America's Brooklands

This article was published in the August 15, 1909 Indianapolis Star and reports on the Brooklands track of Weybridge, Surrey, England. Constructed in 1907, a full two years before the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Hoosiers inevitably compared their homegrown facility with the English concrete-paved closed circuit course.
The article is for the most part a reprint from a piece in the trade publication, Motor, bylined J.P. Holland. The headline of the Star's presentation of the information is misleading in that implies the article would compare the local Speedway to its counterpart across the Atlantic. This is not true. Holland most directly compares Brooklands to the beach racing at Ormond-Daytona where the unique nature of the sand there created a smooth, rock-hard surface when moistened by the waves and then baked by the sun during low tide.
The article provides some useful facts, such as the length of a lap was 2.76687774 miles. There was an additional strip of concrete referred to as a "cross stretch," and including that section in the measurment pushed the full length to 3.25 miles. The track was built upon the residence of H.F. Locke King and was named "Brooklands," because that what he called his estate. Locke King is widely recognized as making a grand gesture to jump start Britian's automotive industry by providing a proviing ground for testing and competition to improve the breed. In this manner he was similar the Speedway Founder and President Carl G. Fisher. For the record Fisher was obsessed with comparing his track to Brooklands at the time.
I feel the article draws out some interesting differences in the operating philosophy of its owner with those of the Speedway. Brooklands offered scarce customer seating and was inconvenient to any population centers. To find it visitors faced a circuitous route haunted by what Holland describes as "officious" policemen making up a fanatically anti-motorist magistracy. England had long been known as a country that over-regulated its motorists to protect the traditional transportation modes servicing its economy.
The article reports that a frequent criticism leveled at the facility was that there was no vantage point from which the spectator could view the entire track. Author Holland notes that crisp adherence to published schedules was far more severe at Brooklands than America. He attributes this to modeling their formats after horse racing (the Jockey Club) whereas in America, he asserts, the sport was an extension of bicycle racing. That is an observation I had not previously considered. To that point the Earl of Lonsdale (Hugh Lowther at the time) president of the Jockey Club, was appointed the first president of the Brooklands Club and was responsible for race operations.
The economic viability of the track was apparently in question in that it required a "large staff" for maintenance adding to the cost of initial investment estimated at $750,000. The article suggests that gate receipts and membership fees would little more than cover monthly expenses.

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