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British circuits that never happened


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#1 Vitesse2

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Posted 23 September 2011 - 19:17

Although not owned by Earl Howe, it was used for speed trials between 1927 and 1933 (some times referred to as Shakerstone). In 1932 a race course proposal was floated for Gopsall Park and Earl Howe was on the board of the company involved,it seems to have failed through lack of funds.

Not the first or last either :lol: Don't know if you've seen this from The Times, 28/1/33, Julian? Unusual to see such a detailed track map of a mere proposal! Of course, of the names mentioned, Howe and Campbell (at least) had also been involved in the Wash Speedway project, which failed about the end of 1931.

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#2 fuzzi

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Posted 23 September 2011 - 19:56

Gopsall Park was not the only one with detailed track layouts by any means.

From Purley Downs (pre-dating Brooklands), through the two Sussex tracks near Hastings and Portslade (Brighton), through the National Hill Climb Course in the the Chilterns to Ian Scott Watsons schemes in the 1960s and Forrestburn in the 1990s. There were a lot of detailed plans which made the motoring press but sadly never saw the light of day.

Edited by fuzzi, 23 September 2011 - 19:57.


#3 D-Type

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Posted 25 September 2011 - 21:52

I've been pondering about the original question which could be paraphrased into "Why did it take so long for Donington Park and Crystal Palace circuits to be developed?".
Was it the depression? Or was it because the number of people interested in racing was not that large and Brooklands, Shelsley and Phoenix Park was enough?

#4 Vitesse2

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Posted 25 September 2011 - 22:09

You're forgetting sand racing, Duncan. :)

Demand for road racing increased as sand racing declined. Public road circuits weren't an option here, but there were several in Ireland from 1933 onwards - plus Douglas IoM.

There were several high-flown schemes for artificial circuits in the 30s - Wash Speedway and Gopsall are mentioned above. OTTOMH there were others in Brighton, Scarborough and Buckinghamshire: I'm sure Julian knows of more.

#5 David McKinney

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Posted 26 September 2011 - 06:40

I think Duncan has a point re interest being slow to develop

Brooklands was God, and hillclimbing important to a (sometimes) different crowd; sand-racing took some big names north in the '20s, but became a more local pursuit as the '30s wore on.

While this was going on a core of British-based drivers - Birkin, Howe, Lewis, Seaman, Mays, Bira etc - bought cars primarily for Continental road racing, also taking in the Isle of Man races and the most road-like Brooklands events. I suspect Donington and later Crystal Palace were developed with that type of driver in mind, and their cars. The Campbell Circuit at Brooklands fulfilled the same role from 1937



#6 RCH

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Posted 26 September 2011 - 10:03

I believe Richmond Park was once proposed as a race circuit. I think I got that from "Full Throttle"?

The daughter of Sir Ronald Gunter (Brooklands Bentleys and shared a Lagonda at Le Mans in 1935 with Benjafield) used to be a customer of mine. She told me that her father used to invite his friends to "race" on the roads of his country estate in Yorkshire. Perhaps the ultimate expression of "the right crowd and no crowding"? Just keep the racing amongst a priviledged few and don't tell anyone else about it.

#7 Vitesse2

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Posted 26 September 2011 - 10:28

There is if course the old English problem of a ruling class that was predominantly horse-obsessed and vehemently opposed to anything related to motoring. Perhaps peer-pressure (quite literally in this case!) meant the risk of being ostracized in 'polite society' for associating with these scurrilous motoring 'types'?

Interesting thought, Simon. I've been looking at the 1937-39 Scarborough proposal in the last few days: the local bigwigs were worried that motor racing would bring the "wrong sort" to their town, even though the Mayor had been to the Tourist Trophy and been favourably impressed. There were also comments made that horse racing crowds were not exactly wholesome!

[On the subject of Scarborough, would anybody happen to have copies of the two articles about it published in the "Transactions of the Scarborough Archaeological & Historical Society" numbers 37 and 38?]

They seem to have overcome their objections in 1946 when they built Oliver's Mount!

#8 Dutchy

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Posted 26 September 2011 - 13:09

There were plans to build a road circuit near the Essex coast in the early 1930s. The plans came to nought of course but interestingly the recently constructed "resort" of Jaywick which was nearby had a network of roads all named after motor manufacturers. They are still there today.

