A day at the track

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Just think how many happy people must have gone to Brooklands, on foot, bicycle, motorcycle, car or aeroplane, between 1907 and 1939, to watch the racing or flying, and you must agree that the Brooklands Society was right to hope to preserve some of the ambience after the place was so disgracefully closed down. There were meetings at Brooklands nearly every weekend from March or earlier, to October, and much happening on the weekdays in between.

I made the journey innumerable times, going in by the long entrance road and down through the underbanking tunnel (maybe with the exhaust notes of racing cars passing overhead as an intriguing welcome) to the Paddock; as you emerged it all opened out before you as one wonderful, entrancing world of fast cars and wonderful people.

One particular day, a Frenchman, Monsieur E Early, was in England with his Type 43 Bugatti and wanted to see the Track. As a struggling motoring-writer I did not work on weekdays, so I was asked to take the visitors there. The run down was exhilarating but uneventful, except that, at a T-junction in Wimbledon, M Early was driven into by a small van. No great harm, only arm-waving and shouting ensued, and we soon resumed our pilgrimage. Along the Kingston By-pass, through Hersham and Walton to the left turn by Weybridge Station to what is now Brooklands Road, then right onto the exciting way into the Track…

I had dispensation to go onto the Track without asking the Clerk-of-the-Course’s permission, but it seemed only etiquette to tell Percy Bradley what was afoot. So I went up to his office. Bradley emerged from his French window onto the Clubhouse balcony. I indicated that the Bugatti’s engine should be started. The Bendix pinion engaged the flywheel teeth with a very loud clang! “More like a fire-engine than a motor-car,” Bradley yelled. But he passed us and off we went.

I timed a lap from the car of over 101mph and was enjoying the view from the Byfleet banking on which, even in a fast car, if you were high enough, you could scan the aerodrome road to see if anyone you knew was using it. As I was doing this something flew off the Bugatti and vanished towards the sewage-farm. It proved to have been the dynamo, which was serious, because this particular Type 43 had been converted to coil ignition. However, I suggested to M Early that we go to the Bugatti depot at Kennington, as I was sure Col Morel, who was in charge of the Bugatti business here, would lend our French visitor a dynamo. How naive I was! “What do you think we are here for?” roared the Colonel, “we sell parts, not lend them.” When I told M Early this he decided not to, saying he had half-a-dozen dynamos back home in Paris. I got a bus home, just hoping that a declining battery would get him back to his hotel. Somehow, Brooklands could often become associated with unusual motoring happening!