The Right Crowd and No Crowding

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A jovial gathering of like-minded enthusiasts converged on the historic Brooklands circuit on July 1st for the 23rd Annual Reunion of the Brooklands Society. They were, however, to witness no racing at a track that once saw John Cobb lap at an average speed of 143.44 mph in a 24-litre Napier-Railton; unfortunately, since the war, significant sections of the circuit have been razed to the ground. The aim of the Reunion is to bring together, for one day in the year, Brooklands cars and motorcycles, drivers and riders, and also enthusiasts, to recreate something of the spirit of Brooklands as it was before the war.

This year’s meeting also placed emphasis on the anniversary of two significant events for motor racing, and motoring in general. These were the opening of the Mountain Circuit at Brooklands, and the move of AFN limited from Kingston to Isleworth.

The 1.2 mile Mountain circuit was opened in a successful attempt to attract more spectators. It consisted of the finishing straight and the shorter section of the outer circuit that joined either end of the straight. Very high speeds were reached on this short track and excellent acceleration, road-holding and brakes were demanded of the cars as they swooped onto the climbing Members Banking corner, or as they dramatically slowed from maximum speed for the Chronograph Villa turn by the Vickers sheds. Raymond Mays, who won the last race to be held on the Mountain circuit, established the all time lap record at 84.31 mph in an ERA.

AFN Limited was founded by Archie Frazer Nash in 1927 to replace his earlier company of WG Thomas and Frazer Nash Ltd, situated at Kingston upon Thames. In 1929 Archie resigned from the directorship of AFN Limited and HJ Aldington became managing director. ‘Aldy’ moved the firm to a new factory at Isleworth in February 1930 and AFN have been at the Falcon works in London Road ever since. ‘Aldy’ himself was a well known Brooklands competitor and AFN and Frazer Nash with their unique chain-drive sporting cars were names that were synonomous with the track at Brooklands in the busy years before the war.

It is also sixty years since the death of Sir Henry Segrave, a well known Brooklands competitor who was killed attempting to better his own water speed record on Lake Windermere. Segrave was a figure typical of those intrepid and valiant characters who frequented Brooklands in its heyday, forever challenging the limits of man and machine. He first won fame as the winner of the 1921 200 Mile race at Brooklands. In 1923 he became the first British driver of a British car to win the French Grand Prix. He then turned his attention to land and water speed records and was the first man to exceed 200 mph on land and 100 mph on water. “He stood to every youth as a hero in fact, an inspiration in verity. He dared greatly and died magnificently.”

Although the activities of the Reunion day were rather less heroic than the exploits of the likes of Segrave, they were nevertheless carried out with the same blend of enthusiasm and endeavour that characterized the circuit’s activities in days gone by. The test hill was assaulted by all manner of vehicles from touring cars that needed an encouraging push, to highly tuned racing motorcycles that crested the brow with such gusto that by the time they were once again in contact with the ground, and were therefore able to apply brakes, they had overshot by several yards the sharp right hand turn that took the vehicles down to the Members Banking. From here the various machines, the earliest a 1908 11,580cc Napier, took a quick turn along the banking and under the Members Bridge and back via the return road just before the Hennebique River Bridge. With such magnificent machinery on display, it was a sight delightful to both those old enough to remember Brooklands as it was, and those too young to remember, and yet old enough to appreciate. CSR-W

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