Seldom has a single location been the scene of so much sporting and engineering history: Brooklands – the mother of all race-tracks for cars and motorcycles, a famous venue for world record attempts, and the birthplace of the British aviation industry.
Much of this is now in the past, but the circuit outside the town of Weybridge – some 30 kilometres south-west of London – lives on to this day.
Start of the August race in Brooklands/England (Prix de la France): One of the first races on the Brooklands circuit on August 5, 1907. Two 120 hp Mercedes were placed first and second.
With such a rich heritage, it was never likely to slip quietly into the shadows. The surviving sections of the imposing race-track, some of which have been ab-sorbed into the town’s modern-day character, the lively Brooklands Museum, which uses original buildings to display its countless exhibits, and plans put in place by DaimlerChrysler for the years to come all help to ensure that the legendary race-track will never be forgotten. Rising from the heart of the race oval is the Mercedes-Benz Brand Centre, the realisation of a unique concept. The Brand Centre is intended to turn buying a Mercedes-Benz into a whole new experience. Spreading out from the ample window frontage of the new-car show-room are extensive test tracks, where customers can sample the driving dynamics of a Mercedes-Benz through a succession of carefully arranged corners. Four-wheel drive vehicles, meanwhile, can be put through their paces over challenging off-road terrain. For the brand’s customers at Brooklands, the first drive in a Mercedes-Benz is sure to be both exciting and informative.
DaimlerChrysler has also maintained a bridge to the past – in the truest sense of the word. Just a short walk from the Mercedes-Benz Brand Centre on the other side of the River Wey stands the Brooklands Museum. Mercedes-Benz and the Museum already work together successfully, the brand lending exhibits and exhibitions. With the Brand Centre and the Museum now close neighbours, this relationship is set to prosper still further.
Double victory for 120 hp Mercedes cars: Dario Resta (start number 3) won the Prix de la France on the Brooklands race-track in England on August 5, 1907, and J. E. Hutton (start number 9) finished as runner-up.
Timeline: the history of Brooklands
- 1906: Hugh Fortescue Locke-King decides to build a car and motorcycle race-track and christens it ‘Brooklands’, after his family estate.
- 1906, October: Construction begins. The costs involved in building the circuit take on huge proportions.
- 1907: June 28: The first record is set. Selwyn Edge covers some 2531 kilometres (1581 miles and 1340 yards) in 24 hours at an average speed of 107.87 km/h (67.03 mph).
- 1907: June 17: The circuit is officially opened. The race-track features two high-bank curves connected by straights, and has a total length of 5.2 kilometres (3.25 miles). There is seating for 5000 spectators and standing capacity for 250,000.
- Official timing is introduced during the course of the first season. Special systems are developed and constantly improved.
- 1909: The Test Hill is put into service, allowing vehicle manufacturers to test the climbing ability and brakes of their products.
- 1909: November 8: Victor Héméry breaks through the magical 200 km/h (125 mph) barrier for the first time in a ‘Lightning Benz’, setting an average speed of 205.7 km/h over the mile with flying start.
- Brooklands establishes itself as a major European circuit on the back of the races and record attempts held at the track.
- 1914 –1918: The First World War. Car racing comes to a halt. The site is used for manufacturing and testing aircraft.
- 1922: ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’, a record-breaking car powered by a Maybach aero engine, achieves a speed of 182.58 km/h (113.45 mph).
- 1924: The ‘Brooklands silencer’, a special sound muffling device, provides the solution to protests by local residents about the noise levels generated by the circuit.
- 1934: John Cobb drives his Napier-Railton to a speed of 216.79 km/h (134.71 mph). He later pushes this up to 230.84 km/h (143.44 mph). This record mark remains unbroken at Brooklands to this day. The car is now on display at the Brooklands Museum.
- 1937: The Campbell Circuit – a twisty course full of corners built on the inside of the oval – takes shape, with the aim of in-creasing the appeal of race meetings.
- 1938: The last full season of races at Brooklands gets under-way.
- 1939, August 7: Brooklands holds its last ever race.
- 1939 – 1945: The Second World War. Aircraft production at Brooklands is stepped up significantly. New buildings are erected and other building work carried out, making deep in-roads into the race-track.
- 1946, January: The decision is taken to sell the site to aircraft manufacturer Vickers-Armstrong.
- Brooklands becomes a centre of the British aviation industry. Production continues until 1987.
- 1987: The Brooklands Museum opens its doors. The new museum looks at the entire heritage of the site and has exhibits highlighting the circuit’s record in car and motorcycle competition, as well as its aviation history.
- 2005: DaimlerChrysler builds a Brand Centre at Brooklands for the Mercedes-Benz, Maybach and smart brands. Close cooperation with the Brooklands Museum provides a link to the history of the circuit.