#9 arttidesco

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Posted 26 September 2011 - 13:34

Not the first or last either :lol: Don't know if you've seen this from The Times, 28/1/33, Julian? Unusual to see such a detailed track map of a mere proposal! Of course, of the names mentioned, Howe and Campbell (at least) had also been involved in the Wash Speedway project, which failed about the end of 1931.

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Looks like Gopsall Hall has been replaced by a caravan storage site :|


#10 Vitesse2

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Posted 26 September 2011 - 15:07

There were plans to build a road circuit near the Essex coast in the early 1930s. The plans came to nought of course but interestingly the recently constructed "resort" of Jaywick which was nearby had a network of roads all named after motor manufacturers. They are still there today.

Heh, I'd never heard of Jaywick until recently. That would explain why the main road along the seafront is called Brooklands then:

http://forums.autosp...w...t&p=5274580

#11 Ted Walker

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Posted 27 September 2011 - 07:28

There was a a planned circuit around the Clifton Downs (Bristol) in the late 40s.

#12 simonlewisbooks

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Posted 27 September 2011 - 08:31

There was a a planned circuit around the Clifton Downs (Bristol) in the late 40s.

Suggested by the Frys? How far did plans for that one progress Ted?



#13 Ted Walker

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Posted 27 September 2011 - 08:36

My late father told me that they planned a circuit and "tested it" one evening after a BMC&LCC meeting and submitted a plan to the council. I think it got a mention in an Autocar or similar magazine.

#14 2F-001

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Posted 04 October 2011 - 13:23

Some years ago (pre-internet) there was a group called something like the 'British Motor Racing Historical Society' thru which I made a handful of very helpful contacts (now lost and I can't find the notes I had at the moment). I think it was the organiser (Martyn Flowers??) who was researching for a book on this theme - proposed British circuits that didn't materialise. We discussed this group, briefly, a while back, but I don't recall if anyone knew his whereabouts or had any contact.

#15 fuzzi

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Posted 04 October 2011 - 14:03

I believe that sadly Martyn Flower passed away some time ago.

#16 Vitesse2

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Posted 04 October 2011 - 19:39

Not English, but Scottish. If this one had ever come off, I suspect it would have been a somewhat hairy ride!

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#17 D-Type

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Posted 04 October 2011 - 20:00

While we are off topic, I'll risk Scottish wrath by mentioning that Graham Gauld's Scottish Motor Racing and Drivers includes a chapter "Scotland's Phantom Circuits"

Now back to the subject of this thread - English phantom circuits

#18 chdphd

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Posted 04 October 2011 - 20:44

The excellent Motor Racing Circuits Database has a section on proposed circuits which weren't developed. There are quite a few UK ones listed.

http://theracingline.../_proposed.html (scroll down a bit)

I think I'm right in saying this site is a backup of one which had stopped being updated some years ago.

#19 tsrwright

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Posted 05 October 2011 - 08:54

There was a proposal for a road course in the Peak District (Derbyshire) post war. Don't suppose it got far!




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#20 Vitesse2

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Posted 05 October 2011 - 09:04

There's some discussion of the Peak District Tourist Trophy course in this thread: http://forums.autosp...p;#entry4741293

#21 Ted Walker

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Posted 06 October 2011 - 06:46

I think that Simon Taylor is doing an article on this for Motor Sport. Also of interest is a forthcoming book on motor sport venues ( I have the author visiting me on Monday so have more gen then )

#22 BRG

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Posted 06 October 2011 - 10:41

Moving north again, what happened to all those plans for a track near Edinburgh about 15-20 years ago? It was strongly backed by JYS IIRC. Was it a new site or just an upgrade on Ingliston?

(by the way, this really should be entitled BRITISH tracks that never happened - let's not be Anglocentric)

#23 David McKinney

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Posted 06 October 2011 - 11:48

The thread was given its original name because all the posts at the time referred to circuits in England. Now it has crept north of the border once or twice I am happy to change the title :)

#24 BRG

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Posted 06 October 2011 - 12:01

You are a gentleman and a scholar, sir!

