Brighton speed trials

Coordinates: 50°49′01″N 0°07′23″W / 50.817°N 0.123°W / 50.817; -0.123

Brighton Speed Trials
Ferrari 308 GT4 at the Start Line in 2008
Location Brighton, England
Time zone GMT
Owner Brighton and Hove Motor Club
Major events Brighton Speed Trials
Length 0.4 km (1/4 mi)
Turns 0
Lap record 8.9 secs (John Gray, SPA Judd V10, 1993)

The Brighton Speed Trials, in full The Brighton National Speed Trials, is commonly held to be the oldest running motor race.[1] The first race was held 19–22 July 1905 after Sir Harry Preston persuaded Brighton town council to tarmac the surface of the road adjacent to the beach between the Palace Pier and Black Rock to hold motor racing events. This stretch was renamed Madeira Drive in 1909 and the event is still held there, normally on the second Saturday of September each year. In 1936 Motor Sport described the event as: "undoubtedly the most important speed-trials on the British Calendar." [2]

The event is currently run as a quarter mile sprint for both cars and motorcycles, held under the auspices of the Sprint Section of the Vintage Motorcycle Club in charge of the Motorcycles. Entrants run individually, although in earlier days vehicles would race side by side. This practice was stopped following a number of accidents. The course length has varied over the years, generally becoming shorter to keep terminal speeds manageable as cars have got faster. The speed trials form a unique event, where vintage and exotic classics meet the latest in street and racing cars. Public access is allowed to the paddock and startline 'funnel' allowing visitors to get much closer to the action than at most events.

Timetable of events

Times are approximate.

Time Event
0900-1130 Practice
1130–1300 Morning timed runs
1300–1400 Interval
1400–1800 Afternoon timed runs
1800–1900 Top six runoffs for cars and bikes
1900 Results declared and award presentation

Classes of cars

Handicap – Roadgoing cars of any type
Class 1 – Roadgoing and modified production cars up to 1400cc
Class 2 – Roadgoing and modified production cars over 1400cc and up to 2000cc
Class 3 – Roadgoing and modified production cars over 2000cc and up to 3500cc
Class 4 – Roadgoing and modified production cars over 3500cc
Class 5 – Clubmans
Class 6 – Sports Libre cars up to 1300cc
Class 7 – Sports Libre cars over 1300cc and up to 1600cc
Class 8 – Sports Libre cars over 1600cc
Class 9 – Racing cars up to 500cc
Class 10 – Racing cars over 500cc and up to 1100cc
Class 11 – Racing cars over 1100cc and up to 1600cc
Class 12 – Racing cars over 1600cc and up to 2000cc
Class 13 – Racing and Sports cars constructed on or before 31 December 1959


An event run over such a long period of time was bound to be impacted by events in history, both major and minor.

  • 1905–1922

The first speed trial, called the "Brighton Motor Trials", was held in July 1905, but because of the cost and opposition from ratepayers, it was not held again until 1923.

  • 1925–1931

A police ban of racing on public roads caused the second interruption to the Brighton Speed Trials. Subsequently it was pointed out that Madeira Drive was a private road owned by the council, and so exempt from the ban.

  • 1939–1945

The Speed Trials were not run during World War II. The 1939 event was scheduled for 23 September.[3]

  • 1969

The fuel crisis led to the cancellation of this year's event.[4] Autocar reported in 1970: "Last year this traditional event did not take place because the condition of the road surface was thought unsuitable for the more powerful sprint cars."[5]

Brighton Speed Trials people

Fastest time of the day

These are the fastest car times recorded on the day for each year.

