Seldom has a single location been the scene of so much sporting and engineering history: Brooklands – the mother of all race tracks for cars and motorcycles, a famous venue for world record attempts, and the birthplace of the British aviation industry.
Much of this is now in the past, but the circuit outside the town of Weybridge – some 30 kilometres south-west of London, United Kingdom – lives on to this day. With such a rich heritage, it was never likely to slip quietly into the shadows. The surviving sections of the imposing race track, some of which have been absorbed into the town’s modern-day character, the lively Brooklands Museum, which uses original buildings to display its countless exhibits, and Daimler AG all help to ensure that the legendary motor racing circuit will never be forgotten.
At the centre of the motor racing oval is the Mercedes-Benz Brand Center. This unique concept, built on the hallowed Brooklands soil in 2005, was designed to transform the purchase of a Mercedes-Benz vehicle into a whole new experience. The ample window frontage of the showroom for new cars looks directly out onto extensive test tracks, where customers can sample the handling characteristics of a Mercedes-Benz through a succession of carefully laid-out turns. Four-wheel drive vehicles, meanwhile, can be put through their paces over challenging off-road terrain. These features help ensure that a customer’s first drive in a Mercedes-Benz is both exhilarating and informative.
Daimler AG has also maintained a bridge to the past – in the truest sense of the word. Just a short walk from the Mercedes-Benz Brand Centre on the other side of the River Wey stands the Brooklands Museum. Mercedes-Benz enjoys a close cooperation with the museum, and regularly sends exhibits and exhibitions.
Timeline: the history of Brooklands
• 1906: Hugh Fortescue Locke-King decides to build a car and motorcycle racing circuit and names it ‘Brooklands’, after his family estate.
• 1906, October: Construction begins. The costs involved in building the oval track take on huge proportions.
• 1907: 17 June: Official opening. The circuit features two banked curves linked by straights and has a total length of 5.2 kilometres (3.25 miles). The circuit has seating for 5,000 spectators and standing capacity for 250,000.
• 1907: 28 June: The first record is set. Selwyn Edge covers approximately
2,531 kilometres (1,581 miles and 1,340 yards) in 24 hours at an average speed of 107.87 km/h (67.03 mph).
• Official timing is introduced during the course of the first season. Special systems are developed and constantly improved.
• 1909: The Test Hill is built, allowing vehicle manufacturers to test the climbing ability and brakes of their products.
• 1909, 8. November: Victor Hémery durchbricht auf einem Blitzen-Benz erstmals die magische Marke von 200 km/h (125 Meilen pro Stunde), er erreicht über eine halbe Meile mit fliegendem Start eine Durchschnittsgeschwindigkeit von 205,666 km/h.
• Brooklands establishes itself as a major European circuit on the back of the races and record attempts held at the track.
• 1914 – 1918: The First World War. Car racing comes to a halt. The site is used for manufacturing and testing aircraft.
• 1922: ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’, a record-breaking car powered by a Maybach aero engine, achieves a speed of 182.58 km/h (113.45 mph).
• 1924: The ‘Brooklands silencer’, a specially designed sound absorber, provides the solution to protests by local residents about noise levels generated by the circuit.
• 1934: John Cobb reaches a speed of 216.79 km/h (134.71 mph) in his Napier-Railton. He later pushes this mark to 230.84 km/h (143.44 mph). His record was never bettered at Brooklands. The car is now on display at the Brooklands Museum.
• 1937: The Campbell Circuit is built – a twisty course laid out inside the oval – with the aim of increasing the appeal of race meetings.
• 1938: The last full season of races at Brooklands.
• 1939, 7 August: Brooklands holds its last ever race.
• 1939 – 1945: The Second World War. Aircraft production at Brooklands is stepped up significantly. New buildings are erected and other building work is carried out, resulting in significant curtailment of the race track.
• 1946, January: The decision is taken to sell the site to aircraft manufacturer Vickers-Armstrong.
• Brooklands becomes a centre of the British aviation industry. Production continues until 1987.
• 1987: The Brooklands Museum opens its doors. The new museum is dedicated to the site’s entire motoring and aviation heritage has exhibits highlighting the circuit’s record in car and motorcycle competition as well as its place in aviation history.
• 2005: DaimlerChrysler opens a Brand Centre at Brooklands for the
Mercedes-Benz, Maybach and smart brands. Close cooperation with the Brooklands Museum provides a link to the history of the circuit.
Source: Daimler AG