Rumblings, March 1949

“Brooklands” —Volume II
The large number of readers who have been enquiring when the second volume of “The Story of Brooklands,” W. Boddy’s comprehensive history of racing at the famous track, is to be published, will be glad to learn that it will be published during next month. The demand for the first volume, which ran to over 100,000 words and 300 pages and contained 85 rare photographs, has been enormous and this, coupled with the many expressions of appreciation received, has encouraged the author to continue with a task which, combined with his duties as Editor of Motor Sport, is a truly arduous one.

His earlier volume commenced with the building of Brooklands Track in 1906-7 and gave a detailed account of racing at the Track up to the end of the 1924 season. The publishers had intended to terminate this monumental work in a further uniform volume but the author rightly pointed out that to do so would seriously curtail the remainder of this history and he also made the point that, whereas the first volume was very adequately illustrated, to endeavour to illustrate the remaining fifteen seasons’ racing with the same number of photographs would be to do a grave injustice to one of the most absorbing periods of Brooklands racing. Consequently, it has been decided that Boddy’s work shall be completed in two additional volumes of which the second, due in April, will deal fully with racing and record-breaking from the years 1925 to 1932 inclusive.

As in the case of his first volume, Boddy has based his story on the official records of the Brooklands Automobile Racing Club, for the loan of which he was indebted to John Morgan, Secretary of the Junior Car Club. All lap-speeds, record-times and weighing-out figures for famous cars are thus authentic and this book represents a record of racing at Brooklands which will stand for all time as a work of reference.

The first volume of “The Story of Brooklands” told in painstaking detail how Brooklands was built, how Edge established his famous 24-hour Record there in 1907, and continued the story through Lambert’s first 100 miles in the hour, Hornsted’s exploits with the big Benz, to the races of Zborowski and the immortal “Chitty-Bang-Bangs,” Lee Guinness and the 350-h.p. V12 Sunbeam and Parry Thomas and his Leylands. This second volume brings us up to a more recent period of racing — Thomas’ concluding experiments and his sensational duel with Eldridge’s huge F.I.A.T., Kaye Don’s lap-record attacks in his 2-litre and 4-litre Sunbeams, the match-race between Birkin’s famous blower single-seater Bentley and John Cobb’s V12 Delage and the great Panhard/Delage battle, ending in a protest and appeal, in the Empire Trophy race of 1932. Such classic long-distance races as the Six Hours Endurance race, the “Double-Twelve,” the 500-Mile Race and the Relay Race are covered fully and a year by year account is given of the numerous B.A.R.C. races and record-attempts. Boddy tapped some unique sources for information, gaining access, for instance, to the personal scrap-books of the late Parry. Thomas and interviewing or corresponding with many persons closely associated with the cars described. Consequently, much hitherto unpublished data is included.

There is no question but that Boddy’s second volume is every bit as outstanding in motoring literature as his first volume is recognised to be and that it will be in very great demand. As the issue is strictly limited, orders should be placed now, either through your book-seller or direct from the Grenville Publishing Co, Ltd., 15, City Road, London, E.C.1. The price is 12s. 6d., or 13s. post free. For those who have missed the first volume of “The Story of Brooklands,” for which John Cobb wrote the Foreword, a few copies from the second impression remain available, at the same price; both books are uniform in size and the two volumes can be posted together, on receipt of 25s. 9d. to cover packing and postage.

Circuit Safety
The outlook for the coming season is set-fair! We shall have a surfeit, compared with previous post-war years, of circuit racing. At Goodwood the British Automobile Racing Club intends to make amends for the loss of Brooklands, at Silverstone important long distance races will be contested and the clubs will run Members’ meetings, probably including a V.S.C.C. High-Speed Trial, at Lulsgate on Easter Saturday the Bristol M.C. and L.C.C. will run short races for racing cars and sports cars, while it seems likely that the B.M.C.R.C. will again invite the “500” Club to stage races for its members, at Haddenham Airfield near Aylesbury. Over and above which there is to be road-racing at Jersey, the Isle of Man, Leinster and Ulster. So, with so much real racing, as distinct from sprinting, in the offing, it seems opportune to cast back a bit and recall what safety precautions were deemed necessary pre-war.

