG, Delage)Raced motorcycles and cars at Brooklands. Drove a wide variety of cars from 750cc MG, 10� litre Delage to 73 litre Land Speed Record ‘Thunderbolt’.  In 1933 won the 1100cc class in the Mille Miglia, Italy in an MG and a year later the Empire Trophy at Brooklands.  In 1938 ‘Thunderbolt’ took the Land Speed Record at 357 mph.

13: DON, Kaye 1891-1981 (Sunbeam, Bugatti)First driver to lap Brooklands Outer Circuit at over 130mph in 1928 driving a Sunbeam.  In the same year won the Tourist Trophy in a Lea Francis.  Piloting ‘Miss England III’ he took the World Water Speed Record in 1932 at 120.5mph. 

14: THOMAS, John Godfrey Parry 1884-1927 (Leyland-Thomas, ‘Babs’ Riley-Brooklands)Lived in ‘The Hermitage’ inside the Track confines.  Won many Brooklands races. Chief engineer and designer at the Leyland Company.  Held the Outer Circuit lap record in 1926 driving the Leyland-Thomas at 110mph.  In the same year he took the Land Speed Record at 171mph. Killed on Pendine Sands attempting the Land Speed record in ‘Babs’ in 1927. 

15: DAVIS, Sidney Charles Houghton ‘Sammy’, 1888-1981  (Bentley, AC, Austin)One of motor racing’s great personalities - driver, artist, journalist and author. Won the 1927 Le Mans race with Dr. Benjafield in a Bentley.  In 1930 won the BRDC 500 Miles Race at Brooklands with the Earl of March.  

16: GUINNESS, Kenelm Lee 1887 – 1937 (Sunbeam, Talbot, Darracq)Designed and manufactured the KLG sparking plug at his works at Kingston Vale.  He raced at Brooklands between 1913 and 1924 and is best known for driving Sunbeam cars.  Took the Land Speed Record at Brooklands in 1922 in a Sunbeam. He became the first driver to lap at over two miles a minute at Brooklands, during one of his many record runs.  As part of the Talbot Darracq team, he won the 1924 JCC 200 Miles Race at 102.27mph.

17: PETRE, Kay 1903-1994  (Austin, Delage)One of the first women to drive in a works team - Austin in 1937.  Held both the Shelsley Hill Climb Ladies’ record and the Brooklands Ladies’ lap record on numerous occasions, her best at Brooklands being in 1935 driving a Delage at 134.75mph.

18: WISDOM, Elsie “Bill” n�e Gleed 1904-1972  (Riley, Frazer Nash)Held the Ladies Outer Circuit lap record at Brooklands in 1934, driving the Leyland Thomas.  She lapped the track in the Leyland Thomas at 126.73mph.  Together with Joan Richmond she won the 1932 JCC 1000 Miles Race in a Riley Nine.  Awarded a 120mph badge in 1932, one of only five women to gain the distinction. She also drove Frazer Nash cars.

19: SEGRAVE, Sir Henry 1896-1930 (Sunbeam)The first British victory in a Grand Prix was achieved by Segrave, driving a Sunbeam, in the French Grand Prix at Toues in 1923.  First man to exceed 200 mph on land, driving the Sunbeam “1000hp” Land Speed Record car in 1927.  Three years later took the Water Speed Record in ‘Miss England II’ at 98.76 mph.

20: BIRA, Prince, of Siam 1914-1985 (ERA, Maserati)Awarded three BRDC Gold Stars. Famous for his ERAs in the second half of the 1930s in particular racing and taking records on the Mountain and Campbell Circuits. Achieved 7 international race victories.  Drove in Grand Prix races after WWII. 

21: FRAZER-NASH, Archie 1889 – 1965 (GN, Frazer Nash)Set up the G.N. works with Henry Godfrey in 1909, later founding the Frazer Nash factory at Isleworth.  He raced both types at Brooklands, winning his class in a GN in the first JCC 200 miles race in 1921.  Archie also had success in sprints and hill climbs. He was responsible for a number of important inventions associated with aeronautical engineering, and his company produced aircraft gun turrets from 1934.

22: ZBOROWSKI, Count Louis 1895-1924  (Mercedes, Aston Martin, Bugatti, Benz)Creator of the famous ‘Chitty Bang Bang’ racing cars, Brooklands driver and record breaker. Competed in many races at Brooklands and broke records on the Track.

