The Brooklands motor racing circuit in Surrey, England has played a central role in the history of racing. When British entrepreneur Hugh Fortescue Locke-King first built the site in 1907, it included the world's first banked motor race circuit. It was also the second-ever oval style race track built for cars. The site hosted the world's first 24-hour motor event just eleven days after it opened, and the world record for the first person to cover a hundred miles in an hour was set by Percy E. Lambert at Brooklands in 1913. Grand Prix motor racing was established at Brooklands in 1926. And the site became one of Britain's first airfields when it hosted the first flight of an English aircraft by an English pilot in 1908.
However, at the onset of war in 1939, the racing was terminated due to fuel rationing. At the war's conclusion the racing organizations found other, newer tracks with improved banking, and the site fell into disuse. Brooklands, which once could hold up to 287,000 spectators, became a shell of its former self.
Today, however, the site is getting another chance to shine as developers move in to build racing related theme attractions. In 2001, the sections of track that remained on the site were given a preservation order, making any subsequent destruction of the circuit illegal. Then in 2004 the central area of Brooklands including the hard runway and remaining racetrack was sold to DaimlerChrysler. That company then opened Mercedes-Benz World in 2006, a branded theme park and conference center that uses the original Brooklands track as a test track that visitors can use themselves, and also has a showroom and interactive exhibits demonstrating this history of Brooklands. Since then the rest of the site has been targeted for more development, with a Tesco, Marks & Spencer, Mothercare, Currys and Argos all now open on the land.
Last month Delancey, the London-based fund manager run by Jamie Ritblat, son of British property magnate Sir John Ritblat, acquired a two-acre site next to Mercedes-Benz World targeted for development of a 120 bedroom hotel. The property was purchased from DaimlerChrysler Retail and is meant to operate in conjunction with the theme park. Ritblat says his firm expects the new entertainment center to be a major tourist draw, pointing out that it is unique because children as young as eight or nine can drive on part of the original Brooklands circuit. According to DaimlerChrysler the center is the largest “brand experience” center of its kind in Europe. Site preparation and construction works for the Delancey development are scheduled to begin during Spring 2008, with the hotel opening for business in 2010.
But it may not just be the cars that will attract visitors to the site. After all, Brooklands was also once a very prominent airfield as well. Today the site has many famous decommissioned airplanes, including a British Airways Concorde, G-BBDG, the first production Concorde built. Other well-known aircraft at the site include a Vickers Vanguard, Viscount, VC10 and many military aircraft. Interestingly, all of these aircraft had at least one major component built at Brookfields itself. The VC10 was entirely built at Brooklands and had its first flight from there.
Given the site's impressive history, Delancey may not be the only firm to partner with DaimlerChrysler to develop assets in the area. The Brooklands site could be on its way to becoming a major tourist destination rivaling other such sites in Britain.