#25 fuzzi

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Posted 06 October 2011 - 13:34

Moving north again, what happened to all those plans for a track near Edinburgh about 15-20 years ago? It was strongly backed by JYS IIRC. Was it a new site or just an upgrade on Ingliston?

(by the way, this really should be entitled BRITISH tracks that never happened - let's not be Anglocentric)


Covered (with the Ian Scott Watson plans for a number of venues) in Graham Gauld's "Scottish Motor Racing and Drivers" published by Havelock Publishing in 2004.

Graham swore that if he sold enough copies he would finish his autobiography - my buying a copy obviously wasnt enough. Help him out and we should get a book to remember. :wave:

PS If I put the whole chapter on the might-have-beens that I've found so far on here, the publishers might not be pleased.

Edited by fuzzi, 06 October 2011 - 13:39.


#26 Graham Gauld

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Posted 06 October 2011 - 14:47

Covered (with the Ian Scott Watson plans for a number of venues) in Graham Gauld's "Scottish Motor Racing and Drivers" published by Havelock Publishing in 2004.

Graham swore that if he sold enough copies he would finish his autobiography - my buying a copy obviously wasnt enough. Help him out and we should get a book to remember. :wave:

PS If I put the whole chapter on the might-have-beens that I've found so far on here, the publishers might not be pleased.



I would be furious for no publisher wanted to publish the book and I had to publish it myself. Just got back to France from Scotland this afternoon after looking at boxes of the books. Give me a break. Any income that came in from that book was used to publish my book on John Tojeiro which, again, nobody would publish so I have plenty of books to get rid of ( Nudge)

Reference a few posts ago and the race circuit round the Royal Park in Edinburgh I was involved with a bid early in 1955 by Lothian Car Club to use it as a circuit but it would never have worked because up at the highest section of the circuit you virtually had no space to pass anyone and a cliff on one side. THen came the Le Mans disaster and it was all quietly forgotten.


#27 LittleChris

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Posted 06 October 2011 - 19:46

Moving north again, what happened to all those plans for a track near Edinburgh about 15-20 years ago? It was strongly backed by JYS IIRC. Was it a new site or just an upgrade on Ingliston?


Forrestburn ? Seem to remember a proposal for a circuit around the reservoir


#28 Pete Stowe

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Posted 18 October 2011 - 15:25

Some years ago a former chairman of the Bristol MC&LCC told me that after the club gave up Castle Combe Circuit in 1956, they spent three years in negotiations with Bristol City Council over a proposed 3.2 mile grand prix circuit in Ashton Court estate. He described that with use of the gradients there it would be “a miniature Nurburgring” :rolleyes: , and there would have been a long straight parallel to Beggar Bush Lane. It didn’t get through the Council, who owned the estate. As the Club had given up Castle Combe because they couldn’t afford the safety improvements required there for 1956, it’s not obvious who would have funded construction of such a circuit though.

#29 simonlewisbooks

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Posted 26 October 2011 - 14:42

I believe that sadly Martyn Flower passed away some time ago.


I havn't heard this before and having run it through Google can't find any reference there. :|
Can anyone confirm/deny ?
I bought Martyn's extensive book collection about 6 years ago, he'd been out of the motor sport 'loop' for some years having become sadly disillusioned with the whole thing in the mid 1990s. He had written a number of historical articles for CLASSIC & SPORTSCAR and other magazines in the 80s and early 90s.


#30 john winfield

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Posted 30 October 2011 - 11:40

Somewhere, probably in an early 1970s Motoring News, I saw reference to a proposed track in the Rolleston / Southwell area of Nottinghamshire. I assume the intention was to find space within or near the horse racing track but I don't believe the proposal got very far. I'll see if I can find the small article.
(I couldn't see any reference to this on TNF but, if it has already been covered, apologies).

It might even be that, once Tom Wheatcroft finally received permission to re-develop Donington, the combination of Mallory, Cadwell and DP proved sufficient for this part of the UK.

#31 fuzzi

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Posted 30 October 2011 - 12:08

It was within the horse race course.

An NSCC idea and backed by the RAC, but in the end a non-runner(!)

#32 john winfield

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Posted 31 October 2011 - 21:32

It was within the horse race course.

An NSCC idea and backed by the RAC, but in the end a non-runner(!)


