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CATEGORIES (articles) > Motor Sport > Circuits > Historic Brooklands Banked Race Circuit

Historic Brooklands Banked Race Circuit

There is also a type of windscreen known as "Brooklands" or "Brookland screen".

Brooklands was a motor racing circuit built near Weybridge in Surrey, England. The brainchild of Hugh Locke-King, it was opened on June 17 1907 and was the first custom-built banked motor race circuit in the world. It was the first ever oval style race track built for cars.

Requirements of speed and spectator visibility led to the track being built as a 100 ft wide, 2.75 miles long, banked oval. The banking was nearly 30 feet high in places. In addition to the oval, a bisecting "finishing straight" was built, increasing the track length to 3.25 miles, of which 1.25 miles was banked.

Due to the complications of laying tarmac on banking, and the expense of laying asphalt, the circuit was built using gravel and cement. This led in later years to a somewhat bumpy ride, as the surface settled over time.

Along the centre of the track ran a dotted black line, known as the Fifty Foot Line. By driving over the line, a driver could theoretically take the banked corners without having to use the steering wheel.

Eleven days after the circuit opened, it played host to the world's first 24 hour motor event, with Selwyn Edge leading three specially converted Napier cars around the circuit. Over three hundred red railroad lanterns were used to light the track during the night. Flares were used to mark the upper boundary of the track. Edge drove his car for the full duration, with the drivers of the other two cars taking the more familiar shift approach.

Brooklands also became one of Britain's first airfields, which in 1908 saw the first flight of an English aircraft by an English pilot - Alliott Verdon-Roe. He subsequently set up the aircraft manufacturer Avro. In February 1912, Thomas Sopwith opened his Sopwith School of Flying at Brooklands. In June 1912, Sopwith and several others set up the Sopwith Aviation Company here although their main premises were at Kingston-upon-Thames. Later, Bleriot, Martinsyde and Vickers set up production at Brooklands. Many flying schools operated here before 1914 and the aerodrome was a major flying training centre between the wars too.

Grand Prix motor racing was established at Brooklands in 1926 by Henry Segrave after his winning of the French Grand Prix in 1923 and the following year at the Spanish Grand Prix which raised interest in the sport in Britain. This first British Grand Prix was won by Louis Wagner and Robert Senechal driving a Delage 155B.

In World War two, the site was again used for military aircraft production and was extensively camouflaged. Trees were also planted into the concrete of the circuit to help screen the Hawker and Vickers aircraft factories there. From 1944-72 Vickers (and later BAC) also used nearby Wisley aerodrome which offered a longer runway and less built-up surroundings.

After the war, the circuit was in poor condition and was sold to Vickers-Armstrongs in 1946 for continued use as an aircraft factory. New aircraft types including the Viking, Varsity, Viscount, Vanguard and VC10 were next manufactured and delivered from there.

In 1951, a section of the race track's Byfleet Banking was removed to allow Vickers Valiant V-bombers to be flown out to Wisley.

The Vickers factory became part of the new British Aircraft Corporation in 1960 and went on to design and build the BAC TSR2, One-Eleven and Concorde. The factory contracted in size in the mid-1970s and finally closed in 1988-89.

In 1987 the site also become home to the Brooklands Museum, which is dedicated to the site's motoring and aviation heritage.

The remaining sections of track were the subject of a preservation order in 2001, rendering illegal any subsequent destruction of the circuit. From 1990 to 2003 regular fly-ins, rallies attended by light aircraft, were arranged on summer weekends using the Northern half of the original runway. The central area of Brooklands including the hard runway and remaining racetrack was sold to DaimlerChrysler UK Retail in early 2004. A Mercedes-Benz museum and performance demonstration centre (Mercedes-Benz World) is now under construction in front of the remaining banking. Mercedes-Benz World is due to open in the summer of 2006 and will incorporate a test track that includes the banked track of the Clubhouse turn. The facilities will also include a conference centre, hotel and a Mercedes-Benz showroom.

People Associated with Brooklands

  • Kishichiro Okura
  • John Cobb
  • Frank Halford
  • Malcolm Campbell
  • J.G. Parry-Thomas
  • Kaye Don

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CATEGORIES (articles) > Motor Sport > Circuits > Historic Brooklands Banked Race Circuit

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