The Things They Say

“The reason motor racing did not matter (in Britain, in the I950s) is encapsulated in one word, Brooklands . . . There are still some who drone on about the derelict white elephant outside Weybridge. To hear them speak you would think the place mattered, or even did once matter. They are wrong. Brooklands was the biggest setback to British motor racing there has ever been . . . It was not the track’s fault that it became the only venue for racing on mainland Britain, but when it did, it put a screw into the development of the sport in Britain. By contrast (with Continental racing) . . . it offered a few cars dwarfed by a vast concrete bowl, running in handicaps either against the clock or by taking different routes through artificial chicanes . . . Brooklands was dull and the racing arcane. No wonder there was no crowding. Quite apart from that, it bred a different sort of competition, where the aim was to keep one step ahead of the handicapper. In turn, this led to specials which had no use outside the track. It led us away from the European tradition into a limbo” (criticism of Brooklands in Classic Cars by Mike Lawrence, who is too young to have seen pre-war motor-racing there).

With no much interest being shown in the Brooklands Society and the Brooklands Museum, there is no need to bother with this, except to say that it was the fact that an Act of Parliament would have been needed to allow racing on public roads that restricted the development of this sport in mainland Britain; to suggest that Brooklands was responsible is quite ridiculous.

“It originally took twenty years to sell the world’s most expensive motor car. Christie’s took just two minutes” (from a Christie’s advertisement, relating to the Bugatti Royale it sold for £51/2-million). This is not quite fair to Ettore Bugatti, surely, because although the Bugatti family retained this particular Type 41 for its own use for some years, others of this type, introduced in 1931, found buyers soon afterwards — 41121 and 41150 in 1931, 41111 by 1932, 41131 to England by 1933. Ettore died in 1947, so if any Royale remained unsold until 1951 it was by the Bugatti company.

We came upon the following from The Autocar’s RAC Rally report in 1935 — perhaps reporters were more gullible then?: “It is interesting that one of the cars that finished, an old-type Bentley, was once shipped to China, but did not reach its destination. In a bad storm the ship had to be lightened, and the car was thrown overboard. Under the sea it remained for four months, being then salvaged and finally reconditioned.” WB