VSCC at Brooklands

Brooklands played host to 84 VSCC competitors at the February Driving Tests meeting. Ten tests were scattered about the Test Hill, banking and flat areas, to be tackled after signing-on had been completed in what was once the Press Office. Non-members were allowed to watch and to visit the Museum with its two ex-Brooklands racing cars.

On this cold, foggy first-of-February day a baked potato for £2 a go (from a hot potato van) must have been welcome, if a far cry from the Fortnum’s hampers of yore. There was also what I thought to be a picnic taking place using the luggage-boot of a stately Rolls-Royce, only to discover that plates of soup were being sold, for which purpose such cars would not have been used in the days of the “Right Crowd”. And remembering that Col Lindsay Lloyd, Clerk-of-the-Course used to shoot record bags of pheasant over the old Track, the sound of distant guns at first seemed rather nostalgic, except that they were for rabbits, not birds. Brooklands has changed!

However, it was good to see one Museum car, Pugh’s 1939 328 FN-BMW, being taken out and driven in the tests. Another covetable competitor was Benwell’s 1925 Lancia Lambda tourer and a desirable rarity, the little yellow 1928 Chenard-Walcker tourer complete with trunk and, as on a Rhode, horizontally-mounted spare wheels, belonging to Gilbert-Smith. An oddity was Capers bedecked 1925 Citroën, an Ihd outside-exhaust, pointed-tail two-seater with a wicker driving-seat and minimal wings faintly reminiscent of those sports Citroëns which ran in the old Routes Pave French rough-road races, although had it done so some of its insignia (such as its “racing” number 175, nickname “Rainbow Warrior” and its stated New Zealand origin) might have fallen off…

Two of the tests involved ascents of the Test Hill and prolonged manoeuvres above its summit. I was intrigued to see one Alvis driver slacken off his front brakes prior to starting. Hamilton-Gould’s well-used Model-A Ford saloon made a brisk charge up the 1-in-4/1-in-5 gradient. Powell’s vee-twin Morgan 3-wheeler, which had arrived with his luggage on the tail-rack, made a slow but sure climb but the Citroën aforesaid, came to a mis-firing halt halfway up.

What other works of wisdom can I confront you with? Well, Watney’s racy Riley 9 Special stuttered at first but went alright after being sternly addressed, A7s, to which Brooklands was mostly very kind, came in droves of Chummy and Ulsters, to which Tarring’s “aluminium” 1927 Frazer Nash and Streeter’s nice 1922 30/98 Vauxhall formed a vivid contrast. The lunchbreak gave Ritchie an opportunity to water his 1928 Riley 9 and Weston’s A7 Ulster was seen to have an air-cleaner almost as big as its engine. On the matter of A7s, Barry Clarke was being sensibly circumspect in his Box Saloon in Test 5, which is how marks are scored. WB

In Engineering News for January 1992 there appeared a long illustrated article by Bob Huggett about Brooklands Track, in the course of which we read of Seagrave (sic) and among the lady racing drivers, the “all-time celebrity Barbara Cartland”, and are told of how today’s Museum has reconstructed this historic early motor racing and aviation site, although the author exaggerates when he says it is possible to visit the Track and the Campbell circuit, not much of which remain. The Museum, its “Friends”, the local Royal Aeronautical Society, AERO and the Brooklands College get prominent mentions, but never a word about the Brooklands Society, which started matters rolling after the war. So perhaps I should add that the Society is active, holds its annual Re-Union at the Track every summer, and publishes a magazine, The Brooklands Society Gazette (its title based on that formerly used for MOTOR SPORT, with permission from the present proprietor), which admirably captures the fascination and atmosphere of Brooklands as it used to be. The editor of this little journal is Rupert Prior and the Membership Secretary is Bryan Reynolds, 38 Windmill Way, Reigate, Surrey RH2 OJA. WB