The world's first purpose-built motor racing circuit received its inaugural first race in 1907, and our reporter was there to see it
Matt Burt
16 July 2015

Billed as the motor racing equivalent of an Ascot horse race, the first meeting at the then-new Brooklands circuit in Surrey took place on 6 July 1907.

It wasn’t the first action to which Hugh Locke King’s new track had played host. A week before that first race, Selwyn Edge had used the circuit to set a new 24-hour distance record of 1581 miles and 1310 yards. That took place in front of few onlookers, but for the first full meeting a crowd of about 13,500 gathered.

“The quietude of the fir-clad slopes at Weybridge was disturbed on Saturday by the roar and rattle of open exhausts,” wrote Autocar’s sister publication, The Motor. “Great cars, belching forth clouds of smoke and handled by greasy drivers, lined up for inspection and were surrounded by fashionably attired ladies and gentlemen.”

Six races of between 3.2 and 30.4 miles were run but “no times were recorded, and thus, in our opinion, the racing was robbed of much of its interest”.

The prestigious Montagu Cup event was won by JE Hutton’s Mercedes, but the fourth race, for the Byfleet Plate, was “the most exciting race of the day”, according to The Motor’s scribe.

“C Jarrott’s Lorraine-Dietrich went off in the lead and held it for the first round,” he wrote. “During the second circuit the Napier of F Newton got on terms, and the two cars ran bonnet to bonnet for some time.

“Then the Dietrich gained again and the two cars entered the last round locked together, the Dietrich seeming to be slightly ahead. Thus they entered the finish straight and the rare sight of a magnificent tussle right to the tape was witnessed, the Napier sprinting up level and the two cars going over the line together, the verdict being a dead heat.”

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The Motor’s correspondent was surprised at what he saw but had some observations that he hoped would be of use to the Brooklands organisers.

“The new sport inaugurated on Saturday may, quite possibly, catch on. I was extremely interested in the racing and it made a better impression on me than I had anticipated.

“The meeting was a first effort, and it is safe to assume that, as the authorities settle down to their work, many improvements will be introduced. It would be idle to deny that the meeting did not reveal defects.

“The failing of Saturday was that the cars were not sufficiently distinctive. The numbering of the competing cars was a mere haphazard device, numbers being put on anyhow and anywhere. For purposes of identification on cars travelling at high speeds, the numbers were quite useless.

“These defects are capable of easy remedy in most cases, and I recognised in all I saw at Brooklands the existence of a determined spirit that will remedy every defect as it becomes patent.”

See more of the history of Brooklands here.

Previous Throwback Thursdays

4 March 1899 - Steam, electric or combustion engine? 

26 June 1906 - The first French Grand Prix

14 February 1913 - 100 miles in one hour

8 April 1916 - Making post-war predictions

25 March 1922 - Caterpillar tracks are the future

4 July 1925 - Citroën lights up the Eiffel Tower

2 February 1934 - The ethics of skidding

6 July 1934 - A tour of Cowley

1 June 1935 - Introduction of the driving test

22 June 1945 - Driving through post-WW2 Europe

21 January 1949 - Tidier tails

24 April 1959 - Aston Martin enters Formula 1

27 January 1961 - Ford Thunderbird road test

17 November 1961 - TVR Grantura road test

6 May 1971 - Driving Ford's Supervan

13 May 1978 - Ferrari 512 BB road test

19 January 1980 - Talbot Horizon road test

13 February 1982 - 4x4s tested on the farm 

17 April 1985 - Secrets of a lost British supercar

28 April 1993 - BL's unseen concepts

16 March 1994 - Bentley's Concept Java

16 April 1997 - When Bugatti bit the dust

4 April 2001 - 0-260mph in 6.0 seconds

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