On Saturday events conspired to allow me to visit for the first time the worlds first purpose built motor sport venue, Brooklands.
Brooklands was built in 1907, it was simultaneously also one of Britains first airfields. Brooklands became a centre of engineering excellence and racing continued their interrupted only by the Great War of 1914 – 1918. By 1939 what would become the all time lap record was set at 143.44 mph by John Cobb. A well known photo of John’s record breaking run show’s his 24 litre / 1461 cui Napier Railton, weighing several tons, flying along with all four wheels off the ground ! Such was the unevenness of the track. After the second world war racing failed to resume as industrial and residential pressures on the previously rural circuit took it’s toll on the circuits fabric.
Enthusiasts gathered on Saturday to pay tribute to William ‘Bill’ Boddy MBE who in a career spanning 81 years served as editor of the publication Motor Sport from 1936 – to 1991. He famously kept the magazine going through out WW2 during his spare time while working for the Ministry of Aircraft Production.
Bill passed away in July and this Saturdays gathering included many of the actual cars, like this 1926 Sunbeam 3 Litre Super Sports, with which Bill had been associated during a career that played a significant part in firing this writers imagination during his miss spent youth. Owner of the Sunbeam Oliver Heal tells me WB was a passenger in this car one cold wet November day while being chaufferred by John Wyer, future team manager at Aston Martin, Ford and of his own Gulf Sponsored JWA teams that successfully ran Ford, Porsche and Mirage chassis in sports car races.
In 1930 Bills first article published in Motor Sport was on the history Brooklands, the above 1907 Berliet V8 seen on The Hill is contemporaneous with the year the track opened 20 years before Bill made his first visit to Brooklands.
One of my favourite irregular features in Motor Sport is Bills ‘Forgotten Makes’ series into which category I would have to include this 1926 Gwynne 8 of which WB, as Bill was known to his readers, owned 3 using one as his transport through out WW2.
The ‘racing dentist’ Tony Brooks is seen above on the left retelling his memories of WB when his career was in the ascendant scoring the first Grand Prix win, since 1923, by an Englishman driving a British built car, the Connaught, at Syracuse in 1955.
While working at the Ministry of Aircraft Production WB met conscientious objector Denis ‘DSJ’ Jenkinson who was building a motorcycle by torch light in a shed during WW2. WB would eventually employ DSJ, who was so obsessed with racing that when he settled down he eschewed both mains electricity and mains water, to become Continental Correspondent at Motor Sport. Among many cars that DSJ enjoyed was the red E-Type Jaguar above in which he drove 110,000 miles between 1965 and 1970 visiting all the top races and the best circuits in Europe during that time.
This 1947 Volkswagen was road tested by WB in 1952, he was so impressed VW’s that he used them for editorial transportation. This particular vehicle is possibly also responsible for coining the ‘Beetle’ name for the model, VW importer and owner of this car John Colborne-Barber founded the VW Owners Club of Great Britain and published a magazine called ‘Beetling’ because contemporaries of his sons at school referred to this very car as a ‘Beetle’.
Finally perhaps the greatest thrill of the WB tribute day was to see a few of the cars, including Cobb’s Napier-Railton, that made history at Brooklands being demonstrated out on part of what the remains of the famous 100 ft wide Brooklands banking. Sure they were only tootling about having fun, but the noise was absolutely unforgettable and sure to have been heard by the spirit of WB where ever it resides. A fitting tribute to the man who was involved in saving much of what remains at Brooklands for us to enjoy well into the future.
Thanks for joining me on this Bill Boddy edition of ‘Gettin’ a little psycho on tyres’ I hope you will join me again tomorrow. Don’t forget to come back now !