Year Driver Vehicle Time Notes
Flying Start Kilometre
1905 Clifford Earp Napier 90 hp 23s[6] 19–22 July.
Standing Start 1/2 Mile[7]
1923 J.A. Joyce AC [8] 14 July.
1924 Standing Start 1/4 Mile
G.N. Norris Morgan 16.4s[9] 25 May.
Standing Start 1/2 Mile
J.A. Joyce[10] AC 28s[11] 6 Sept.
Standing Start 1/2 Mile
1932 Sir Malcolm Campbell[12] Sunbeam Tiger S/C 23.6s R[13] 17 Sep, very fine. "Pathe News Clip",
1933 Whitney Straight Maserati 24.2s[14] 16 Sep, very wet.
1934 R. O. Shuttleworth Bugatti Type 51 S/C 23.8s[15] 15 Sep, fine.
1935 R. O. Shuttleworth Alfa Romeo P3 Tipo B S/C 22.68s R[16] 14 Sep, fine.
1936 S. E. Cummings Vauxhall-Villiers S/C[17] 22.90s[18] 26 Sep, wet.
1937 Geoffrey Taylor Alta 22.84s[19] 25 Sep, wet.
1938 Geoffrey Taylor Alta 1960 c.c. S/C 22.45s R[20] 2 July.
Standing Start Kilometre
1946 Raymond Mays ERA R4D 24.47s R[21] 7 Sep, fine.
1947 Raymond Mays ERA R4D 24.27s R[22] 1 Sep, fine.
1948 Raymond Mays ERA R4D 23.86s R[23] 4 Sep, fair, no motorcycles.[24]
1949 Archie Butterworth[25] A.J.B. 24.91s[26] 3 Sep, very fine.
1950 Raymond Mays ERA R4D 24.40s[27] 2 Sep, fine.
1951 Archie Butterworth A.J.B. 26.63s[28] 1 Sep, dry morning, wet afternoon.
1952 Ted Lloyd-Jones Triangle Flying Saucer 21-litre 23.91s[29] 6 Sep, fine.
1953 Ted Lloyd-Jones Triangle Flying Saucer 21-litre 24.55s[30] 5 Sept.
1954 Ken Wharton ERA R4D 23.63s R[31] 4 Sep, wet morning, dry afternoon.
1955 Ken Wharton ERA R4D 23.99s[32] 3 Sep, fine and dry.
1956 Ken Wharton ERA R4D 23.34s R[33] 1 Sept.
1957 Bill Sadler Sadler Special-Chevrolet 25.44s[34] 7 Sep, dry morning, wet afternoon.
1958 Jim Berry ERA Special 25.01s[35] 6 Sep, fine.
1959 Arthur Owen Cooper-Climax 2-litre 23.50s[36] 5 Sep, fine.
1960 Jim Berry Cooper-ERA S/C 23.21s R[37] 3 Sep, windy, wet morning, dry afternoon.
1961 Gordon Parker HK Jaguar Special S/C[38] 24.63s[39] 2 Sep, fine.
1962 Chris Summers Cooper F2-Chevrolet[40] 21.69s R[41] 15 Sep, sunny.
1963 Ken Wilson BRM 23.10s[42] 14 Sep, sunny.
1964 Dante Duce Moonbeam-Chevrolet S/C[43] 21.95s[44] 12 Sept.
1965 Chris Summers Lotus 24-Chevrolet 21.56s R[45] 11 Sep, intermittent showers.
1966 Chris Summers Lotus 24-Chevrolet 20.70s R[46] 17 Sep, sunny.
1967 John Woolfe[47] AC Cobra 7-litre 22.51s[48] 16 Sep, dry, calm, overcast.
1968 Patsy Burt[49] McLaren M3A-Oldsmobile 20.21s R[50] 14 Sep, wet morning.
1969 No event
Standing Start 1/4 Mile
1970 Gerry Tyack Brabham BT23 12.89s R 12 Sept.
