Born to British parents in Australia, Selwyn wouldn’t have known it at the time, but his family’s ’s decision to return to the UK in 1871, when he was three, boosted his chances enormously of competing in a sport that hadn’t then been concocted: motor racing.
So, he certainly wouldn’t have known that the cars that he championed at Brooklands through until the 1930s would be among those that graced the grid when Goodwood opened for car racing in 1948. Edge’s early competitive streak was shown when he contested bicycle hillclimbs. However, it was his decision to be one of the pioneers in the embryonic world of motor cars that was to set him on course to race and gun for speed records.
In 1899, Edge was a founding partner in de Dion Bouton before going on to make his fortune trading Napiers. Wisely, he realised that the best way to get the cars known was to race them. With 17 litres under the bonnet, his Napier was quite a sight in the 1901 Gordon Bennett Cup and would end up as winner the following year.
Seeking further publicity, he entered one of his staff, Dorothy Levitt – ‘a beautiful secretary with long legs and eyes like pools’ – in the 1903 Southport Speed Trials, as the first woman to compete in a motor race. When she won, the publicity was immense, so Edge doubled up by entering her in a Napier speedboat in the Harmsworth Trophy in Cork Harbour, and she won that too.
It was with Brooklands that Edge is most associated, though, and he set a 24-hour distance record of 1,581 miles in the banked Surrey oval’s inaugural year, 1907. Such was Edge’s love of racing that he was still involved 30 years later, when he opened Brooklands’ shorter Campbell Circuit.
A race for Edwardian racing specials of a type that raced up to 1923
Lead image courtesy of LAT, second image courtesy of ‘Richard’ licensed under CC BY 2.0