Good News for Brooklands= Good News For ALL OF MOTORSPORT.

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The image above says everything you need to know about Brooklands. Fast, banked turns on which wildly moustachioed, goggled, flying hatted playboys fought wheel to wheel to prove the superiority of their chosen steed and, as we can see, even sometimes getting it to hover. Amazing things happened on this two and three-quarter mile oval in leafy Surrey between 1907 and 1939.  British Motorsport was born here. I, personally, am very grateful.
The years haven’t been spectacularly kind to Brooklands, which seems absolutely, stark, raving mad when you consider its significance. But today comes the news that recognition has finally been granted and there is an actual scheme in place to breathe life back into this ground zero for the octane blooded.

A brief reality check first; the chance of seeing a Napier-Railton lapping the circuit at 143mph is just as slim as, well, seeing anything lapping the circuit at any speed. The circuit doesn’t, in the strictest sense, actually exist any more. Real estate in Surrey has always been frighteningly expensive and for a long period of the 20th century Brooklands was just a load of abandoned old broken concrete sliding its way downhill to total obscurity. Bits of it have been sold, built on, had roads built over it, and that which does remain is, frankly, a bit of a mess.
Down but not out, though. It still has a firm grasp of its roots, no small thanks to Mercedes-Benz who have operated their MB World operation (The UK version) here for a good few years, so you do at least get a flavour of the past on days when the AMG experience team are whitening the knuckles of paying passengers. But not on the actual circuit itself.
This view above shows that the odds are quite firmly stacked against the original oval ever being raced on in anger, so it will be interesting to follow what actually does happen. Something is definitely on the horizon, though. £4.7m has just been promised by the Heritage Fund; the scheme where money raised by people like me who pump a few quid every week into our national lottery actually ends up being spent on something worthwhile. This from BBC News:
“The finishing straight will be restored to its 1939 appearance when the circuit was in its heyday”
“The money will help bring part of its famous track back to life and rebuild its main hangar, which houses old aeroplanes including Wellington bombers, Sopwiths and Hurricanes”
There you go.
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There is already a Brooklands museum; it would be criminal if there wasn’t. It does what it can to bring the heritage of Brooklands back to life, and not just the motorsport side, either. Aviation was the other string to the circuit’s bow, with aircraft as varied as the Hawker Hurricane, BAC TSR2 and big chunks of Concorde being built within the banking. On completion Vickers VC10s would fly from the single runway (now bisected by a public road) before embarking on their airborne careers.
OK, we’re not likely to see anything quite of that magnitude happening again, but the idea even that remaining sections of the original track might once again throb to a multi-cylinder beat, that the spectacle of speed might return in some form, and that schoolkids might get some tangible taste of how it all began, is a hugely appealing prospect.
I notice with interest that the Brooklands Wikipedia page has been updated: “In 2015, it was announced that Brooklands would receive a multi-million pound facelift”.
Watch this space.
(This news brought to you by your Hooniverse vague news correspondent).

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  1. hatchtopia Avatar

    I'm a bit of a map geek, and by extension, spend way too much time on Google Earth. It's always interesting to see odd patterns in the typical urban grid – remnant rail lines, old canals, etc – trying to figure out what existed in the not-so-distant past. An old race track I've never come across, though. Off to the Googles!

    1. hatchtopia Avatar

      And I've discovered that Google Earth has aerial imagery of Greater London from 1945. So cool. Of note – the track at Brooklands has already begun to be dismantled and built over even by that date.

      1. skitter Avatar

        Ah, wrong thumb! And right after I clicked hopefully the right stuff to file taxes! Bad things are happening!

    2. Batshitbox Avatar

      Here you go, fellow map geek
      That's a composite of aerial photos of San Francisco in 1938, just after the bridges opened up. It's zoomable and in a resolution comparable to Google Maps from maybe a couple years ago. I like to have it open in one window, and Google Maps open in another so I can switch back and forth for comparison.
      (Check out the San Francisco Seals playing a game on 16th and Bryant.)
      I even shelled out the $200 for a 50" square print of it, which is not quite as high res as the individual prints, but pretty impressive!
      Where do I find the 1945 London pictures?

      1. hatchtopia Avatar

        Awesome. I've been to that site before, but never looked at the SF composite. The London imagery is just on Google Earth. Use the slider to adjust the date backward.

        1. hatchtopia Avatar

          Oh, and the 1938 San Francisco imagery is available on Google Earth too. Overlaying the current street network on the old pictures is fascinating.

  2. Tomsk Avatar

    I can't find the page (It's probably long since been taken down.), but about a decade ago, before Daimler opened its facility, some guy came up with a conceptual layout of a revived Brooklands that took into account modern safety standards and all the sections of the original layouts that had been demolished or built-over. However, it it still incorporated a substantial chunk of the banking and a few of the original corners and straights. His idea was to create a facility capable of taking over British Grand Prix hosting duties from Silverstone (Remember, this was before that track's big rebuild.).

  3. booniefez Avatar

    Strangely enough my friend went to Mercedes Benz World last Tuesday – have yes to catch up with him to find out what it was like.

  4. dukeisduke Avatar

    James May did a tribute to Brooklands on James May's Toy Stories (a wonderful series, if you get a chance to see it). It's Episode Four, where they build a 2.95 mile long Scalextric track, along the original Brooklands route.

  5. Dean Bigglesworth Avatar
    Dean Bigglesworth

    Driving anything at speed on the remaining part of the banking would interesting, to say the least. Still, it's definitely worth a visit even in its current form. We didn't visit the MB world thingie, but there's plenty to see otherwise too. Old cars, bikes, planes, the track, some "bunkers".. IIRC they also gave tours of the Concorde.
    The aircraft hangar is definitely in need of restoration. Rusty as hell with chipping paint and generally pretty tatty, though it sort of suits the place and didn't bother me.
    The aircraft hangar is the structure in the back, if I remember correctly.
    <img src="; width="500" </img>