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Where is the Oldest Motor-Racing Circuit in the World?

Brooklands Motor-Racing Circuit and Associated Buildings
Boroughs of Elmbridge and Woking, Surrey

Scheduled: 1979, updated 2002
NHLE entry: Listing details for Brooklands motor racing circuit 

Racing car on Brooklands circuit
© Brooklands Museum, Surrey

Contrary to what you might expect, the answer to this question does not lie in France or Italy, but leafy suburban Surrey. Brooklands Motor Racing Circuit, built it 1907, is the first purpose-built motor racing circuit in the world. It predates other equally well-known international circuits, such as the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Monza. By the 1930s Brooklands had attained universal recognition as the home of British motor sport.

A record-breaking circuit

Constructed and financed entirely on the initiative of its owner and developer, Hugh Locke-King, the Brooklands circuit was the venue for a number of successful world record attempts during its 32 years of use:

  • In 1907 Selwyn Edge broke the 24-hour endurance record by covering a distance of 1,581 miles
  • In 1909 the world land speed record was first broken
  • In 1913 Percy Lambert became the first person to drive 100 miles in one hour.

And in 1926 the circuit was also the venue for Britain's first grand prix.

From Sopwith Pup to Vickers Wellington

Beyond its distinguished motor-racing history, Brooklands has a remarkable reputation for aviation and aircraft production. From 1910 onwards, many notable figures learned to fly at Brooklands, and from 1915 it was the venue for the maiden flights of British military aircraft, such as the Sopwith Pup, Sopwith Camel, Hawker Hurricane and Vickers Wellington.

It is estimated that more than 18,000 aircraft of nearly 250 types were built, assembled or test flown at Brooklands. As a result, the aerodrome and the factories associated with it collectively represent one of the most important sites in British aviation history.

Preserving history at Brooklands Museum

Sadly, the original concrete motor-racing circuit no longer survives in its entirety. Racing ceased at Brooklands in 1939, and at the start of the Second World War both the airfield and the circuit were requisitioned for use by the Vickers and Hawker aircraft companies.

Today, what survives in a series of scheduled areas are four major sections of the concrete circuit, together with part of the Aerodrome Road, a bridge providing access to the airfield from the Second World War Vickers repair hangars, a Bofors anti-aircraft tower, several Second World War air-raid shelters and the Brooklands Memorial. Also associated with these scheduled sites are a series of listed buildings, including the Grade II* Brooklands Automobile Racing Club clubhouse of 1906-07.

The Brooklands museum, which covers some parts of the site, is open to the public. It includes a history of the site's use and a significant collection of historic motor cars and aircraft.

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