Mercedes-Benz and Brooklands

Motor racing history. Mercedes-Benz World towers cliff-like over a corner on the Campbell Circuit at Brooklands. The circular skid pan fits inside the old Aerodrome Curve of the road circuit, built inside the old banked track in 1936-1937. You can see in the picture below, where the new surface joins the old concrete in the foreground, the line of the historic corner, which continues parallel with the fence line to top centre. Mercedes-Benz allowed hacks to try the latest anti-skid gizmos on the skid-pan the other week, although with minders in the car it wasn’t being very reckless. It showed that you have to do something pretty crass to lose control of a Mercedes even in the slippery wet.
The only surprise was how remote you feel. Electronics now act as fail-safes for drivers who no longer need rely on their own reactions to get out of skiddy trouble. There really was little chance of coming to harm at 20mph. You just slithered to a stop.
Mercedes-Benz World has loops of demo track beside the Campbell Circuit’s long straight on the road circuit laid down in 1936-1937. Brooklands is best known for the 1908 bankings, but a change of regime, competition from Crystal Palace and Donington, and a conviction that road racing was more realistic than the old oval prompted change. The result was 2.25 miles of roadway, 32ft wide on the straights, 40ft on the corners, laid down between the aerodrome and sewage farm. There was a new bridge over the River Wey, pits in ferro-concrete, and a concrete road surface on 6in Expamet mesh. Building was entrusted to the Demolition and Construction Co Ltd and the circuit, which used a portion of the banked track, was opened by Dame Ethel Locke-King on 20 April 1937. SF Edge drove round it in a 1903 Gordon Bennett Napier, now at the National Motor museum, Beaulieu.
Other bits of the Campbell Circuit can still be found. We photographed the E220 Estate (above) on the sharp left-hander, now blanked off where it joined the old Members’ Banking.