The Clerk of the Course of the World’s premier racing track some interesting opinions on the value and future of Brooklands
In the pages of Brooklands history are written many things. Although it is but a comparatively short time back to 1907, when the Track was opened, the intervening years cover quite a long period in the history of motoring evolution. Much motoring history has, indeed, been made at Brooklands. Many things have been proved and disproved, the opinions and contentions of authorities substantiated or refuted.
Has Brooklands Track contributed substantially to the development of motor vehicles? This is the question that motorists not intimately acquainted with what has happened there in the past seventeen years inevitably ask. My answer is that most assuredly it has. The Track has played so great a part in the advancement of the internal combustion engine and of automobilism in general, that one cannot do more in this brief review than just record one’s outstanding impressions.
What form of test has most contributed to motoring evolution? In answering this, the first vital question in considering the improvements that have now been attained, one can confidently say : “It’s the speed that tells.” Road reliability trials of kinds have played their part, and that an important one, but in analysing all that has been accomplished in the last or so one is inevitably forced back upon the conclusion that it is racing and record attempts that have been by far the most productive.
And where have these supreme tests been possible so unrestrictedly and so consistently as at Brooklands? Until just recently the like of Brooklands Track had not existed the world over, and where other big tracks do now exist, or are in course of construction, they have been modelled Upon the great prototype of Weybridge. One may instance the new tracks at Paris, Barcelona, Monza and Marseilles.
The vast majority of British car and motor cycle manufacturers are ready to admit that Brooklands has abundantly justified itself as the great testing ground and laboratory of the industry. Many of them freely attribute to the trials they have been able to carry out on the Track some of the most important developments which are to-day enjoyed by the ordinary purchasers and users of their vehicles. One has but to recall typical instances of this to be convinced of what the track has made possible.
Light pistons, durable valves, more efficient springing, cooling and lubrication improvements, and many other things which are nowadays taken for granted with any good car, are largely attributable to those searching tests which earlier models endured (or failed to endure) at Brooklands. Upon failure is often built success, and in nothing has this been more certainly the case than in the elimination of the unfit in the searching tests imposed on those miles of Brooklands concrete.
During 1912, 1913, and 1914 two prominent car manufacturing firms used the Track most consistently: We who were privileged to serve in the great war had full cause to be thankful for the efficiency that these makes showed in that greatest of all tests. One could, indeed, clearly see in their exacting service overseas the fruit of lessons learnt on Brooklands. And the war was, after all, but a supreme test of real touring qualities so far as cars were concerned !
Brooklands is not only a perfect testing ground ; it is as well, a great centre. I am quite ready to admit that in this respect the Track is not ideal. The very qualities of and which makes it so valuable as a testing ground, themselves somewhat detract from its virtues from purely spectacular considerations.
But for all that, very fine sport is seen at the race meetings, which are held almost every Saturday from March to October. With the great speeds attained by the modern racing car and motor cycle, thrilling contests can be staged, and almost every meeting provides speed duels between well known vehicles and famous drivers, such as can be seen nowhere else in the world. Since the war a number of substantial improvements have been made at the Track, and these conduce to an increased interest in the racing and enhanced comfort and convenience for spectators.
In considering Brooklands as a sporting centre, it might be remembered, I think, a little more than it is, that the ” gate” and other takings at the race meetings and record attempts, provide the revenue necessary for the maintenance of the track as the trade’s testing ground. Thus the spectators, as well as the motorists who do not go to Brooklands, benefit in the ultimate by far more than an occasional afternoon’s sport.
Having been asked:my opinion of the relative efficiency of several methods of timekeeping, I may perhaps say that electrical timing on the Brooklands system, or one similar to it, that is to say, a system by means of which the competing car itself causes indications to be made on a strip of paper, on which time is also automatically being recorded, and so makes a permanent record of its performance upon the timing strip, is a system which is absolutely essential for short distance work, that is to say, for distances of two miles and less.
For greater distances, that is to say, distances considered in terms or multiples of laps, hand timing, so long as it is carried out by accurate watches in the hands of trained observers, trained not only in the handling of their watches, but also in accurate reading and recording, is, generally speaking, a perfectly satisfactory system and the degree of accuracy possible by such a system is sufficient for the necessities of the case.
Regarding the important question as to what kind of racing is most interesting to the general public, I am of the opinion that three laps is the maximum distance if the keen observation of the average spectator is to be maintained. The ideal would be sprint races pure and simple, but the speeds of present-day racing cars are not close enough to make this really interesting. There are, of course, several long distance races at Brooklands each year, of more than usual interest. Such struggles as the annual Two Hundred Miles Race of the Junior Car Club have their own appeal, and this is usually increased by an international flavour.
I am afraid I have somewhat wandered away from my “terms of reference” as stated in the heading of this article. I may, perhaps, be excused on the score that however interesting the past may be, it is the living present and the pregnant future with which most motorists feel principally concerned. But I may still recall that the first Brooklands race meeting was held on July 6th, 1907. Many who were present on that histoxic occasion are still Brooklands enthusiasts.
Writing in the programme of that event, about the opening of the Track, a month earlier, Lord Montagu said that a friend of his had recently offered M. Renault £5,000 for a car which would achieve the speed of three miles a minute, and added that “so far, this offer is still under consideration.” For all I know, seventeen years later, the makers of the famous French cars may still have such an offer ‘ under consideration.” But neither they nor any other manufacturer have yet produced a car that will achieve three miles a minute. Which all goes to show that Brooklands history is still being written.