Standing Start Kilometre
1971 Johnty Williamson Cooper T81B F1-1-67-Chrysler V8 7.2-litre 21.05s 11 Sept.
1972 Johnty Williamson McLaren M10B 5.0 litre 22.42s[51]
1973 Bob Rose McLaren-Chevrolet M14D 20.53s[52] 8 Sept.
1974 David Purley Trojan-Chevrolet T101 18.63s R
1975 David Purley Chevron B30-Ford GA V6 3.4-litre 19.70s[53]
1976 David Render Lotus 76-DFV 18.77s[54]
1977 Simon Riley Brabham-DFV BT33 18.28s R[55] 10 Sept.
1978 Dave Harris McRae-Chevrolet GM1 17.48s R[56] 9 Sep, joint fastest.
Terry Smith Brabham-Repco BT36
1979 Terry Smith March-Repco 761 18.82s[57] 8 Sept.
Standing Start 1/2 Mile
1980 Mark Williams Hesketh-DFV 308E 15.49s R[58] 13 Sept.
1981 Terry Smith March-Repco 761 15.73s 12 Sept.
1982 Ken Ayers March-DFV 79S 15.53s[59] 11 Sept.
1983 Ken Ayers March-DFV 79S 16.08s[60] 10 Sept.
1984 Ken Ayers Lyncar-DFL MS84 15.63s[61] 8 Sept.
1985 Ken Ayers Lyncar-DFL MS84 15.64s[62] 14 Sept.
1986 Roy Woodhouse March-Rover 77/82 T/C 18.71s[63] 13 Sept.
1987 Clive Bracey Vebra-Chevrolet 15.29s R[64] 12 Sept.
1988 Clive Bracey Vebra-Chevrolet Mk II 7.6-litre 14.98s R[65] 10 Sept.
1989 Paul Edwards Pilbeam-DFL MP58 14.97s R[66] 9 Sept.
1990 Ken Ayers Pilbeam-DFL MP58 15.32s 8 Sept.
1991 John Gray Pilbeam-DFL MP58 14.48s R 14 Sept.
1992 John Gray SPA Judd V10 14.48s[67] 12 Sept.
Standing Start 1/4 Mile
1993 John Gray SPA Judd V10 8.90s R[68] 11 Sept.
1994 Les Edmunds BRD TS01-Rover 4.5-litre 10.53s[69]
1995 Mike Lee Lyncar 79B-BDG 2.0 litre[70] 10.61s 9 Sept.
1996 David Render Pilbeam-Hart MP43 2.8-litre 9.88s[71]
1997 Peter le Druillenec Miller Exocet-Chevrolet 6.3-litre 10.20s[72]
1998 Richard George Pilbeam MP62 10.68s[73]
1999 Tony Bianchi Pilbeam MP62 10.92s
2000 Shaun Saunders Datsun 240Z-Chevrolet 10.25s[74]
2001 Paul Marston Chrysler PT Cruiser 10.41s 8 Sept.
2002 Paul Marston Chrysler PT Cruiser 10.17s 14 Sept.
2003 Philip Cooke Force PC 10.25s
2004 James Tiller Allard J2-Chevrolet 10.20s[75]
2005 Mike Endean Gould Ford Puma T/C 9.45s
2006 James Tiller Allard J2-Chevrolet 10.28s
2007 Chris Cannell Force SR8 2600 c.c. 10.33s
2008 Mike Endean Gould Ford Puma T/C 9.95s
2009 Mike Endean Gould Ford Puma T/C 9.63s[76] 12 Sep, fine.
2010 Mike Endean Gould Ford Puma T/C 10.63[77] 11 Sep, intermittent light rain with short heavy showers.
2011 Rodney Thorne Pilbeam MP 43 10.59 11 Sep, dry morning, wet afternoon.
2012 Rob Stevens Force SR4 10.12 8 Sep, event ended early due to fatal accident.

