CIRCUITS: BROOKLANDS

Name: Brooklands

The world's first permanent racing circuit was the idea of automobile enthusiast Hugh Locke-King who travelled to watch the Targa Florio and the Grand Prix de l'ACF at Le Mans in 1906. Locke-King concluded that the British automobile industry would never be able to compete at international level because racing on the roads was banned in Britain. The only alternative was to create racing circuits on private land.

Locke-King owned two farms - making up 700 acres of land - just outside Weybridge. He proposed building an automobile testing facility and organised a meeting of interested parties in the autumn of 1906. Among those who attended were racing drivers Charles Jarrott and Selwyn Edge. They suggested that the track should be fast and should provide spectators with a view of as much of the track as possible. The best way to achieve these two aims was to have a banked oval. This also enabled the planners to site an airfield in the middle of the track, to help Britain's new aviation industry.

Locke-King invested 150,000 in the project and hired Colonel Holden of the Royal Engineers to design the circuit. Holden's design called for an egg-shaped oval, 2.75 miles in length and 100ft wide. In the course of the construction work it was necessary to divert the course of the River Wey. The track was made from concrete because it was impossible to use asphalt because of the banking. Spectator seating for 5000 was built and the track's crowd capacity was reckoned to be 250,000.

The work was completed remarkably quickly and on June 17 1907 the track was opened. For the next 30 years it was the centre of British motor racing and home of the first British Grands Prix, although these were known at the time as the RAC Grands Prix. Brooklands served not only as a racing facility but also a test track and was the venue for many of the early Land Speed Record attempts.

It was at Brooklands that Alliot Verdon-Roe became the first Briton to fly in a British-built aeroplane and his company Avro went on to become an important firm in British aviation history. Verdon-Roe built his plane in the sheds at Brooklands and several other aviation companies, notably Vickers, Sopwith and Bleriot all opened production facilities at Brooklands and a flying school was established on the aerodrome.

Brooklands was also the home of automobile engineering companies, notably Thomson & Taylor, which built many of the early Land Speed Record cars. During World War II Brooklands was taken over by the military and some of the banking was destroyed in an attempt to camouflage the facility. After the war racing was not revived as throughout England there were a series of redundant airfields which could be used by racing enthusiasts. Brooklands was sold to the Vickers-Armstrong company in 1946 and in 1960 this became part of the British Aircraft Corporation which then merged in 1976 with Hawker-Siddeley Aviation to create British Aerospace. BAe operated a number of winddtunnels at Brooklands until 1990 when the facility was closed down. A number of BAe personnel later joined McLaren.In 2002 DaimlerChrysler UK announced that it had bought a 155-acre section of land in the middle of the old track and had plans to build a Heritage and Technical Centre for Mercedes-Benz. The plans include not only the new facility but also a hotel and a test track, incorporating parts of the old Campbell Circuit.

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