For three decades this famous racing track, placed like a giant footprint in the Surrey countryside, just 20 miles South West of London, was the centre of British Motor Sport. The two and half mile circuit with its massive concrete banking was the very epitome of speed and captured the imagination and Zeitgeist of the age.
What happened at Brooklands was news and the drivers that raced there became household names.
In the summer of 1906 at a dinner party with some influential friends in the motoring world, Hugh Locke King volunteered to build, at his own expense and on his own land, the world's first purpose-built motor-racing track. The Locke King's estate bordered and partly included what they saw as the perfect setting for a racecourse, over 300 acres of land where quiet woodlands sloped gently down to an area of flat marshy farmland by the river Wey. Locke King was himself a keen motoring enthusiast and had been to see a big international motor race on the continent and was very disappointed that there were no British competitors. He was told that Britain stood no chance in trials and competitions because there was nowhere in this country that British cars could be tested or raced.
As soon as the design of the track was entrusted to Colonel H.C.L. Holden of the Royal Artillery, the original plans began to grow beyond Locke King's wildest expectations. Far from the idea of a simple road circuit, Locke King was persuaded that, in order for cars to achieve the highest possible speed more unique plans were required. Because Brooklands was the world's first purpose-built motor-racing circuit there were no previous examples to follow. To begin with, many of the rules and procedures were based on horse racing in order to try and attract an audience to this new and somewhat curious sporting venue.
In addition to the unique banked curves, features of the new motor course included the distinctive green-domed Clubhouse complete with a weighbridge for cars and changing rooms for competitors.
Possible speeds, with the greatest possible safety, the 2¾ mile circuit would need to be provided with two huge banked sections nearly 30 ft. high. The track would be 100 ft. wide, hard-surfaced and include two long straights, one running for half a mile beside the London to Southampton Railway, and an additional 'Finishing Straight' passing the Paddock and enclosures, bringing the total length of the track to 3¼ miles.
On the 17th June 1907 after just nine months of work the still unfinished Brooklands Motor Course was opened - this outstanding feat of engineering having eventually cost Hugh Locke King a personal fortune of £150,000, a price equal to millions of pounds today.
The first official race, on 6th July 1907, was heralded by the motoring press as a 'Motor Ascot'.
Constructed at Weybridge, Surrey, by wealthy landowner Hugh Locke King in 1907 Brooklands was the first purpose built motor racing circuit in the world. But this great ‘wonder of the 20th century’ very soon became much more than that; not only the birthplace of British motor sport but also of British aviation. Throughout the following 80 years it was to remain a world-renowned centre of technology and engineering excellence.
The heyday of the racing circuit was undoubtedly the 1920s and 1930s when record times were being set and broken by Malcolm Campbell, John Cobb and others in such magnificently crafted machines as Napier, Delage, Panhard, Bentley and Bugatti.
Motorcycles and pedal cycles too had their devotees and many records were established on the Track. Brooklands was a very fashionable place to be seen and became known as ‘the Ascot of Motor sport’.