At Brooklands they were, as a matter of fact, mighty strict — but they had an enviable record of very few serious accidents. Not only were comprehensive rules for the use of the Track drawn up, but these were rigidly enforced. Observers were posted at intervals round the Track during races and any driver breaking one of the many rules introduced for his safety was reported to the Stewards. An explanation was called for from the offending competitor and he was cautioned, black-listed, fined a matter of several pounds, or reported to the R.A.C., depending on the seriousness of his offence and whether his explanation was satisfactory or otherwise. To be called before the Stewards too frequently could entail exclusion from racing. But that was not the only precaution taken by the B.A.R.C. to avoid unpleasant happenings. New drivers, for instance, were advised not to commence their racing on cars capable of exceeding 100 m.p.h., and if a very fast car was entered by a novice, or by a driver unfamiliar with such a car, he or she had to drive round the Track under expert observation before being passed as fit (or otherwise) to enter for races. Indeed, all drivers were observed in practice and special attention was given to outer-circuit exponents entering for their first Mountain or artificial-road-circuit race. Before a meeting an entrant received printed instructions on the rules in force and was required to sign and post a postcard to the organisers saying that he or she had read the rules. Competitors were, moreover, required to sign a statement to the effect that they regarded their cars as suitable for the events for which they had entered them. Scrutineering, too, was strictly carried out and very old, or otherwise odd, cars had to be examined at the entrant’s expense prior to race-day, which did not exonerate them from further examination on that occasion. The examination not only took stock of the car as a whole, often calling for substitution of a complete new front axle for the existing one, or a similar drastic overhaul, but also took account of the type of race for which the car was entered. Thus, one car was limited to races not exceeding 800 miles in length and without corners, because the scrutineer had discovered creeping cracks in the crankcase!

Any accident, however slight, was made the subject of an investigation, all cars had to carry fire extinguishers in proper mountings, and apart from a very active Racing Committee, a Safety Sub-Committee sat at one time to consider all aspects, raised by observers, competitors or others, appertaining to possible sources of accident.

Towards the end, even if in the heat of a race a well-known driver momentarily crossed a coloured line he should not have crossed, or if he skidded into a marker-barrel during a Mountain race, he had to offer an explanation to the Stewards. Even dear old “Ebby” received a letter from no less a person than the Clerk-of-the-Course emphasising that he must remember not to drive his car across the Track after starting the competitors in a race! While we are on this subject it may be remarked that the B.A.R.C. reserved the right to question the naming of “Specials,” competitors being expected to call a spade a spade unless they could satisfy authority that a car differed sufficiently from standard to warrant calling it “Gory Queen” or the John Brown Special.

Everybody is sick to death of red-tape, agreed, and all delighted in the free and easy efficiency that prevailed at Goodwood last year. But we do hope that decent, sensible steps will be taken to ensure a reasonable degree of safety at forthcoming racemeetings. A crash may be an excellent gate-sweller and even a momentary thrill for the experts and the Press, but it is a very unhappy episode for all that and, if involving a fatality, may do untold harm to British motor-racing. The comings and goings of some of the 500-c.c. cars to the pits during practice at Silverstone would have given the old B.A.R.C. a joint heart-attack and, with spectators massed behind ropes or paling fences instead of protected by safety banks and iron railings, this plea for a reasonable safety-first campaign is surely justified.

And while we are on this subject, comes a further thought. The reason why “The Story of Brooklands,” mentioned in the preceding rumble, can claim to be an authentic history of racing at the Weybridge motor course is largely because the B.A.R.C. kept a full account of the lap-times of all competitors who raced at the Track. Now we agree that a pukka road circuit is needed in this country, like Donington, and we are aware that some people regard Goodwood and Silverstone merely as temporary courses until better can be found. Yet it seems likely that these circuits will have to serve us for many years yet, perhaps permanently, in which case let their owners keep proper records of all racing thereat, for the sake of future historians and of competitors who jot down a little history on their own account. Although the J.C.C. published only the fastest lap in each of its Goodwood races, we believe that John Morgan has the full list of lap speeds of all drivers on all their circuits hidden away in his Park Lane offices. We beseech him to continue to file such findings for all subsequent Goodwood races.

Silverstone Facilities
As we go to Press the R.A.C. has announced its fees for the use of SiIverstone. Clubs may hire part of the course for closed permit events for the fee of £21 or £1 1s. per entrant, whichever is the larger, plus £1 2s. 6d. for insurance indemnity. The comparative fees for closed invitation and open permit events are £26 5s. or £1 1s. per entrant, plus £3 5s., and £52 10s. or £1 1s. per entrant, plus £5 10s. Manufacturers and the Press can hire the circuit for £5 5s. per vehicle per day, and individuals for £3 3s. per vehicle per day, plus 10s. minimum indemnity in both cases. We shall doubtless have some comments to make later, but one’s first impression is that at Brooklands in the good old days, members and the Press had free access to the Track for testing purposes.