23 Litre RAF Specification engine? Yes please!
‘Yesterday’ are a few episodes into their new 10 part Brooklands Transport Museum factual series ‘Secrets of the Transport Museum’ and it’s certainly in pole position so far. Presented by actor and comedian Sanjeev Bhaskar the show apparently shows the most revealing behind-the-scenes footage seen in 30 years - goodness gracious me.
So far we have seen the 10.5 Litre V12 Delage - driven by Kay Petre in two Brookland lap speed records in 1934 (129.58mph); and 1935 (134.75mph). Petre had one more lap record in 1934 in a Bugatti (124mph) and is one of the earliest women’s record holders on the track.We are introduced in the series to the infamous ‘Belles of Brooklands’ who raced on even terms with men in the 1920’s at a time when motor racing was male dominated - the Delage returning 100 years later to be driven by AE Racings renowned Abbie Eaton.
Tamalie Newbery the Museum Director and CEO had this to say about the series:
“At Brooklands Museum we tell the stories of pioneering men and women, who risked it all in pursuit of their dreams of speed and flight in the 20th century. Brooklands was a place which fuelled innovation and it had a huge influence on today’s motorsport and aviation industries. I’m delighted the TV series is going to give more people the chance to find out about this inspiring place, and how we care for it today.”
The Brooklands site is absolutely one of the hearts of Motoring and Motorsport - and quickly became a haven for innovators and everyday race enthusiasts. People from across the Globe gravitated towards it to experience the revolution in motorsport and aviation.
The Brooklands track is in fact the site of the very first British Grand Prix - of course famously now at Silverstone. It is also the first purpose built ‘banked’ racetrack in the World.
One of the most popular displays is the record breaking 1933 Napier Railton - some readers may even be familiar with this vehicle from the extremely successful Forza Motorsport games - which is also probably the closest any of us will get to actually driving it. The Napier like many land-speed record vehicles is powered by a plane engine - a 23 Litre W12. Suddenly my M3 looks very small. The flightless plane holds the all time lap record speed of 143MPH on the Brooklands track; and broke 47 World Speed Records - but it’s only fair to say that the track was never reopened for this form of racing after it’s military use in WW2. It’s bad enough when you mis-shift now - but the Napier runs a non-synchromesh ‘crash’ gearbox famous for how horrendous the shift noises can be! So it is historic and beautiful - but also extremely noisy.
Now if we jump forwards the better part of a century - the Brooklands museum also houses one of the most famous F1 vehicles - Ayrton Senna’s 1991 V12 McLaren. This was the benchmark for the F1 field and is nostalgically the LAST F1 car to win a World Championship with a fully manual transmission OR a V12 engine. This would also be Senna’s final championship-winning car and the end of McLaren dominance at least until 1998.
You don’t have to limit your experience of incredible motoring history to a TV show - or even to an excellent museum with drive simulators. Driving Experience has Classic Car and F1 experiences available from as low as £45. Choose from a range of cars made between 1935 and 1995 - British sports and GT classics like; the MG Midget, Triumph TR7, MG BGT, Austin 1300 GT, Austin Allegro, Princess 1300 Vanden Plas, Ford Escort Cabriolet, Austin 7, Morris Minor Million, Mini Italian Job, Mini Cooper S, or the Sunbeam Rapier Convertible. You could even visit the Brooklands Museum after having a classic car driving experience at our Dunsfold Park location - famously featured as the Top Gear test track!