Mercedes-Benz to revamp Brooklands...

DaimlerChrysler is on the verge of buying Brooklands. The asking price for the 150-acre spiritual home of British motorsport? Just over £5 million.

The UK arm of the German automotive giant hopes to turn the land into a Mercedes 'brand centre', complete with a Heritage and Technology Centre, but has also given assurances that it will preserve the site's 'rich history'.

The three-year project, which includes plans for a 60-acre community park, a test track, a 4x4 facility and improved flood defences on the River Wey (the Brooklands Museum was under water in the winter of 2000), is subject to planning permission.

"We are aware of the history of Brooklands and its preservation is important to us," said a DaimlerChrysler spokesman. "We'll be working very closely with English Heritage and Brooklands Museum, who are very excited about the potential spin-offs; if people come to our centre, they can then pop across the park and visit their museum and vice versa.

"We will promote this project on a national basis, conserve what is left of the track and make sure that the name of Brooklands carries on."

DaimlerChrysler insists that the many vintage and classic car events that congregate at Brooklands will continue to get access to the site.

But Bill Boddy, MBE, our founding editor and the leading authority on Brooklands, regrets the announcement of this venture: "I've nothing against Mercedes-Benz, but this is a sad day for me. I suppose it was inevitable, though; I had expected Brooklands to have become a housing estate many years ago.

"It seems to me that Mercedes has just bought a large piece of good industrial land in Surrey for not very much money.

"Something positive may come out of this, more people may visit it, but for me, the spirit of Brooklands has been lost. I knew that when I looked out at the Byfleet Banking while having a cup of tea in Tesco!"

DaimlerChrysler hope that Elmbridge Borough Council will give the green light to the project at the end of the month.