The Spirit of Brooklands

Near where I live is Brooklands, the worlds first ever purpose built motor racing track, and the scene of the first British Grand Prix. During it’s time many land speed records were broken there, and Brooklands became a major centre for automotive technology and development. Opened in 1907 with the remit to enable cars to drive at speeds of 100 miles per hour and above, one of it’s key features was that the track had to be banked. The total length of the track was 3.25 miles (including the finishing straight), and a significant proportion of the course consisted of concrete banking.

The final race took place in 1939 at the outset of the Second World War, as due to damage caused by bombing and trying to disguise the track from the air during the war, it became too expensive to repair it. Actually one more race did take place in 2009 when James May created a Scalextric track around the original course for his Toy Stories TV programme, and had a race between two teams.

There has been significant redevelopment of the site since the war but a large amount of the banking still remains. The Spirit of Brooklands is a project that I undertook with the help of Brooklands Museum (well worth a visit if you are at all interested in cars, bikes, planes or history), to document the remains of the circuit, and areas where the track has been removed but there has been an acknowledgment of its existence.

In its heyday Brooklands was a buzzing noisy place, with cars rattling over concrete at speeds of up to 143.44 mph (the course record), and as many as 287,000 spectators cheering on the drivers. To contrast with this I chose to shoot the project at night during very still weather conditions to give a peaceful, surreal feel to the images. The project took four years to complete, and I have just added the resulting images to my web site.

Some of the vehicles at Brooklands Museum.

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  1. Pingback: More Brooklands Offerings | Douglas Kurn, Photographer

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