Timekeeping at Brooklands Motor Racing Circuit


Split-second watches

All general timing was carried out by amateur timekeepers using a pair of Swiss chronograph pocket watches. These chronographs were mounted in a hand-held wooden box and had split-second movements providing readings to 1/5th second. Each timekeeper could keep the time on up to eight cars at once. The chronographs were routinely sent back to Geneva to be tested and regulated, with the process taking 3 months.

“The hallmark of good design is simplicity, beauty, functionality and surprise”

The holden Apparatus

The Motor Race Chronograph

For precise timekeeping at Brooklands, in 1907 organisers introduced the first Motor Race Chronograph accurate to 1/10,000 of a second. This chronograph was certified by the Royal Automobile Club to establish official speed records and was designed by Colonel Holden & K Elphinstone. Colonel Holden had designed the track, public address system and installed telephones for track communications. He had previous experience of designing artillery chronographs accurate to millionths of a second. The Brooklands Motor Race Chronograph was built by Elliott Bros, London. It was an astonishing instrument and quite capable of an accuracy of 1/10,000 of a second if required.
The Holden Apparatus

The Napier-Railton holds the all-time Brooklands lap record, set in 1935

Timekeeping at Brooklands Motor Racing Circuit. In the time keeper's hut.

Taking Lap Times

Timekeepers' hut at The Fork

The timekeepers had a pair of pocket watches which were both double chronographs and split-second watches. With one second hand running and indicating elapsed time, the further second hand is stopped each time a car passes the timekeeper. Once the time is taken, the further second hand rejoins the first second hand indicating elapsed time and is ready to be stopped when the next car passes.

official speed records

Brooklands Timekeepers July 1907

The Judge’s Box was at the long finish line and on the second floor was the Holden Motor Race Chronograph used for official records. Overhead wires connected the equipment with contact timing strips laid across the track. Of most importance were the timing strips at the Railway Start and the Sentry Huts, at 1 kilometre and at 1 mile.

Brooklands timeline

  • 1907
  • 1908
  • 1926
  • 1934
  • 1947
  • 1970
  • February 18, 2022 - Timeline – Brooklands Track Opens

    February 18, 2022
    old black and white photo of the brooklands race track

    Brooklands track opens

    “One of the Wonders of the World”

    At the time, there was no place in England where cars could be raced.  The brainchild of Hugh Fortescue Locke King was to build a racing circuit on his family estate where cars could exceed 100mph and spectators could see the cars at all times. 

    Brooklands track was opened on 17th June 1907.  It was 2.75 miles long and 100 feet wide with 30 foot-high banking at either end.  The first track of its kind, it had taken just 10 months to build and cost £150,000 (£19 million today).

  • May 28, 2024 - Timeline – First Flight at Brooklands

    May 28, 2024

    First flight at brooklands

    First powered flight in Great Britain

    On 8th June 1908, Edwin Alliott Verdon-Roe (AV Roe) flew for 150ft in his Roe 1 biplane at Brooklands.  Although not officially recognised, he was the first man to design, build and fly a powered aircraft in Great Britain. In this picture AV Roe stands beside his crashed Avro No.1 Triplane at Wembley, 24th December 1910, after attempting a turn.

  • February 18, 2022 - Timeline – First British Grand Prix

    February 18, 2022

    Delage of Senechal crosses the line to win the first British Grand Prix at Brooklands in 1926

    First british grand prix

    Brooklands – 7th August 1926

    The Delage 15S8 of Robert Sénéchal and Louis Wagner crossing the finishing line to win at Brooklands.  The 1926 Grand Prix cars had the engine capacity reduced from 2 litres to 1.5 litres to try and reduce the power and speed of the cars.  The winning Delage 15S8 was highly sophisticated with an all-alloy, double overhead cam engine.  Fitted with twin superchargers, the 8 cylinder 1.5 litre engine could run at 8,000rpm. 

  • February 18, 2022 - Timeline – Vickers Designs New Fighter

    February 18, 2022

    old black and white photo of an old fighter plane

    Vickers funds New fighter

    Vickers bought Supermarine for its seaplane capabilities 

    Vickers-Armstrong Ltd, Brooklands bought Supermarine in November 1928. Following the success of the Schneider Trophy-winning Supermarine S6 aircraft, RJ Mitchell and his team began work on a new fighter in February 1934. Designated the Type 300, the Air Ministry initially rejected the design. Vickers Chairman Robert McLean funded the design with Rolls-Royce and also insisted the Type 300 be named Spitfire.

  • February 18, 2022 - Timeline – The Railton Mobil Special

    February 18, 2022

    The Railton Mobil Special

    The first car to exceed 400mph.

    The car was designed by Reid Railton and built at the Thomson & Taylor works, Brooklands. It used two supercharged Napier Lion engines producing 1,450shp each. One engine drove the front wheels and the second engine drove the rear wheels, to reduce wheel slip. Driven by John Cobb, the car exceeded 403mph during one of the timed runs on 16th September 1947 at Bonneville Salt Flats.

  • February 18, 2022 - Timeline – Manufacture of Concorde

    February 18, 2022


    Manufacture of Concorde

    All 20 British and French production fuselages were built at Brooklands.

    In 1961, the first UK meeting to discuss the design and build of a Supersonic Transport Aircraft was held at Brooklands. By early 1970 on-site manufacture of the nose fuselage, forward fuselage, rear fuselage, fin and rudder began. These assemblies were sent by truck to Filton and Toulouse where the aircraft were assembled and flown.

The Chronograph villa

with trackside clock


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black and white photo of couples dressed up at the races
black and white photo of couples dressed up at the races
black and white photo of couples dressed up at the races