Racing at Brooklands would hardly have been possible without the presence of A V Ebblewhite who, although having a business in London to look after, managed to set the handicaps for all the competitors and start them on their races.
Thanks to ‘Ebby’, by the fourth race of the fourth meeting in 1907 the cars and motorcycles were numbered, and the individual horse racing-style coloured smocks worn by the drivers were discarded finally in 1914. By September his time-keeping was adopted and in 1908 he became the official starter. This entailed going out on the Track to dispatch the cars singly or in groups, which involved carrying some reminder of the handicaps he had set them.
Having dispatched all the competitors he had to return across the Track (100ft wide) to the timing box. As the competing cars became faster he would just have time to do this before the limit car or cars approached, but in later times when these had become faster a car, usually a Bullnose Morris, would be parked by the Vickers sheds facing the opposite direction from the racing cars, ready to convey ‘Ebby’ across the track – optimistically it was assumed that this car would never break down or stop!
As early as 1907 the electrical timing apparatus, accurate to 1/1000th of a second, was in operation. But in 1908 during the Land Speed Record by Nazzaro on the FIAT ‘Mephistopheles’, a controversy occurred when the electric apparatus recorded 121.64mph but Ebby’s hand-held watches clocked 107.98mph.
Not only did Ebby handicap all the cars in every BARC event from 1908, but he was also to be seen at other competitive events such as aeroplane and motorcycle contests, etc.