Thanks Julian, despite the dreadful pun...... When I find the article I'll confirm the date in question, unless you happen to know. 1972/3?


#33 fuzzi

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Posted 01 November 2011 - 06:27

Sorry I should have said, it was in May 1971. :wave:

#34 MCS

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Posted 01 November 2011 - 12:16

The Aintree Circuit Club looked at the disused WWII airfield at Burscough, near Ormskirk in the mid-seventies (I think). This was with circuit racing in mind as they continued to struggle with the Aintree owners and the RACMSA.

Diz would know more I'm sure, but the layout http://www.militaryi...php/photo/10248 isn't dissimilar to many other circuits that came to be in the UK.

I wonder how far they got in terms of a feasibility study?


#35 elansprint72

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Posted 04 November 2011 - 21:13

The Aintree Circuit Club looked at the disused WWII airfield at Burscough, near Ormskirk in the mid-seventies (I think). This was with circuit racing in mind as they continued to struggle with the Aintree owners and the RACMSA.

Diz would know more I'm sure, but the layout http://www.militaryi...php/photo/10248 isn't dissimilar to many other circuits that came to be in the UK.

I wonder how far they got in terms of a feasibility study?


Looks like it would have made a good circuit, apart from the lack of access, all the local roads are pretty, umm, local.
Earlier this year, from the air, the runways (4) were clearly discernible but on making an approach it was evident that the surfaces had been torn up and a landing was not on the cards. The hangars are still there and some appeared to have buses inside, some guys came out and gesticulated at us, we returned the compliment! :wave:
Just up the road, Woodvale has always struck me as a good place for a circuit, I've no idea if it has ever been used for motor-sports; as it is a very active airfield this might have been difficult.

#36 fuzzi

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Posted 05 November 2011 - 06:37

Woodvale was used for Sprints from 1961 to at least the early 1980s.

And not just sprints, the Dragfest series came toWoodvale between 1964 and 1966 and the quarter-mile had a hump in the middle which threw the faster cars into the air! Dan Garlits still managed 8.09sec with a terminal speed of 189mph. A brave man.

#37 IanMH

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Posted 09 November 2011 - 20:49

Moving north again, what happened to all those plans for a track near Edinburgh about 15-20 years ago? It was strongly backed by JYS IIRC. Was it a new site or just an upgrade on Ingliston?

(by the way, this really should be entitled BRITISH tracks that never happened - let's not be Anglocentric)


The location of New Ingliston was just to the east of the old circuit on farmland between the southside of the airport and the A8. I think it fell through because of access issues and the feeling that Scotland couldn't really support two full-time circuits. Local competitor numbers were way down at the time and Knockhill was beginning to establish itself as a serious venue. Cheers Ian :wave:

#38 BRG

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Posted 09 November 2011 - 21:38

The location of New Ingliston was just to the east of the old circuit on farmland between the southside of the airport and the A8. I think it fell through because of access issues and the feeling that Scotland couldn't really support two full-time circuits. Local competitor numbers were way down at the time and Knockhill was beginning to establish itself as a serious venue. Cheers Ian :wave:

Thanks Ian. I was starting to worry that I had imagined it all!

#39 simonlewisbooks

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Posted 09 November 2011 - 23:32

I seem to remember 'New Ingliston' had a rather Tilke-esque layout with mostly slow corners. JYS was asked why and he said something along the lines of "No point in giving a new track 120mph corners when in a few years they will be 160mph corners and too fast to be safe" which I thought was a thoroughly depressing way of looking at it !

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#40 Graham Gauld

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Posted 10 November 2011 - 07:42

Thanks Ian. I was starting to worry that I had imagined it all!



