Brooklands is the first ever motor-racing circuit. It is located near the villages of Weybridge and Esher in Surrey, England. There was an aerodrome inside the circuit which was bombed in the war and consequently Brooklands fell out of use as a circuit in the 1930's. Brooklands had huge banked corners, 100 feet wide, and some of them still remain. In fact, the whole place now looks like a crumbling time-capsule with the eerie remains of the circuit hidden in the trees.
The song called Brooklands is about a true-life racing driver called John Cobb. Whilst he was a quiet and reserved man he had a love for speed and racing. He was born near the site of the race track and went from being a keen spectator to being a competitor. He went on to become the dominant driver at Brooklands in the days of the Napier Railtons and the Bentley Boys driving their ‘Blowers’
Here is some jaw-dropping footage of Cobb and Malcolm Campbell racing at Brooklands in 1932. As you will see if you watch the film, these men were extraordinarily brave.
Cobb went on to hold the ultimate track record at Brooklands with an average speed of nearly 144 miles per hour. Cobb broke several land and water speed records and continued with his record breaking attempts into middle-age. He died on Loch Ness in 1952 whilst attempting to break the water speed record. Cobb's beloved wife had died before him in 1948 after just a year of marriage. He had recently married again and his second wife was at the Loch when he crashed.
The opening of the song sets the scene as John is driving to Loch Ness to attempt the water speed record. As he takes his boat out onto the water he remembers back to his young days at Brooklands and then his later life as a racer. These are the last memories he will think about.
After the crash, the people of the local villages raised money for a memorial on the Loch side:
Brooklands is about a man who is growing older and wonders, like many of us do: ‘where did all the time go?’ But John Cobb was determined to extract everything he could out of life and to lead the life he wanted to live right up to the end. I imagine that Brooklands was a kind of heaven for him, it being the place that defined him and where he found himself.
For those who want to read further about John Cobb, there is an excellent article about this reluctant hero here.
Brooklands is well worth a visit. There is a motor museum and an aviation museum on site and a number of period buildings. It is still possible to walk around many areas of the banked circuit and imagine the cars racing by.