Today, over 100 years since the automobile was invented and the first races were held, racing circuits have become common across the world. There are many tracks, configurations and different types of layouts but the world of motorsport has almost forgotten the first true blue racing-specific circuit. That’s right, we’re talking about the Brooklands track which was opened in June 1907.
The Brooklands track was constructed and opened in response to the growing popularity of cars and racing in those times. The car was still a novelty item, expensive and complicated by the standards of the day which captured the imagination of the whole world. In those days, England had a law which prohibited cars from going faster than 20 mph (32 km/h) and this ban stared to limit the development of new British-made cars. So, to keep British car manufacturers in the game and to give the public a safe place to witness some high-quality racing from, Brooklands was built in 1907 as the first proper racing circuit in the world.
The Brooklands was not just the first racing circuit in the world but the first banked motor race circuit in the world. Today, especially in America, banked racing tracks or ovals are a common thing but in 1907 this was a state-of-the-art construction achievement. The track was 30 meters wide and 4.43 kilometers long with an interesting layout. The whole project was the brainchild of Hugh F. Locke King, a British entrepreneur who was very active in the early days of motoring and aeronautical development.
Soon after opening in 1907, Brooklands became the place for all motorsport enthusiasts and racers across the world. The races were held every weekend with lots of testing and records being made and broken on the track. Practically anybody who was a professional racer in those days had raced on the Brooklands track at least once. In 1909, a part of the Brooklands complex was converted into an airport and became a place for aeronautical enthusiasts as well.
During those years, Brooklands was the centre of motorsport in UK and was very popular worldwide as well. Unfortunately, it had to be closed down in 1939. There were a few factors that contributed to the decision. Firstly, when the Second World war started, the Brooklands airfield was turned into a military base and the whole complex was damaged in bombing in 1940. The second reason was that the surfice of the track was very poor after 30 years of racing. The building technology was not so good in those days so Brooklands had very bumpy and uneven tarmac which was dangerous for races. However, the war was the main reason.
After the war, Brooklands was almost abandoned and as the racing industry and motor racing scene slowly recovered, the racers moved to race on airfields where it was easier to organize events. Because of that, The Brooklands track was never repaired and used for racing again. It slowly deteriorated over the years with the tarmac in very bad shape and with trees growing around it.
However, the site was not forgotten; the airport and the Brooklands Motor Museum which is one of the best museums in Europe keep the memory of the track alive. The museum has a number of cars as well as aircrafts on permanent display.
There have been a few initiatives to repair this legendary track and to bring it to it’s former glory. Let’s hope that the British government understands the importance of this fantastic location and heritage that it has and that the Brooklands someday returns to being at the center of the motorsport world where it once was.
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