Key: R = Course Record; S/C = Supercharged; T/C = Turbocharged.


Track record

Car 1993, John Gray, SPA Judd V10, standing start 1/4-mile 8.90s

Bike 2009, Roger Simmons, Suzuki Hayabusa Turbo, standing start 1/4-mile 8.73s

Motorbikes fastest time of the day

Year Rider Motorcycle Time Miles per Hour
Flying Start Kilometre
1905 Henri Cissac Peugeot 12-h.p. twin cylinder 26.0 [1]
Standing Start 1/2-mile
1924 E.W. Spencer Douglas 494 c.c. 26.0 69.2 mph (111.4 km/h) [2] 6 Sept.
1932 R.W. Storey Brough Superior 996 c.c. 22.2 81.08 mph (130.49 km/h) [3]
1933 R.W. Storey Brough Superior 996 c.c. 23.19 77.59 mph (124.87 km/h)
1934 Noel Pope Brough Superior 22.39 80.36 mph (129.33 km/h) [4]
1935 Eric Fernihough Brough Superior J.A.P. 996 c.c. 20.27 R 88.7 mph (142.7 km/h) [5]
1936 E.C. Fernihough Brough S/C 20.00 R 89.86 mph (144.62 km/h) [6]
1937 J. Waite Norton 490 c.c. 25.13 73.20 mph (117.80 km/h)
1938 F. Williams Cotton 496 c.c. 23.22 77.51 mph (124.74 km/h) [7]
Standing Start Kilometre
1946 B. Berry Brough-Superior 28.13 [8]
1947 Bob Berry Brough-Superior 86.17 mph (138.68 km/h) .[9]
1952 G. Brown Vincent 24.71 .[10]
1953 G. Brown Vincent 998 c.c. 24.27 [11]
1954 R. Charlton Vincent 23.57 R [12] Absolute course record.
1955 R. Charlton Vincent-H.R.D. 22.27 100.45 mph (161.66 km/h) [13]
1956 (i) F. Williams Norton-J.A.P. 22.4 [14]
1958 Charlie Rous Vincent streamliner 22.05 101.5 mph (163.3 km/h) [15]
1959 Basil Keys Norton-J.A.P. 21.59 R 103.61 mph (166.74 km/h) [16] Absolute course record.
1960 C. Rous Moto-Vincent 21.67 103.25 mph [17]
1961 Ernie Woods Norton-J.A.P. 21.62 103.49 mph [18]
1962 G. Brown Vincent Special Nero 20.99 R [19] Absolute course record.
1963 George Brown Vincent Special Super Nero 19.29 R 115.96 mph (186.62 km/h) [20]
1965 I. Ashwell Vincent 998 c.c. S/C 21.07 [21]
1966 Ian Ashwell Vincent Satan 19.34 [22]
1967 Ian Ashwell Vincent Satan S/C 19.47 [23]
1969 No event
Standing Start 1/4 Mile
1970 12 Sept.
Standing Start Kilometre
1971 Don East Triumph 711 c.c. Quasimodo 20.05
1972 Mick Butler 20.53 [24]
1973 A. Weeden Triumph 500 c.c. S/C 20.79 [25]
1975 Tony Weeden Triumph 500 c.c. 20.05 [26]
1978 Henk Vink Kawasaki 1,000 c.c. S/C Big Spender III 17.48 R [27]
Standing Start 1/2-mile
1980 A. Weeden Triumph 499 c.c. 16.45 109.42 mph (176.09 km/h)
1982 Pip Higham Suzuki Katana 15.13 R
Standing Start 1/4-mile
1994 Jeff Dowsett Suzuki GSX 1,260 c.c. 9.62 [28]
1995 Dave Holland Suzuki GSXR 1,400 c.c. 9.31 R [29]
1997 Dave Hughes Suzuki 1,300 c.c. 9.38 [30]
2001 Dave Holland 9.25 R 8 Sept.
2004 Phil Wood Suzuki Katana 8.87
2009 Roger Simmons Suzuki Hayabusa Turbo 8.73 R 12 Sep, fine.
2010 Steve Walton Suzuki GSXR1000 10.60 143 mph (230 km/h) terminal speed 11 Sep, Wet.
2011 Steve Walton Suzuki GSXR1000 10.71 11 Sep, dry morning, wet afternoon.
2012 Craig Mallabone Suzuki Hayabusa Turbo 8.85 8 Sep, event ended early due to fatal accident.

Key: R = Course Record; S/C = Supercharged.


  • For a photograph of Noel Pope on his blown Brough see: Motor Sport, November 1946, Page 248. For a technical description of Pope's Brough see: Motor Sport, February 1948, Page 51.

The Dragster Era

The first announcement that a dragster would race in Brighton came from Wally Parks, in an editorial in Hot Rod Magazine in August 1958. Parks had nominated Calvin Rice to travel from the USA to England with the Hot Rod Magazine Special for the speed trials. In the event the trip was aborted,[1] but the seeds had been sown.

