Racing cars return to Brooklands

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The Godalming Round Table’s Brooklands 60th Anniversary Rally on June 11th can be rated a considerable success. It was nearly a ghastly flop. An excellent assembly of Brooklands cars ranging from 1908 to 1939 arrived to do demonstration runs in pairs down the wide wartime runway, a splendidly-varied selection of pre-1940 cars was present for the spectators to examine, and some of these undertook driving tests devised by the S.W.-Centre of the B.A.R.C. But after the first of the demonstration runs, mainly by the motorcycle contingent, the B.A.C. police and security-staff, who presumably had never before seen racing machinery in even-fairly-subdued action, thought things had got out of hand, and said racing must top immediately. Admittedly, the public had broken away from the rope-barriers and were lining the first part of the runway, because otherwise they could see very little of what was taking place. as Motor Sport predicted last month. But there was no danger in this and the demonstrations could have continued with a completely clear conscience. After rumours that the meeting had fizzled out by 3 p.m., reason fortunately prevailed, the well-behaved British spectators moved back as requested, and the runs were resumed, (but not before the Itala and other cars had left in disgust,) and rather haphazardly, to a vague commentary, because Peter Hull had been stationed at a microphone where he could not see which machines were to run next.

However, apart from this delay, and the unfortunate insurance ruling that the crowd must not be allowed anywhere near the moving cars, it was all very worthwhile, and painstakingly organised. I would think that some 10,000 people, all told, came to Brooklands. Some saw, more heard, and perhaps smelt, the sights, sounds and scents that were typical of Brooklands over a quarter of a century ago.

Dicker was painting racing numbers on the racers as he did all those years ago, the Montagu Museum’s 1908 G.P. Austin, Barker’s big Napier and Clutton’s Itala recaptured the atmosphere of the opening years of the Track’s history. E.R.A.s and Bugattis, etc. the spirit of its closing seasons. I had a quite impossible task of judging the class for the most original Brooklands car and decided to eliminate all road-racing, sprint, sports-racing and general-purpose racing cars. This enabled me to place James’ 1910 G.P. Fiat first. as a car with a very long Track career, still on high-pressure tyres, and original except for a shortened tail and a guard over the o/s driving chain. Second I put Dunham’s off-set Alvis Speed 20 single-seater. a car built for Brooklands, although now with abbreviated exhaust system, and third Ken Revis’ Wellsteed Special Morris-Oxford, which ran in spite of a solid clutch, as typical of the less-specialised Brooklands cars of the mid-twenties. Michael Mays’ farnous, Alvis, seemingly with much of its pre-war dirt about it, and the Itala were others well in the running.

The Harker Special V8 was unhappily not present, nor was Rob Walker’s Delage, but two of the Blight Talbots had come up from Cornwall for the occasion. Inman-Hunter’s Aston-Martin had clutch trouble on arrival, as did the aforesaid Morris-Oxford. and the Thomas-engineed Nanette, driven by a lady, was extremely slow. Dunham out-accelerated Weeks’ dope-burning ex-Horton/Jackson Morgan 3-wheeler, Allen’s lap-record Brough-Superior with chair, watched by its former intrepid rider, Noel Pope, made smoke, as did Hopes’ Rudge, the ex-Huxham Matchless-engined Morgan ran with aero screens flat, Day’s E.R.A. sported twin rear wheels, and there were a few cars which never ran at Brooklands. Derrington’s Salmson was running badly but I was able to dispel the cobwebs as passenger in Gahagan’s Type 37 Bugatti. Liston Young’s Balilla Fiat beat Tidy’s Aston-Martin but of course they weren’t really racing! But it was all excellent fun and the Hon. Patrick Lindsay got in a good run in the lap-record Napier-Railton. He was presented with the annual silver trophy so generously given to the organisers by Fiat.

Bradley brought the i.f.s. 1 1/2-litre G.P. Delage, both Arnold-Forster’s and Williamsons’ Delages cars made a very definite Brooklands picture, as did the ex-Temple Montgomery-British-Anzani motorcycle, with very smooth back tyre, which was a static exhibit. The prize for the best foreign racing car went to Richards’ immaculate Type 51 Bugatti with replica body. Brooklands silencers were much in evidence, for example on Snashall’s Rex-Acme, and made the appropriate “tangy” sounds.

There were tents containing sideshows to back the active part of the pageant, including a special Brooklands Exhibition put on by the Montagu Motor Museum, whose 350 h.p. V12 Sunbeam stood guard outside their marquee. The souvenir programme had the correct B.A,R.C, Race Card cover but could have been more lavishly illustrated and more conscientiously read for spelling errors. (Having said which, I will own up to three errors in my article therein – the Track reopened after the 1914/18 war in 1920, not 1921, the military vehicle test-course was known as the “Colonial,” not the “Overseas,” course, and Lord Northcliffe was mistakenly refused admission to Brooklands not in 1907 but in 1911, on the occasion of the Daily Mail Round-England air race)….

