Brooklands was the world’s first purpose built motor circuit, opened in 1907 near Weybridge in Surrey, England. The idea was conceived and followed through by an entrepreneur named Hugh F. Locke King. After the Motor Car Act 1903 Britain installed a 20mph speed limit across all of its public roads. In a time where over half the worlds cars were built by the French it became a concern that Britain’s newly founded auto industry would be at risk from an inability to undertake high speed testing on new vehicles. The industry needed a road in which the cars could be both tested and viewed and so the race track was born.
The track was built 30m wide and 2.75 miles long in a banked oval. During its peak the track could host around 287,000 spectators. It was opened on the 17th of June 1907, an event which was attended by many British motor manufacturers, starting with a luncheon then a precession of 43 cars, one of which was even driven by Charles Rolls of the Rolls-Royce company.
It was a resounding success and an absolute marvel, even being praised as a modern wonder of the world and plenty world firsts were recorded there. Just over a week after the course had opened it was host to the first ever 24 hour motor event. During the night time flares were used to mark the boundaries and more than three hundred railway lamps were used to light the track for the racers. Selwyn Edge was the winner, covering a distance of 1581.74 miles driving at an average speed of 65.91 mph which was a world record; the previous being 1,096.187 miles in 1905.
Since then, many more races were held, and many more records set. During the First World War the track became a station for the construction and testing of aeroplanes along with a flight training centre. Racing resumed as normal in 1920 after extensive repairs were carried out. It wasn’t long until Grand Prix motor racing was established here after its popularity overseas. The sport was introduced to Britain by Henry Seagrave after he’d mustered up interest with his wins in the 1923 French Grand Prix and the San Sebastián Grand Prix; he’d done so with the help of Sunbeam Motors, a British manufacturing company. The first and second British Grand Prix’s were both held at Brooklands and were responsible for major improvements.
Unfortunately, as the Second World War rolled around motor racing ceased at Brooklands. Once again the track was used as facility for aircrafts and their production. Parts of the track became badly damaged by bombings, others were covered with temporary aircraft hangars and a new road was built that cut through it for easier transport. Once the war had ended the track was near enough unusable for sports and it was sold off to Vickers-Armstrong as an aircraft factory. As of 1987 the site was transformed into the Brooklands Museum where you can still go and visit the surviving parts of the track today.