Ian, you are quite right the site was to the East of the feeder road going from the A8 to Edinburgh airport. There would have been a delay because a speculater had obviously got wind of what was planned andhad bought a small but important portion which could have delayed things but the real problem was left wing politics frrm Edinburgh District Council and Lothian Regional Council who, I fear, had difficulty with such an elitist sport : football would have been easier. This despite the fact that the plan envisaged the circuit and a separate Autopark and a number of motor dealerships had shown interest in moving their sites from the city to this new site. Simon, see below, is quite correct in saying that Jackie had made such remarks. There was no plan ever to hold Formula 1 races on it but that it should be suitable for Formula 1 testing and was designed accordingly. There were also plans for a heritage museum and even making the site available for an archeological dig as it was believed the remains of an iron age fort existed there. McGregor Holdings were going to build the circuit, one of their Directors being Roddie Paterson who raced regularly at Ingliston with a Lotus Elan. The Scottish Development Agency gave their support but then there were the pressure groups led by the Saltire Society who were concerned about Edinburgh's green belt. It was Lothian Regional Council who were keen that Edinburgh District Council say no based on a controvertial report commissioned by Dr John Bridge of the University of Wales and Dr Garel Rhys of Cardiff Business School. Eventually the green bellt was invoked and the Regional council announced that the project was "..... contrary to the national, regional and local planning policies for the protecton of the green belt"" This is an encapsulation of a fascinating and detailed story which I am afraid you will only find in my book " Scottish Motor Racing and Drivers" (Plug)

#41 simonlewisbooks

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Posted 11 November 2011 - 10:49

New Ingliston and indeed this whole thread, got me wondering how many circuits have ever actually been built from scratch in these islands?
Thats not including any that used some kind of existing road network.
I could only think of only two!

Ironically there's the very first one - Brooklands, and the most recent one, a mere 95 years later - Rockingham !

Both ovals, both 'greenfield' sites (or 'brownfield' would be better I guess, Brooklands being on a sewer farm and Rockingham on a former industrial site!) Other than these two, every circuit built has used something already in existance - either public roads (Isle of Man, Jersey, Ireland) airfields, park roads (Cadwell, Crystal Palace, Oulton, Donington) or a conversion of an existing sporting venue (Mallory, Brands, Lydden) where a track was already laid out.

A lot of the subsequent extensions were on previously unbroken ground (Brands, Donington) but it's quite a bizarre thought - especially given the number of scratch-built circuits that have appeared in recent years in other countries (how many are there now in Spain for example?) and how many there must be worldwide since Brooklands set the trend.

Can anyone add to this paltry figure?

Given how many plans there have been in the past , have any British 'road circuits' been constructed completely from scratch?

#42 D-Type

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Posted 11 November 2011 - 11:32

In believe Knockhill was built from scratch while Ingliston was on 'something existing' (in that case the roads of a showground) and the other Scottish venues were all airfields.

I'm not sure whether to agree about Brands. It depends on the time period you work to. Originally it was a field where motorcyclists ran grass track races. Arguably that changed it from a field to a sporting venue. Then the grass track was paved and it became a race circuit. So over a 30-40 year period you could say that it was built 'from scratch'. If you take 'from scratch' to mean taking a greenfield or brownfield site and creating a circuit in one fell swoop like Abu Dhabi, Bahrein etc. then I won't argue. I don't know the detailed history of Mallory or Lydden Hill; but I suspect the same "over 30-40 years" argument might apply.




#43 David McKinney

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Posted 11 November 2011 - 12:56

In believe Knockhill was built from scratch while Ingliston was on 'something existing' (in that case the roads of a showground) and the other Scottish venues were all airfields.

Not Beveridge Park... :)

#44 simonlewisbooks

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Posted 11 November 2011 - 14:06

In believe Knockhill was built from scratch while Ingliston was on 'something existing' (in that case the roads of a showground) and the other Scottish venues were all airfields.

I'm not sure whether to agree about Brands. It depends on the time period you work to. Originally it was a field where motorcyclists ran grass track races. Arguably that changed it from a field to a sporting venue. Then the grass track was paved and it became a race circuit. So over a 30-40 year period you could say that it was built 'from scratch'. If you take 'from scratch' to mean taking a greenfield or brownfield site and creating a circuit in one fell swoop like Abu Dhabi, Bahrein etc. then I won't argue. I don't know the detailed history of Mallory or Lydden Hill; but I suspect the same "over 30-40 years" argument might apply.


