Sir Malcolms circuit breaker

The first race on Brooklands’ new Campbell Circuit in 1937 proved to be a tough test of man and machinery

To modernise Brooklands Track, in 1937 the Campbell Road Circuit was opened. The new concrete circuit was to be more akin to a real road-racing one as at Donington and the new Crystal Palace courses.

It was Sir Malcolm Campbell who planned the course, which was approximately two and a quarter miles to the lap, and to begin with it was to be lapped anti-clockwise. Halfway down the Railway Straight the new course turned sharp left and doubled back along the edge of the aerodrome by Solomon’s Straight (named after the deceased Brooklands goat) towards the river, swung 180 degrees right around Aerodrome Curve into Sahara Straight, parallel to the Finishing Straight, then turned left to Vickers Bridge. Across the river the new circuit carried on over the existing Track into the Public Enclosure, turning left at the Fork. It then ran parallel with the Finishing Straight until the Test Hill when it turned right, cutting along the foot of the Members’ Hill to rejoin the Track again near the ‘Esso’ sign at the start of the Members’ Banking. New ferro-concrete pits were built between the Finishing Straight and the new course, facing the Public Enclosure; from the roof of these spectators had a magnifi cent view of both the new Campbell Circuit and the Finishing Straight on the original Track.

The new course was completed in time except for the finishing touches to the pits, which were being worked on as the drivers were assembling for the first race on May 1. The official opening took place on April 20, when Dame Ethel Locke King cut the tape and S F Edge in a 1903 GB Napier led a procession of visitors’ cars round the new layout, emulating the opening of Brooklands in 1907.

The first event on the Campbell Circuit was known as the Campbell Trophy and covered a distance of 100 laps or approximately 220 miles, with no handicap as all cars started together. Twenty-two cars lined up in front of the new pits, and it proved to be a fast race but a hard course on brakes. After only 26 exciting laps Earl Howe, having taken the lead in his ERA from Prince Bira’s Maserati, struck the Vickers Bridge parapet and was badly injured. Austin Dobson retired his new twin-motored Bimotore Alfa after 31 laps with brake and transmission trouble, Charles Brackenbury in an Alfa Romeo needed frequent attention to his brakes, ‘Wilkie’ Wilkinson hit the bank after losing braking power in Fleming’s Monza Alfa Romeo, and Chris Staniland in an Alfa Romeo also retired with brake and clutch problems.

It was Bira in the 2.9-litre Maserati who won at 69.06mph, taking 3hr 16min 52.6sec, and collecting £250 in prize money. E K Rayson came in second after a fine drive in his 1500cc Maserati and took the 1½-litre prize, also worth £250, while Powys-Lybbe took third place in his 2300 Alfa Romeo. D Scribbans was the only other driver to officially finish as Brackenbury, Tongue, Ashby, Fairfield, Mervyn-White and Hanson were flagged off.