The Spirit of Brooklands

Byfleet Banking, Brooklands Race Track at night

To fans of motor racing the banked section of crumbling road in the above picture is instantly recognisable as the home of British motorsport, Brooklands.

This was the site of the first purpose-built motor racing circuit anywhere in the world, and one that in its heyday in the 1920s and '30s saw thousands of fans lining the track, hoping to catch a glimpse of those pioneering racers.

The course was built in 1907 with sections of concrete banking to allow the cars to reach higher speeds than would otherwise have been possible. The design ensured it was the site of a number of land speed records and was home to the first British Grand Prix in 1927.

Alongside its motoring heritage it was also home to aviation pioneers, and by the start of World War II the site was given over to use by Vickers-Armstrongs and Hawker aircraft companies. Sadly, motor racing never returned to the site, though TV presenter James May did attempt to build the biggest Scalextric track along the route.

Photographer Douglas Kurn lives locally and decided to undertake the task of documenting the remains of the Brooklands circuit.

To contrast with the noise and speed of a race day, Douglas chose to shoot the project at night to give a peaceful, surreal feel to the images. Some of the exposures ran well past the hour and in total the project has taken four years to complete.

The Spirit of Brooklands was chosen by the Association of Photographers for its online exhibition of members' work, and a selection of prints was recently exhibited at the Brooklands Museum in Weybridge.

The Byfleet Banking, Brooklands The Byfleet Banking
Test Hill, Brooklands Test Hill, Brooklands
The Finishing Straight, The Heights, Brooklands The Finishing Straight, The Heights, Brooklands
The Railway Straight, Brooklands Race Track at night. The Railway Straight, Brooklands
The BP Petrol Pagoda at Brooklands Museum, Brooklands Race Track at night. The BP Petrol Pagoda at Brooklands Museum
Home Banking - JTI, Brooklands Race Track at night. Home Banking, Brooklands
The Brooklands Clubhouse at night. The Brooklands Clubhouse

You can see more of Douglas Kurn's work on his website.

Phil Coomes, Picture editor Article written by Phil Coomes Phil Coomes Picture editor

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