Brighton Speed Trials

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One of the oldest motoring competitions in Great Britain, the Brighton Speed Trials started in 1905 during Brighton Motor Week thanks to local resident Sir Harry Preston. Somehow he managed to persuade the local authority to resurface Madeira Drive with the newly invented Tarmac for the first run. Due to disputes with the residents over the cost of the resurfacing, the next event didn’t occur until after the First World War.

It was 1923 when the Brighton and Hove Motor Cycle and Light Car Club got things going again with what was intended to be an annual series of races with riders competing against each other along the sea front.

Two such events were held before a ban on motor racing on the public highways came into force, scuppering future competitions. In 1932 the newly formed Brighton and Hove Motor Club dug deeper into the legalities of the situation and discovered that Madeira Drive was in fact owned by the Brighton Corporation and therefore could not be considered a public road. From that year hence – except during the Second World War – the speed trials have taken place annually.

The length of the course used has varied over the years. In 1905 courses of various lengths were used, whilst in 1923 and 1924 a half mile stretch was used. This was extended by 200 yards to bring it up to the half kilometre. With speeds increasing, safety concerns became more of an issue culminating in 1969 when a review of safety prevented the event taking place completely. 1970 saw the quarter mile reinstated with the kilometre restored in 1971. The twelve years from 1980 once again enjoyed the full half mile before safety concerns once again curtailed it to the quarter mile that we see today.

As well as the annual Speed Trials, dozens of summer motoring events culminate in vehicle displays along Madeira Drive. My favourites are the VW Splitscreen Club’s ‘Brighton Breeze’ at the end of September and the Ace Cafe Reunion Run on 9th September.

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Published in: on February 1, 2007 at 8:58 am  Leave a Comment  

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