Brooklands Racing Circuit Opens
In so many ways Brooklands was a reflection of its times: it was a private venture, built on his estate by a wealthy landowner, Hugh Locke-King; it was a grand gesture, largely built it seems because of friendly pressure by Locke-King’s social circle; and it was another British first – the first purpose built car racing track - in the era of confidence and daring that preceded WWI .
Originally a somewhat simpler project had been intended, but eventually the banked track, built in concrete, cost the owners £150,000, roughly £10 million now. The banking allowed high speed driving on the 2.75 mile circuit, though the concrete (tarmac surfacing would have cost too much) gave a bumpy ride and was prone to wear tyres out rapidly.
Work on the track, designed by Royal Engineers’ expert Colonel Holden, only began in late 1906, but the gangs of labourers, teams of horses, and even a steam engine for the heavy work, ensured it was completed within nine months – something else hard to envisage for such an undertaking today – the safety checks would probably take longer. The official opening was actually on June 17 1907, but the work had not really been completed by then, and only a procession was possible (led by Ethel Locke-King, wife of the circuit’s owner). The first true race was held almost three weeks later, on July 6 1907.
Brooklands would go on to many other firsts: the first time a car covered 100 miles in an hour (1913); the first British Grand Prix (1926); and the first place where an English built plane was flown by an English pilot – Edwin A V Roe in 1907.
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