Lower section of banking: �95

23:DIXON, Frederick William ‘Freddie’ 1892-1956    (Riley)Started racing cars in 1932, twenty years after he began racing motor cycles. Won the T.T. twice and the Brooklands ‘500’ race twice, all at the wheel of Rileys. Holder of two BRDC Gold Stars and driver of the Napier-Railton. 

24: EDGE, Selwyn Francis. 1868-1940 (Napier, AC)Sales genius behind Napier and AC cars. Took the World 24 Hour Record at Brooklands in 1907, on a 60hp Napier, which stood for 18 years.  Achieved the only British victory in Gordon Bennett Cup series (1902) in a Napier. 

25: RAILTON, Reid Anthony  1895-1977 (Railton, Riley, MG, ERA)Chief engineer with Thomson & Taylor at Brooklands. Developed the prototype Riley Nine “Brooklands” racing car in which he won a race at a BARC meeting in 1927. Was responsible for Campbell’s ‘Blue Bird’ LSR cars between 1931 and 1935. Designer of Cobb’s Napier-Railton and his LSR Railton-Special. Also designed Water Speed Record boats for Campbell and Cobb. 

26: EVANS,  Doreen, (MG)Sister of Doris & Kenneth, all of whom raced at Brooklands - the only ‘family’ group to do so.  Their tuning establishment, the ‘Bellevue Garage’ was one of the top works, run by “Wilkie” Wilkinson. Doreen won the Women’s Mountain Handicap race in October 1934. 

27: MARCH, “Freddie”, Duke of Richmond and Gordon 1904 –1989 (Austin, MG)The Duke of Richmond and Gordon began his career working on the shop floor at Bentley Motors.  In the 1930 JCC Double Twelve he partnered Arthur Waite in an Austin to gain a class win, whilst in the same year, still in an Austin, he won the BRDC 500 with Sammy Davis at 83.4mph.  In 1931 he won the Double Twelve with Chris Staniland in an MG. The Duke set up the Goodwood Circuit in 1948. 

28: BARNATO, Woolf 1895-1948 (Bentley, Wolseley)Apart from Birkin was the most famous and wealthy ‘Bentley Boy’.  Won the 1930 JCC Double Twelve Hour Race at Brooklands in a Bentley.  In the same year became the first driver to win three successive Le Mans 24 Hour Races. 

29: HASSAN, Walter 1905-1996 (Bentley, ERA, SS)Built the fastest of all special Bentleys for the Brooklands lap record -the Barnato-Hassan- which achieved the second fastest lap record of 142.60 mph in 1938, driven by Oliver Bertram.  Worked with W.O. Bentley, Raymond Mays (ERA) Thomson & Taylor and Bill Haynes (SS Cars). Later designer with Jaguar and Coventry Climax. 

30: MAYS Raymond 1899-1980 (ERA)Founder of the ERA and BRM racing cars. successful at Shelsley Walsh, he first held the record for the hill back in 1923.  One time holder of the Brooklands Mountain and Campbell Circuit records, as well as records at Donington and Crystal Palace. 

31: FERNIHOUGH, Eric  1903-1938  (Brough Superior)Road racer, sprinter, tuner and proprietor of his own garage in Brooklands Road and record breaker during the 1920s and 1930s. Holder of over 80 world records on two and three wheels. He built up a Brough with a 996cc JAP engine and took the Motorcycle Land Speed Record to 169.8mph at Gyon, Hungary in 1937. Fernihough was killed at Gyon while attempting a new world record in 1938. 

32: POPE, Noel  (Brough Superior, Norton, Velocette)A foreman at Commerfords, Weybridge. He raced motorcycles and attacked speed records and, unusually, his competition career took him both to Brooklands and the Isle of Man, to the classic road courses of Europe, and even the Bonneville Salt Flats at Utah. Pope took the fastest-ever motorcycle lap record of the Brooklands Outer Circuit at 124.5mph in 1939. 

33: DENLY, Bert  1900-1989 (Norton, AJS, Austin7)A Byfleet Butcher’s boy, who served his apprenticeship under D.R. ‘Don’ O’Donovan at Brooklands. Rode Norton and AJS machines throughout the 1920s. He held 117 world records on motorbikes in one year and won three of the famous Brooklands 200 Miles motorcycle races before becoming a works driver for Austin.

Comments powered by Disqus