It speaks volumes for your impartiality and broad mindedness that Mr Wheeler’s load of rubbish was allowed two columns in Letters (MOTOR SPORT, September 1987).
Whatever Messrs Sheridan and Wheeler know about motor racing is immaterial, but what they imagine they know about the value of Brooklands between the wars might give the wrong impression to those readers who did not know the track in those days. Those who did will treat their remarks with contempt.
It should be realised that before WW2 the attitude of the Press and general public to motor racing was one of apathy bordering on disapproval. Only a sensational crash or a rare British success abroad ever featured in the newspapers.
“The Right Crowd and No Crowding” slogan still upsets some of the over-sensitive today. “No Crowding” enabled all to spectate in comparative comfort from different vantage points, in pleasant contrast to the herding, soccer-style hysteria of today’s Fonnula One meetings. Nor was admittance only for the wealthy; you could always find a hole in the fence or slide quiety under the banking in a punt on the river to spectate at minimum cost. The crowds appeared small due to the expanse, and even dozens of cars in a high-speed trial looked lonely.
Perhaps Mr Wheeler’s crassest clanger was “Brooklands contributed nothing to motor racing after WWI”. Out-of-date the track may have been, but engine and chassis development has had that effect on many old circuits.
After WWI more tuning and engineering shops were set up, with the testing ground on the doorstep free from restrictions, except silencers. Apart from racing the track was used for testing and record breaking. And what about the bike boys? In an age when British riders and bikes ruled the world they would have had a brief and well-rounded reply to any funny remarks about “white elephants”! As for arguments about a road circuit being “irresistable”, even Earl Howe’s campaign after WW2 for a race round Hyde Park failed — without Brooklands.
In the 1930s Brooklands saw the importation of more Continental Grand Prix cars — Alfa Romeo, Bugatti, Maserati, Mercedes, Deluge, et al — apart from track specials such as the Napier Railton and Barnato Hassan. With the new cars came new drivers to tune and race at the track, and at Donington and on the Continent, with the success we know about. Whitney Straight, for example, had his pair of 8CM Maseratis improved by Thomson and Taylor (Brooklands) Ltd by their chassis and suspension modifications. From Bentleys to ERAs nearly all UK racing cars benefited from the use of Brooklands.
Nor was driving confined to the well-heeled. Men such as Freddie Dixon and his Rileys made history at the track in more ways than one, and there were many do-it-yourself drivers who achieved success.
Mr Wheeler has got it wrong, and his final pompous paragraph emphasises this: “to suggest its influence was other than disastrous is to demonstrate a peculiar reading of history“.
Well, you said it, mate!
Hampsthwaite, North Yorks