The fastest long distance races in the world – including the first 24 hour race – were held at Brooklands prior to 1939. Speed, bravery and endurance were not in short supply as a huge variety of cars, from baby Austins to 24-litre Napiers, drove flat out round the bumpy banking in all weathers…
Goodwood doesn’t have any banking, doesn’t do 24-hour races and can’t absolutely guarantee fine weather (though we can hope!) but it can deliver the Brooklands Trophy – and an authentic slice of what motor racing at Brooklands was like before the war.
The trophy goes back to 1950 and legendary Motor Sport editor Bill Boddy’s desire to perpetuate the memory of his beloved Brooklands, which never re-opened after the war. Bill saw the new Goodwood circuit as inheriting the mantle, so with money from the Brooklands Memorial Fund commissioned a trophy to be contested by ‘drivers in Brooklands-style races’ at Goodwood.
The Brooklands Trophy was last held in 2012, and this prestigious race is back on the card this year. Crammed with an astonishing array of pre-1939 sports racers – Alfa Romeos, Aston Martins, Bentleys, Invictas, Talbots, Frazer Nashes and Bugattis among others – it will be a real crowd favourite when the 30-car grid takes to the circuit for Race No7 on Saturday 12 September.
The Brooklands Trophy certainly pleased the crowds in 2012. After 20 minutes of thrilling racing there was barely a car’s length between the first two places. First home was Max Werner in his father Klaus’s Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 Monza – a car which, in the true spirit of prewar racing, Max had driven over from Germany to Revival. And he planned to drive it home again afterwards!
Klaus Werner and his classic racing Alfa are back for the Brooklands Trophy again this year, along with second and third placed cars from 2012: Gareth Burnett in a Talbot AV105 and Patrick Blakeney-Edwards in the Frazer Nash Saloon, ‘Owlett’.
With many other pre-eminent cars of the period taking part it promises to be a real clash of the titans with big names of the era – cars like Aston Martin Ulster and Brooklands, Blower Bentley, Bugatti Type 59, Mercedes-Benz SSK and Maserati Tipo 26M, not to mention the exquisite Alfas and Frazer Nashes – battling it out in the heroic spirit of Brooklands racing.
And if you want a quick sample of what that was like, try this wonderful little video of the 1934 500 Miles race at Brooklands – run in wet conditions, as the dour winner is only too pleased to point out:
Alas we don’t have a video of the 2012 race at Goodwood – our advice make a date for 12 September and watch the real thing. Meantime, enjoy another British Pathé shortie from Brooklands in period which does a wonderful job of showing just how fast the cars went (and how bumpy the banking was). It’s the 1933 British Empire Trophy, billed as the world’s fastest race – the winner averaged 123mph. Take a brave pill first
Photography by Jochen Van Cauwenberge