Almost all of the various Brooklands circuits remain, despite the passing of years. Motor sport gave way to the aerospace industry in 1939, and since BAe left it has been absorbed into the urban sprawl with light haulage, out-of-town shopping and the gigantic Mercedes-Benz showroom now crowding the space that lies within Brooklands’ concrete-banked perimeter.
As such one can always dig out a little something to take home – a snapshot beyond the fabulous Brooklands Museum tour. One such is Howe’s Corner and the smaller crossing of the River Wey made by the Campbell Circuit – see map below.
The Campbell Circuit was built as an answer to demand for more of the European-style ‘road racing’ with circuits which were formed of closed roads, such as Spa-Francorchamps or Brno. All motor sport on the British mainland had to take place within private land and, by the mid-1930s, the circuit around Crystal Palace was enthralling Londoners while nationally the picturesque Donington Park circuit in Leicestershire was attracting racers and crowds with its twisty parkland layout – and even had its own Grand Prix.
Brooklands was under threat and as a result this new layout was debuted in 1937, which saw runners thunder round the steep Members’ Banking and down the Railway Straight as usual, but then brake sharply for a hairpin left, Railway Turn, back into the infield just before they reached the main part of the aerodrome.
Railway Turn effectively doubled back on the Outer Circuit along Solomon Straight before entering a long, looping right-hander called Aerodrome Curve. The bulk of this bend still exists; the frayed old concrete now ringing the Mercedes-Benz skid pan and display area before setting off down Sahara Straight, which is now used by Mercedes as part of its young driver training course.
Sahara Straight led into a ninety-degree left-hander: Howe’s Corner. It was then a quick squirt on a narrow straight, incorporating a second crossing of the River Wey, on a service bridge before crossing the Finishing Straight of the main track and joining the parallel Campbell Straight. The straight turned sharp right at the Test Hill Hairpin and swept away uphill into the left-hand Banking Bend – this now acting the members’ entrance to the Museum, rejoining the Members’ Banking in what is now the Gallagher HQ car park.
In the picture above the white B-Class of the Mercedes-Benz driver tuition fleet is just driving around the outside of Howe’s Corner in the wrong direction, about to join the Sahara Straight. Nevertheless it is easy to imagine Prince Bira hammering towards this vantage point in one of his sky blue ERAs, elbows working away against the kick in the steering as he powered onto the short straight that included the river crossing, shown below.
The bridge itself was hugely important as it allowed aircraft built at the Vickers works to cross over the Wey to reach the aerodrome for onward flight. Now it is, like much of the rest of the Brooklands site beyond the Museum, a little careworn and lying in the shadow of The Heights business park, which now covers the Vickers/BAE works as well as the returning Campbell Straight from this road course.
To reach Howe’s Corner and the bridge, one simply needs to take a stroll down to the bottom of the Museum car park to the end of the gravel path. It’s a fairly restful spot now, as the traffic heading to and from the A3 is carried on an overpass at this point. Well worth a visit and to conjure up a little spot of the sport’s rich heritage.