Tuesday, December 07, 2010
Its a place I never tire of visiting, not caring whether nostalgia or ghosts lure me to the crumbling, mossy banks of this nearly vanished track. Brooklands, the original speed bowl, whose gates were flung wide in 1907 for a parade of touring cars, nearly motorized carriages that day, all billowing ash-stiffened canvas tops and wood spoke wheels, playthings of the rich, curiosities, slow and troublesome, marvelous.
Within 100 yards that opening day procession broke out in a race, the first of a thousand to come, the gleam in the eye of those Edwardians who rotated throttle levers wide and set to passing the car before, ladies and children aboard, forgetting everything, bunting and flowers trailing behind, irrelevant.
None could 'win', but someone hit the clubhouse first, no doubt to drinks and merriment, revved up on speed juice. Things grew seriouser and seriouser with time, the gentleman's club suddenly central to Industry - planes, cars, motorcycles, the military, national prestige, progress.
Pilots on two, three, four wheels, or wings, carried that Edwardian gleam, yes in it for the money, but money so they could be in it. There were other places to come, Island races and Continental, sand and salt, but two generations of speedmen, and women, knew it as Mecca. The temple grounds of Speed, raw, rough, bumpy as hell, unforgiving, but always there and for so long the only place faster than the vehicles circulating.
The Absolute speedmen left by the Twenties, needing far more stretch, but they weren't Racing, except against Time, doing battle against a common foe, the mortal enemy of us all.
Motorcyclists raced time too, by increments, in clocks, staking claims a little further along the miles - per hour, per day - or against their fellows. They raced for trinkets, enameled copper stars, spark plugs and tires, dotted grainy photos in the press, and a little money to keep going, to be in it. To a man, that was the key, the same gleam bound them, not mercenaries, true amateurs, for the love of the sport, the love of a place. Brooklands.