THE FIRST BROOKLADS MEETING 1907 When the sport was very young
DECEMBER 6th, 1906 and July 6th, 1907 stand as red-letter days in the annals of English motor racing, for on the first date the Brooklands Automobile Racing Club was granted a spec;a1 permit by the A.C.G.B.I., to hold races at the Weybridge track which was then under construction, and on the latter date the Club held their first meeting, on the first real motor course the world had seen.
The story of this meeting, the forerunner of so many other successful ones, is interesting and amusing. Looking at a race card of that date one would find that all events were scratch races, cars being classified by cylinder dimensions and minimum weight limits. The distances varied from 3.28 to 30 miles. The prizes totalled at least it,550 which compared with those of present day events seems very high, until it is remembered that entry fees were anything from three to ten times as high in 1907 as they are to-day. At this early meeting the paddock was a sort of “holy of holies,” but the public were allowed on the hill, which was divided into three ” lawns ” for the purpose, a fourth enclosure being reserved for members. The criticisms of the arrangements were many and varied, and far more than one hears to-day. Actually, over 13,500 people and 500 cars were said to have passed the turnstiles, while many more cars were parked outside. This must be considered good, especially as the London Cup Race was run at Alexandria the same day. The writer has one delightful photograph showing the main entrance, with horse carriages in the foreground ! Horses at Brooklands ! How times have changed. The roads to the track on the eventful day would have provided a strange sight for modern motorists, for instead of the Bentleys, Bugattis, and Alvis one sees speeding along the Kingston by-pass, one would probably have seen Albion, Vertex, Panhard and others, many devoid of hoods and screens, crawling slowly along in clouds of dust. Eventually the spectators were
in their places and the cars in the ” park ” (they were not admitted to the hill), and we can imagine a conversation being either hypercritical or else turning to such topics as Edge’s 24-hour record with a 60 h.p. Napier set up at the track the month before ; the “Silver Ghost” and Hotchkiss long distance runs ; the 75 h.p. 6-cylinder Mercedes that was the latest product of the Cannstatt factory, and other current matters. The first thing that strikes one on looking at illustrations of this first meeting is that nearly all the cars ran in chassis form, many having even their bonnet sides removed, and some competing without any bonnets at all. In fact one car—a 45 h.p. Daimler, probably the only competitor that had previously been in daily use— ran without even a seat, the driver being perched on a bit of carpet tied to the petrol tank, a broad belt around his waist with straps to the dash, affording some measure of support! Brooklands has been largely responsible for the development of stream-lined bodies as we know them to-day, although one car at the meeting in question had a faired nose to reduce wind-resistance. Another interesting point is that the onlookers found it difficult to distinguish cars at speed probably owing to the small numbers, and un-familiar appearance of the racers. Most people were of the opinion that speeds much below 100 m.p.h. appeared tame, while some considered that a one lap race for evenly-matched cars unable to exceed 40 m.p.h. would provide all the interest needed. This is interesting in view of the excellent impression of great speed conveyed by cars flat out on the Member’s banking at modern meetings ! Unfortunately, no times were issued, but it is certain that some cars exceeded 95 m.p.h. while the 30 h.p. cars did about 50 m.p.h., which was not so bad 23 years ago. The course used was around the outer circuit, until the last lap, when cars turned down the finishing straight ; this finish proving quite safe despite high speeds and primitive brakes. A signal was placed at the fork to
ensure safe crossing, but this was hardly satisfactory, and caused one driver to lose a race worth D ,600.
The first heat of the first race—The Marcel. Renault Memorial Plate of 11.4328 miles—was not very exciting, as Tyron on Edge’s 40 h.p. Napier soon got a lead, and won by several hundred yards from a Darracq. The second heat was better, as two Iris cars—a 35 h.p. handled by Earp and a 40 h.p. driven by Bircham—had a duel in which Bircham led until near the line when Earp put on speed and passed. Before the final, the Horsley Plate (for cars of about 30 h.p. over 3.28 miles) was decided, a Darracq winning easily and a StrakerSquire beating a Thomycroft by about 4ft. for 2nd place, with a Brasier a length behind.
The final of the Marcel Renault Plate was an easy victory for Tyron on the Napier, Ealp’s his (easily distinguished by its strange radiator) being second, while a Darracq, despite a burst tyre, came home third. The Napier had a 40 h.p. 6 cyl. engine with a bore of 4in. After this the Gottlieb Daimler Memorial Plate (15.743 miles), a race full of incident, was run off. Moore: Brabazon led for a good distance, driving a yellow 35 h.p. “Kaiser Cup” Minerva, while a Daimler and an ArielSimplex duelled behind, the latter refusing to be shaken off until its bonnet blew up and its driver was drenched in oil. Then the Minerva experienced a faulty valve and dropped out with the carburetter alight, allowing Instone’s Daimler to gain an unexpected but popular win. Another Daimler was running 2nd, when its petrol feed choked as the straight was entered. The winning car had a 150 x 150 m.m. engine, chain drive, and a typical Daimler radiator and curved-in scuttle. The next event wa5. the By-fleet Plate, over 10.3078 miles, and it was easily the best of the day. Wagner, driving a Fiat in place of Nazzaro, whose eyes had been affected in the Grand Prix, got away splendidly, but Chas. Jarrott soon got ahead on a Dietrich. Then Newton,
driving one of Edge’s 45 h.p. Napiers closed up, and as the two entered the straight Jarrott had barely 5 yds. advantage. Near the tape Newton ducked low over the wheel, and the Napier spurted away, to draw up on Jarrott’s near side and finish level—a dead heat !
The De Dietrich had a 146 x 175 m.m. 4 cyL. 60 h.p. engine and chain-drive, and the Napier a 45 h.p. 6 cyl. motor with a bore of 4 9/16 in., and shaft-drive. It was rum.oured that the Napier used oxygen for its final spurt, and some comm.ent was made, in view of which it is interesting to note that oxygen cylinders are not allowed to-day. The next race was the first Montague Cup of 2,100 sovs. over 30 miles. The American speed kingDemogeot—went high on the banking, his Darracq going well until tyre trouble set in. Eventually Dario Resta (who met his death while at Brooklands six years ago), got the lead on a 120 h.p. Mercedes, but as the fork signal could not be operated until the track was clear he was caused to complete an extra lap, allowing Hutton’s sister car to win the 200 Cup and £1,400 first prize, with a 120 h.p. Fiat 2nd, and Resta 3rd. Hutton drove a typical 120 h.p. 175 x 150 m.m. chain-drive Mercedes.
The last race was a “standard car” event, for cars costing OW000, over 5.997 miles. This was the only event in which steam cars were allowed, two White steamers competing. On first lap an Ariel Simplex led, but a Darracq passed, to win by 150 yards and a Junior being 3rd.
It may be mentioned that the Marshal’s car was a Sizaire-Naudin with independently sprung front wheels, painted in the Club colours of yellow and black, while Mrs. Locke King’s Rochet-Sehneider went to the Panhard works at Acton Vale, before the meeting to be converted into a lorry for track use. The Earl of Lonsdale was one of the Stewards and arrived on a Mercedes with true Lonsdale body.