Brooklands Reunion

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“Phew! Pretty hot, isn’t it?’ The speaker shaded his eyes with his hand and watched Meeson’s AC flash across the finishingline at nearly 100 mph. His companion turned away despondently. ‘Too hot for me’, he replied, and tore the little betting slip into threads, casting them to the faint breeze that blew lazily across the grandstand. The first man may have been talking about the weather; the second man undoubtedly was referring to one of several very fine races at Brooklands last Saturday.”

There is no longer racing, nor Book-makers, at the old Motor Course, but as the sun blazed from a cloudless sky at this year’s Brooklands Society Reunion, the above opening to a report in one of the weekly motoring papers of a nineteen-twenties’ race meeting came to mind.

The attendance was enormous, showing what continuing interest is aroused when the old sounds — the crackle of racing motorcycle and cyclecar engines, the roar of supercharged multi-cylinder power units — sights and scents allow the Weybridge Motor Course to revert for one day in part to Its role of former times. It is also a time for personalities associated with the place in those times to reassemble. This year the Guests of Honour were listed as Jack Lemon Burton, A. Powis-Lybbe, Billy Rockell, Harry Rose, and Wilky Wilkinson. Many other fit-looking old-timers mingled with those who were too young perhaps ever to have seen a race at Brooklands, — G.P. Harvey-Noble, Bert Denley, George Abercassis, Clive Windsor Richards, Harry “Over The Top” Clayton, James Tilling, Jack Fairman, Leslie Bellamy, Charlie Martin, and others, while the Society’s President, T.A.S.O. Mathieson, had journeyed, as usual, from France to be present and T.P. Cholmondley-Tapper was able to sit again the cockpit of a 2.9-litre Maserati of the kind he used to race before the war, the ex-Whitney Straight / Prince “Bira” car brought by David Heimann, who also has the ex-Earl Howe Maserati which was the Tapper car.

The morning was devoted to the runs along part of the Byfleet banking, albeit in a clockwise direction, and here the black Maserati driven by Ivor Dutton was a star-turn, snaking away with rubber-smoke pouring off its back wheels. The runs were opened by Dudley Gahagan in his Type 57 Bugatti loaded with VIPs, but when he brought out his red ERA it responded by breaking a half-shaft. Not to be outdone, Dudley promptly jumped into his Type 37 Bugatti and gave me a run in it, in the course of which we probably went higher up the hallowed banking than anyone save Parry Thomas (who once put a wheel of the Leyland-Thomas over the top) but at a rather more sedate speed! Later I had a ride with Stafford-East in his nicely turned out 1922 Akela GN, the ohc vee-twin engine going strongly, although 2nd-speed is about its limit on the abbreviated stretch of concrete There was rather a paucity of genuine exBrooklands’ cars this year, but the Birkin blower-single-seater 4-litre Bentley, road-equipped, was a welcome sight, as was Benfield’s shining 1924 200 Mile Race Alvis, and Morgan threewheelers abounded, as did the motorcycle contingent, scrutineered by Geoff Reid, who worked at T&Ts from a very early age. The Halford Special was another welcome runner, with a decidedly youthful riding-mechanic, as had Rogan’s Morgan Family Sports model.

Turner’s 1934 Alvis Firebird had a very sporting body made by the owner, as had one of the A7s. Mike Wortley had brought his Morris-Oxford sports-special, Rivers-Fletcher his well-known Alvis, and Delayney / Hugh Price two Hyper Lea-Francis. To list all the cars let loose along the banking is impossible, but one noted that not all survived, Robbie Hewitt’s Le Mans 4l-litre Lagonda hardly getting going before there was a bang, and no transmission. One of the Railtons burst its top water hose, and the evergreen ex-Michael May Silver Eagle Alvis was oiling No.5 plug. But in such summer weather it didn’t seem very serious, and there was plenty to see, sideshows, a parade of Bentley DC members led by Stanley Sedgwick in a Bentley Carmargue, Trade stands, the Gallaher Ltd contribution to the partial restoration of Brooklands, etc, while overhead flew the Goodyear airship, shades of the Graf Zeppelin above Brooklands many years before.

Even some Edwardians and veterans turned out, the arrival of Nash’s 1912 GP Lorraine-Dietrich “Vieux Charles Trois” on a trailer causing quite a stir, as before the war it was one of the fastest of its kind; this was the first time it has been seen running at the Track for 57 years. There was a bolster-tanked Brasier, a chain-drive white Mercedes. the TT Hutton, etc. Indeed, It was a day of excellent variety, with sports cars of all kinds, OM, 18/80 MG, Heal’s twin-cam 3-litre Sunbeam, veteran Graham Brown’s Douglas motorcycle, a transverse-twin Brough Superior, and so many, many more. And all the time the sun blazed down on this happy scene, of well-behaved large crowds, keen “competitors”, and hard-working officials. And after lunch many became literally competitors, as the timed runs along Brooklands’ war-time aerodrome runway took place. After which the old place reverted to the industrial pursuits that have overtaken this particular bit of British heritage. But, once a year, it is a day to remember.

 

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