When we look back on motor-racing’s long and tumultuous past, it is often that we have stories of pioneers rising to the top, remaining competitive and then sadly as a result of traditionally financial factors, slipping out of existence. Lotus, Tyrrell, Ligier and Brabham are those often named, great pioneers now sadly gone, survived only by a few mechanics and a budding Le Mans programme. But the question motorsport should want to know is not what has happened to these teams but what happened to the first great pioneer of motorsport?

Brooklands Motor-Racing Circuit, the first purpose-built racing circuit the world ever saw, the first place designed with racing in mind. For thirty-two years the track stood as a beacon of motorsport in all its glory and danger. Records were broken and names made year in, year out in this glorious time, broken only by two World Wars. Unfortunately while the war made it a hub of aerospace engineering the racing circuit was in pieces and left to rot until 1991 when the Museum was set up. Ever since, its link with modern motorsport has been tenuous. Yes, they’ve had a few electric Bluebirds visit and yes, they have a link with the sadly stubborn McLaren Formula 1 team, but nothing new with their name on it. Until now that is.

The Shell Eco-Marathon is a major event aimed at pushing the limits of fuel efficiency, the fruits of which may hopefully be seen on the roads in a few years. It has five main classes, petrol, electric, diesel, hydrogen and alternative fuel, traditionally ethanol, as the final category. The top teams themselves are able to get two-thousand miles per gallon out of just thirty-five millilitres of petrol. It attracts the likes of Porsche, Audi, Ferrari and Peugeot to its ranks of competitors and next year, in Rotterdam they shall race over ten miles to see who uses the least fuel. In the lowest class big names like Peugeot and Audi shall be present with budges of a quarter of a million pounds with teams of sixty or more.

Yet, what makes next year interesting is that they shall be joined by a plucky group of engineers from Oxford Brookes University with a budget of only two-thousand pounds powering a team of just eight mechanics and engineers. Furthermore what increases the importance of this team is their name, as when they are announced at the start of the race they shall be announced, not as Team Oxford Brookes, but as Team Brooklands. They shall be bringing into the twenty-first century a name once resigned to the early twentieth.

However, while they may not be based at Brooklands and their car may not have been inspired by Brooklands we all know the importance in a name. Some may argue that this isn’t the case, that the name is merely a name. However, when Ferrari’s Formula One design studio was situated in Guildford rather than Maranello with different staff, people didn’t say it wasn’t Ferrari. It was just the Ferrari Guildford Design Office run by John Barnard that pioneered the semi-automatic gearbox. This is similar if not the same; Team Brooklands from Oxford Brookes University and the team would not give themselves a name with such history if they did not wish to give it, along with themselves, some prominence and position in the modern world of motor-sport.

At the time of writing, on New Year’s Eve, the team is at a point where they’ve finalised the design and are just starting to construct the car with several engine runs and a driver seat fitting. They are on the road to Rotterdam but are still in need of minor funds. As a result of this they have started a crowd-funding scheme just like that of the Formula 1 minnow, Caterham F1. I strongly believe that this team, if given the small funds needed, will win in Rotterdam in May. The Oxford Brookes students are actually developing their car on the former site of  Brooklands House, once the home of Hugh and Ethel Locke King which is just a five-minute walk away from the fabled circuit.

The team also, as an extra reminder of their link with that first pioneer, has named the car Ethel. This is after Ethel Locke King, the wife of Hugh Locke King, the founder of Brooklands. She was also effectively the first woman to win a motor-race, albeit unofficial, on a motor-racing circuit. Specifically, Brooklands Motor-Racing Circuit.






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