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Racing circuit remains at Brooklands

From Brighton we were in reach of another old racing circuit and as it was only mid afternoon, off we went.

Brooklands in Surrey opened in 1907 and was the world’s first purpose built banked race track. It closed temporarily during World War I but closed for good in 1939 when World War II started. With an airfield also on the same land, the facilities were needed to produce military aircraft.

I love visiting old circuits. I am fascinated by the remains of tracks and buildings, knowing that cars and perhaps bikes once hurtled around under the rapt attention of huge crowds; the contrast between places that were once so full of life and noise now lying in a state of quiet abandonment and deterioration. A couple of years ago when Mike and I were in Europe I was thrilled that we could visit the old track at Reims in France and the old Monza oval while at the Italian grand prix.

So I was super keen to go to Brooklands.

When finally we were in the area the TomTom was a bit misinformed. His ‘point of interest’ directions took us into the grounds of a commercial office complex. Scolding him had no effect so it was a case of going back the way we came until the old fashioned method of navigation kicked in: we saw a sign to the Brooklands Museum.

The museum captures the history of the circuit and airfield and gives you access onto part of the track. It is located down a long access road, past Mercedes-Benz World, a huge site combining car show room, offices, museum, venue and driver experience facilities. Our Mercedes rental felt at home, if a little inadequate.

Mercedes-Benz World opened a few years ago on part of the huge infield area within the racing oval. That’s a purpose built handling track in front of the building

I made a beeline for the museum entry, to have my spirits dashed.

Bugger – it was almost closing time!

All the faffing around trying to find the place had unfortunately taken us over the last entry time. Soon my disappointment would increase when I would discover that there seemed to be no other way to access or properly view the track.

O well. I was going to have to come back another day with Mike in any case. But all wasn’t lost as the visitor centre and excellent gift shop was still open and well worth a poke around. I asked where the toilet facilities were and as they happened to be within the museum buildings I was allowed to go through – which let me have a quick peek at some of the exhibits.

A quick and unfortunately blurred snap of some of the fabulous machines on display, taken en route to the ‘ladies’

These sheds could be rented by drivers and motorcyclists

Then I scurried out of the museum grounds and down the road to see if I could find any other track viewing points.

The best angle I could achieve through the fence!

This was the second production Concorde and flew between 1974-1981. After being used for spare parts until Concordes ceased flying, it was given to the museum where it was restored and opened as an exhibit in 2006

This wee building from 1911 is thought to be the world’s first flight ticketing office

I found a path which I followed off the road down toward some trees beside the river – and through what seemed to be a section of missing race track. Vegetation is taking over but it looked like a sodding great slice of track had been cut out and the ends patched up. It wasn’t possible to see any of the track, just big green-covered ends. I felt robbed yet intrigued (what-happened-and-where-did-it-go?), not to mention a bit awed by how massive the track and banking had been.

If I have associated correctly my research findings for this post with my location on the day, it had been a section of banking called Hennebique Bridge that went over the River Wey. In 1969 this section was indeed demolished to provide a bit more room so that big jets could take off.

A glimpse of the Members’ Banking. Very disappointed I couldn’t get closer!

Beyond the missing section of track is an old access tunnel under the railway viaduct

Back out on the road I continued along a bit further to where I could finally see a decent stretch of track – albeit flat.

Top of Railway Straight where it comes off Members’ Banking, and part of the track near Mercedes-Benz World now owned by M-B for parking and driving instruction

The circuit ran anti-clockwise. This is looking down Railway Straight, the blue cones being part of M-B’s setup

In writing this up I have come across this excellent reference which, while a few years out of date now, points out where to find a huge section of track that still remains at the opposite end of the circuit. If I had known the difficulty I would have I might have researched things a bit better.

By now it was early evening and we needed to start heading for home. Can’t wait to return!

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Jake butler #

    I live on the tracks doorstep. I’ll be happy to show you some hidden/lost parts of the trAck? Like a free tour? Can show you all that remains and where the rest was, and how it looks now

    5 January 2014
    • Hi, that would be great if not for living in NZ. At this stage there are no plans to return, dammit. Still, this might be useful for someone else who might visit this page, so thanks for the offer.

      5 January 2014

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