How British motorsport was born
How British motorsport was born
7:22

How British motorsport was born

Cars
[NOISE] [MUSIC] Did you know that Britain has amassed nearly three times more formula one silverware than its nearest rival? And that ten different British formula one drivers have taken 15 world championships? Today Britain is an undisputed Motor sport super power, but it hasn't always being this way. Motor sport in Britain had a rather difficult birth. [MUSIC] Actually, it's a wonder that Britain has any motor racing heritage. When you look back at all the red tape, elliptical obstacles, and a general disinterest in motor cars [SOUND] With the blanket banned on road racing and very strict speed limit, it basically killed off British Motor Sport and also the fledgling car industry. So, a bunch of influential and wealthy aristocrat set out trying to see if they can find a legal loop hole. See if we can find out some way in which they could bring motor sport to the UK [MUSIC] Bexhill-on-Sea became the official birth place of British motor racing when he make 1902, the Aetha De la War who was an aristocratic cardinal and the chairman of the Dunlop Tyre Company hosted a drag race along the private Cycle path that he had built here along Bexhill Seafront. You see, private land was exempt from Britain's draconian speed limits. Thousands of people flocked to see Britain's very first automobile race. The cafe, the hotel, the restaurants. They were absolutely rammed. The air was thick with steam, the smell of paraffin. And the noise and rumble of the cars tearing up and down the sea front was something that people had never experienced before. What's more amazing is that 200 cars took place at the time when there was only a couple of thousand cars in Britain in total. Now in the early 1900s, the French dominated motorsport. Over half the cars taking place in that first race were French and predictably a Frenchman set the fastest time of the day. Monsieur Leon Serpollet in his steam-powered Easter Egg took it to a heady 54 miles per hour. While that might not sound like a lot but that's still four and a half times faster Than a furiously ridden horse. [MUSIC] Inspired by the Bexhill Races in 1902 another wealthy aristocrat, a Sir Harry Preston, thought that he would bring motorsport to here, Brighton, just 30 miles up the coast. So how are going to manage to convince the local counsel to build a purpose-built two kilometer racetrack here on the Medira Drive. After the brand new pioneering material called tarmac. In fact, this was the world's first ever use of tarmac. The very first Brighton speed track running July 1905. It attracted over 400 entries Amazing it's an event that still runs to this day making it the oldest running motor sport event in the world. [MUSIC] [INAUDIBLE] Three-wheeler was the obvious choice for the Brighton Speed Trials. Firstly, the Morgan Motor Company is the worlds oldest privately owned motorcar manufacturer. And its founder, HFS Morgan, actually opened his first garage in the same year as the first Brighton Speed Trials. But the main reason was because in 1924, Morgan actually held the record for the fastest standing quarter mile along Brighton's [UNKNOWN]. A GN Norris did it in 16.4 seconds, which I'm told on a wet, greasy day like today is a pretty respectable time for a novice in the handicap class Like win. So there we are, at the target. A 90-year-old record. How hard can it be? [NOISE] The first run start was well, pretty dreadful to be honest. Wheelspinning and fishtailing for the first 200 yards and then bogging down on directly to before the first gear change. Still an amazing experience to be part of such a historic and important British motor sports event. My time, well, 16.64 seconds, which is actually not 0.6 slower to what Jean Nice had done 90 years earlier. [SOUND] [NOISE] Friday afternoon the track Slowly drying out, and I was determined not to fluff the upshift in front of the gathered crowds on this final run. This was it surely the [INAUDIBLE] 2.1 litre [INAUDIBLE] can compensate for my limited driving skills to trounce that pre war record. About to do my real run this time. I've had one practice and in the handicap class you only get one crack at it. The target is sixteen point four. I get a little bit nervous, a little bit anxious, but I'm sure it will be fine. I'm sure it will be fine. [MUSIC] [NOISE] We start as expected, but gain that [INAUDIBLE] momentarily bogged down. Once we [INAUDIBLE] like a train topping at that identical 93.2 miles per hours. Covering the quarter mile in 16.23 seconds. To pip that 90-year-old Morgan track record by just 0.7 of a second. Of course I was pleased, but I think my over riding impression from the outing at the [UNKNOWN] trial was just one of sheer admiration for people like GN Norris that had managed to get such speeds out of those pre-war machines. [SOUND] [MUSIC] In Britain today, there are 30,000 people today with MSA race licenses. There are around 40,000 jobs created in motor sports. and it has an annual turnover of about 9 billion pounds. This is a nation that is at the top of it's game. But it also has a sense of humor and creates things like the Morgan Three Wheeler. I dont think that there are any other countries that do it as well as we. In Britain, the little cars have never been stronger.

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