As you say the Brands situation is bit oblique, it was a venue for other types of motorsport long before it became a car-racing road course, so the paved circuit wasn't cut from virgin earth.Certainly as a car venue it was an adaptation of something already in place.
Mallory was a horse trotting track, then a motorcycle grasstrack before being paved so the same applies.
Lydden was an early stock car oval that grew and was later paved. That's closer to being scratch built but it wasn't purpose-built as a road course for RAC sanctioned motorsport - although I am being picky there, I agree. :cool:

Knockhill sounds like it may well be in a unique situation within British motor sport - the only scratch built road course we have ever had - in over 100 years, 50 of these as probabaly the 'centre of the world' for motor racing.


#45 Simon Thomas

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Posted 11 November 2011 - 15:40

The thread was given its original name because all the posts at the time referred to circuits in England. Now it has crept north of the border once or twice I am happy to change the title :)

In Northern Ireland there was a proposal for a circuit to commemorate the late Tom Herron, racing motor cyclist killed at the North West 200 in 1978. This was to be located beside Belfast City (now the George Best) airport. Plans were shown in The Belfast Telegraph in 1979/80 but came to nothing. There was also talk a few years ago about a street circuit around central Belfast for the BTCC, again nothing further.
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#46 alansart

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Posted 11 November 2011 - 16:24

As you say the Brands situation is bit oblique, it was a venue for other types of motorsport long before it became a car-racing road course, so the paved circuit wasn't cut from virgin earth.Certainly as a car venue it was an adaptation of something already in place.
Mallory was a horse trotting track, then a motorcycle grasstrack before being paved so the same applies.
Lydden was an early stock car oval that grew and was later paved. That's closer to being scratch built but it wasn't purpose-built as a road course for RAC sanctioned motorsport - although I am being picky there, I agree. :cool:

Knockhill sounds like it may well be in a unique situation within British motor sport - the only scratch built road course we have ever had - in over 100 years, 50 of these as probabaly the 'centre of the world' for motor racing.


Wasn't Knockhill a railway yard or something similar at one time. Very high up for a railway! The only other circuit I can think of that is possibly purpose built is Anglesey. It was owned by the Military at one time but not as an airfield.

It's hardly surprising that we have a lot of airfield based circuits in the UK. There were quite a few left unused after WW2 and they required very little effort to become operational for car racing.


#47 BRG

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Posted 11 November 2011 - 18:04

Wasn't Knockhill a railway yard or something similar at one time. Very high up for a railway!

There was a railway, yes (hence the 'Railway Straight' which follows the line of the old track). I think it served a mine or quarry - you can still see the rest of the old track bed outside the Knockhill circuit boundary.

On purpose built tracks, what about Longridge? And maybe Cadwell Park?

#48 Vitesse2

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Posted 11 November 2011 - 18:21

New Ingliston and indeed this whole thread, got me wondering how many circuits have ever actually been built from scratch in these islands?
Thats not including any that used some kind of existing road network.
I could only think of only two!

Ironically there's the very first one - Brooklands, and the most recent one, a mere 95 years later - Rockingham !

Both ovals, both 'greenfield' sites (or 'brownfield' would be better I guess, Brooklands being on a sewer farm and Rockingham on a former industrial site!) Other than these two, every circuit built has used something already in existance - either public roads (Isle of Man, Jersey, Ireland) airfields, park roads (Cadwell, Crystal Palace, Oulton, Donington) or a conversion of an existing sporting venue (Mallory, Brands, Lydden) where a track was already laid out.

A lot of the subsequent extensions were on previously unbroken ground (Brands, Donington) but it's quite a bizarre thought - especially given the number of scratch-built circuits that have appeared in recent years in other countries (how many are there now in Spain for example?) and how many there must be worldwide since Brooklands set the trend.

Can anyone add to this paltry figure?

Given how many plans there have been in the past , have any British 'road circuits' been constructed completely from scratch?

Longridge? Not virgin ground, but I don't think it had any "previous".

#49 alansart

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Posted 11 November 2011 - 18:40

Longridge? Not virgin ground, but I don't think it had any "previous".


Wasn't it a Quarry at one time, so perhaps a few large trucks trundled around it. Sadly now only Caravans :(


#50 MCS

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Posted 12 November 2011 - 20:42

On purpose built tracks, what about Longridge? And maybe Cadwell Park?


Here is Ian Grindrod's Longridge story: http://forums.autosp...mp;hl=Longridge (post 9)

Never really looked at the Cadwell Park history, despite being absolutely transfixed by the place at one time.