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12th May 2010

Brooklands Spring Motorcycle Gathering
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The first motorcycle race at Brooklands Circuit took place over 100 years ago. Michael Sands reports on a recent recreation of that day...

The sun shone. The chrome-plate glittered. Parking spaces almost ran out and Brooklands was bathed in cloudless sunshine. The plan was to recreate the official start of motorcycle racing in the UK, which happened at the world-famous Brooklands circuit on 20th April 1908.

Brooklands was the world's first purpose-built motor racing circuit, built by local landowner Hugh Locke King on 330 acres of farm and woodland on his estate at Weybridge in Surrey. Work started in 1906 and the plans soon grew beyond Locke King's wildest expectations of a simple road circuit. He was persuaded that to achieve the highest possible speeds with the greatest possible safety, the 2 mile circuit would need to be provided with two huge banked sections nearly 30 feet high.

The track would be 100 feet wide, made of concrete and include two long straights, one running for half a mile beside the London to Southampton Railway. An additional Finishing Straight passed the Paddock and enclosures to bring the total length of the track to 3 miles. This outstanding feat of engineering was built in only nine months and eventually cost Hugh Locke King his personal fortune, a price equal to millions of pounds today.

Michael Digby aboard a Rex Acme, waiting for his turn to tackle Test Hill...

The 2010 Brooklands Spring Motorcycle gathering in April lived up to Museum Director Allan Winn's expectations of a Brooklands motorcycle day. It featured 30 selected historic racing bikes in the paddock and hundreds (610 to be exact) of motorcycles ridden in for the 2000-plus visitors to admire. Fourteen motorcycle clubs rode in as large groups from as far away as Christchurch and the Isle of Purbeck.

Eric Patterson's mighty 1200cc Norton JAP...

Among the rare machines on display was Keith Sams' 1912 ABC, an ex-works bike with a Brooklands history. At the other end of the scale was Eric Patterson's mighty 1200cc Norton JAP on which Eric holds the current world record for vintage machines up to 1300cc, a record he set at Bonneville in 2008. Needless to say, with all that power, Test Hill was no real challenge for Eric but by making the ascent he became the first motorcycle world record-holder to ride his winning machine at Brooklands since the 1930s.

The National Motorcycle Museum was represented by Wes Wall on the Bill Lacey Grindlay-Peerless which was joined in the Paddock by the only two other surviving Lacey-built Grindlays. Peter Lancaster rode his Brough Superior, the 'Works Scrapper', the fastest motorcycle in the world in 1930.

Many of the bikes from the Brooklands collection were running including the EJ Tubb Grindlay-Peerless ridden by John Bottomley, while Roger Bird rode his ex-works Norton sidecar outfit, LPD 1. Roger and passenger Edward Babb can be seen in the photos hereabouts, preparing to tackle Test Hill on the 1927 combination.

Roger Bird rode his ex-works Norton sidecar outfit, LPD 1...
Sidecar Stuff on now......

John Young on his Tri-JAP sprinters gave the liveliest performances of the day with a nice whiff of tyre smoke off the start line. David Miles displayed the Norton on which Derek Minter set the first-ever 100mph lap of the Isle of Man by a single-cylinder bike. Sadly, he chose not to run it because it is too high-geared for Test Hill. You can also see Michael Digby aboard a Rex Acme, waiting for his turn to tackle Test Hill. The picture reveals a typical Brooklands scene -- only the fashions have changed since the 1930s.

Trials Stuff on now......

On the grass beyond the BAC1-11, the Witley Club ran a fascinating arena trial for their junior members, boys and girls of school age. Pictured here is a 12 year old young lady from the Witley Club, taking part in that junior arena trial demonstration. Her overalls are a suitably fashionable colour, just like the famous lady drivers of the 1930s. The Club's performances were very professional and one Club member set a new 'first' by climbing the whole of Test Hill as a 'wheelie'. Two of their 12 year olds conquered Test Hill non-stop on BMX bikes during a lunch hour challenge. Another 'first'.

All in all, it was a wonderful day which mixed the smell of methanol and Castrol R, blue smoke and blue skies. Lots of black leather and some black tyre streaks on Test Hill. A large crowd enjoyed the marvellous atmosphere that is unique to Brooklands, lots of nostalgia -- and even 4000 worth of burgers!



Photos by Nigel Brecknell of Brooklands Museum


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