Britain's other speedway

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In view of the interest caused by the advent of the Rockingham speedbowl scheduled to open next year in Northamptonshire, it may be recalled, on a nothing-new basis, that a race-track in the Midlands was mooted 78 years earlier, in Derby. Between the two wars many such projects were announced, only to die before construction began.

This Derby project was more advanced. Before October 1922 construction was well underway of what was called “The New British Speedway”. The work was carried out where possible by formerly unemployed labourers, the site only a mile from Derby city. The circuit was banked, the lap distance a third of a mile. Rockingham is to have a track distance of 1 1/2 miles and a shorter bowl of 1/3mile. At Brooklands it was 2 1/4 miles, with a track area of 3 1/4 miles, so the news would hardly have disturbed Locke-King, especially as Derbyshire then seemed a long way from Surrey.

But work on this new venture was well planned, contractors’ railway lines laid within the site (as when Brooklands was constructed in 1906-7) and the bankings well formed, a Fordson tractor apparently breaking up the earth. The well-known Prof A M Low calculated the banking angles. It was called “an extensive undertaking”, which may well have made Locke-King smile, especially as lap speeds of no more than 70-80mph were mentioned. Then nothing more was heard of the Midlands track. I believe it was used as a bicycle course or athletic ground for a time, but I imagine it has long since been absorbed by subtopia.