In 1961 Sydney Allard built the Allard dragster in the UK[2] and its first competitive appearance was at the Brighton Speed Trials on 2 September 1961. There was talk of a new track record over the kilometre from the Allard dragster with excitement reaching fever pitch. This only led to a huge disappointment when the fuel line ruptured on the line, completing the course on four cylinders in a time of 37.91 secs. The car continued to misfire on the second attempt. Hot Rod Magazine reported: "During warmup it backfired and blew off one set of blower pipes and never got going." [3] This was a blow from which the reputation of the car never fully recovered. Bill Boddy, editor of Motor Sport, called it a fiasco,[4] saying the mechanical problems had also occurred in testing at Boreham. The Autocar described the Allard dragster as a "gallant failure."[5]

At Brighton on 15 September 1962 the Allard dragster clocked two runs at 22.30 and 22.04 seconds. A respectable performance but no outright win or record. Motor Sport reported: "It appears that before the end of the Brighton kilometre the Allard dragster had burst the pipe between supercharger and engine, a common problem with such an installation and the reason why the Americans bolt their blowers on the engine, eliminating a long induction pipe." [6]

Sydney Allard was joined on 14 September 1963, by Dante Duce in Dean Moon's Mooneyes gas dragster[7] and Mickey Thompson with his Ford-powered Harvey Aluminum Special for some match-race style action. It was not to be. The American cars were not really suited to the kilometre, and there were no clocks for a quarter-mile distance. They had no brakes at the front and parachute brakes at the rear, no rear suspension, and advertising on the bodywork. All of this was enough to give the scrutineers (technical inspectors) fits. The cars did demonstrations only, reduced to burnouts and wheelstands, but left a lasting impression on the crowd. The Allard dragster put two rods through the block on Madeira Drive that day.[8] The Worden dragster of Tony Densham and Harry Worrall, a budget effort powered by a Shorrock-supercharged 1,500 c.c. Ford engine, was entered in the 1,101 to 1,500 c.c. racing car class, and, although not geared for the kilometre, finished second to Patsy Burt, in a time of 27.86 sec.[9] Densham would later set the British land speed record at Elvington in the Ford-powered Commuter dragster.

The canny Duce returned in 1964 with the Moonbeam modified sports car, which at least looked like a traditional European sporty car, but with a drag race and Bonneville heritage. The car as raced in Brighton was fitted with a 375-cubic inch supercharged Chevrolet V8 engine and a Devin bodyshell,[10] and was originally built in 1959.[11] Dante Duce also borrowed an A.C. Shelby Cobra, chassis number CSX2345, from John Wyer, and entered it in the GT class,[12] car number 110 at Brighton.[13] Duce cleaned up that day winning overall in the Moonbeam in a time of 21.95 sec, and first in Sports and GT cars over 2,500 c.c., in the Cobra roadster in 24.35 sec.[14]

Soon Brighton started holding dragster demonstrations over the quarter mile. In 1972 Clive Skilton produced an 8.18 sec run in his rear-engined Chrysler dragster.[15] In 1973 Dennis Priddle ran a smoky 7.69 sec quarter mile in his front-motored Chrysler dragster, which remains the quickest quarter yet seen on Brighton seafront. Motor Sport reported: "The sheer bravery and courage of the West Country lad as the Dragster accelerated along the bumpy, cambered road, brought forth the most incredible spontaneous round of applause heard at a motoring event for many years." [16]

The dragsters were getting too quick for Brighton and there were concerns about how to deal with fires involving exotic fuels. They faded from the scene with only occasional wins by drag-race type vehicles, such as Shaun Saunders (2000) and Paul Marston (2001, 2002).



  • Split Seconds – My Racing Years, Raymond Mays "ghosted" by Dennis May, G.T. Foulis & Co. Ltd. 1952. 306 pages.
  • Sprint: Speed Hillclimbs and Speed Trials in Britain: 1899–1925, T.R. Nicholson, (Timothy Robin), 1930–, Newton Abbot, David & Charles, 1969.
  • Richard Shuttleworth: An Illustrated Biography, Kevin Desmond, Jane’s Publishing Co Ltd., 1982.
  • The Brighton National Speed Trials in the 1960s, 1970s & 1980s (2004) Tony Gardiner, Veloce Publishing ISBN 1-903706-88-2.

See also

External links

  • Brighton and Hove Motor Club Website. "Home Page",
  • Vintage Motorcycle Club Sprint Section Website – Many Images of Motorcycles at Brighton throughout the years. "Home Page",
  • Pistonheads Article on the Speed Trials. "Brighton Speed Trials",
  • Gumpert Apollo at the Speed Trials. "Brighton Speed Trials", Evo Magazine Website
  • Pathe News clip from 1932. "Brooklands by the Sea", British Pathe Website
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