This nostalgic occasion, in splendid weather, with a remarkably big attendance, ended with the presentation of prizes by Lord Montagu and a Sedgwick commentary on a seemingly-endless cavalcade of the interesting cars present, the oldest of which was an 1898 Orient Express possessing an enormous handle with which the luckless passenger wound on the parking brake! Trojans, I noticed, were strongly represented, and a van similar to that with which Thomson & Taylor once towed racing cars about within the precincts of the Track was on view, together with other H.C.V.C. exhibits, including a Foden steam waggon. But why no aeroplanes?

Generally the event was well publicised by the Press but the Aldershot News which once won a prize for being the best provincial newspaper, was sadly wide of the mark in allowing its Mervyn Deverell to report that “Chitty-Bang-Bang will Race Again at Brooklands – it is hoped that Count Zborowski’s gigantic 23-litre racer will be there.” Zborowski’s Chitty I was broken up many years ago. Where do they get hold of stories like that? This being a charity-show for the public it was difficult to know how many Brooklands celebrities were present, as they were not specially invited as at previous re-unions. But I had not been within the grounds long before I met Oliver Bertram and later I met the Urquhart-Dykes. Jim Rands and other ever-young old-timers like Cecil Cousins of M.G., Tuson, the Westbrooks, GranVille Grenville, etc., etc., were there. Whether such a thing happens again rests with the B.A.C. And, because humans are so careless about preserving things which give them great enjoyment, the Track as such no longer exists. But whatever the future holds for Brooklands, happy recollections of it will live on. – W. B.

Sir,

This letter takes a two-part form. Firstly to congratulate the Godalming Round Table upon a noble attempt to produce a memorable day for those who once used Brooklands and an insight into the mysteries of the Motor Course for true enthusiasts, who, like myself, were but thoughts in our parents’ minds before the war. But secondly to admit a certain disappointment, that after our pilgrimage down from Warwickshire and my attempts to produce a picture of pre-war motors for my girl friend on the way, the enjoymant was rudely shattered by the very large “sheep” element in the crowd. lt was painfully obvious from the comments and behaviour of a very large percentage of the mass gathered on the hallowed ground, that they were merely Sunday-afternoon trippers, and really shouldn’t have been there, or at least if they were to be present, should have been severely marshalled!

Tony Rippon, tall as he is, walked away from the first racing car demonstration because he could not see! Need I say anything about the second attempt at 4 o’clock!! To be denied the opportunity of seeing the Napier-Railton, the Derby-Maserati and the 1927 Seaman Delage in action after such a long trip was one or the biggest disappointments I have ever had and I am sure this will he echoed by many other true followers, and the organisers alike.

So please next time, if indeed atter this exhibition the B.A.C. and Vickers allow it, let’s have some efficient V.S.C.C. marshals, and plenty of them. I realise this was for charily and admirably so, but the large element which may forever stop the enthusiastic Brooklands devotees trum ever being allowed inside again must not come back. Let antother demonstration or circus nature be used for money raising purposes, but not dear old Brooklands, please.

I am but 25 and have never seen the Motor Course before; I hope I shall again, and under less strenuous cirmcumstances.

Solihul. Michael Hawley

[Motor Sport foresaw that the public and Brooklands might not blend so easily today as in the time of “The Right Crowd But No Crowding” – a slogan the Godalming Round Table misquoted slightly on their posters. Last February we said: “Whether this historic precincts should be used for a general motor rally … is open to debate” and in May we warned that the racing cars “for insurance purposes have to accelerate in pairs away from the public enclosures.” But on the whole the day was a success and now we look forward to publishing the balance-sheet, showing just how the various deserving casues benefitted from the big public attendance on June 11th. – ED]

Sir,

May I through your publication congratulate the Godalming Round Table, for the wonderful display that they organised on Sunday 11th June at Brooklands.

This effort was in the cause of charity, and no doubt they must be feeling pretty pleased with the result from that angle. I feel sure that it must have been most satisfactory financially, judging by the numbers there. Their success however, is not confined entirely to the financial success that they had. They also displayed the great love that the people have for Brooklands.

It is obvious that that track ought to be got going again. It is the Mecca of Motor racing. It is situated in the right place and has the right atmosphere and more of it than any other track. Fortunately most of the track is there, and surely it is becoming obsolete for the aircraft industry?

I appeal to you as the leading motor paper to get the public reaction to a restore-Brooklands movement.

Biddenden. F.E. Hall.

[Whether Brooklands is ever opened again to the motoring public, even if not for racing, depends on what plans the British Aircraft Corporation has for this historical place. Vickers Ltd. got it for £330.000 in 1936. It would presumably be worth millions as an industrial development site but it would be splendid were the B.A.C. one day to feel philanthropic and return it to the motoring and private flying fraternity. – ED]

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