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Brighton Speed Trials 2019

Saturday was the 81st running of the Brighton National Speed Trials, which is claimed to be the oldest running motor race anywhere in the world. The event dates back to July 1905, when Edwardian entrepreneur Sir Harry Preston persuaded Brighton town council to tarmac the seafront road east from the Palace Pier to Black Rock specifically for motor racing. This stretch was renamed Madeira Drive in 1909 and hosted the Speed Trials ten times before the 1939-45 war and almost every year since.

It is a fabulous day of car and bike racing down the current quarter mile stretch (it was originally a kilometre and then a half mile until 1993), with competitors running individually against the clock from a standing start. The car racing is organised by the Brighton & Hove Motor Club and the bikes by the Vintage Motor Cycle club. By far the most popular class, in terms of entries, is the Handicap Event for road-going cars driven by club members, boy racers and gentlemen drivers who require only a National B licence to compete.

In the past I have watched the trials from the road above Madeira Drive, which is free and a great view. From time to time, I've paid good money for a paddock pass to get up close to the cars and bikes and watch from the terraces next to the track just after the start line. This year I volunteered to help out as a paddock marshall - and I have to say it was a hugely enjoyable day.


This picture was taken at 6.45am, about twenty minutes after sunrise on the south coast. I'd already been working for an hour and a half, putting out the numbers for the paddock bays. The road wasn't officially closed until 7am, so we had to step around parked cars that would start being towed away just as the competitors were arriving. That was my next job, helping racers find their paddock spaces and getting unloaded without completely blocking the road. It looked like chaos, but it happened...


Eight o'clock was when most of the track, fire and paddock marshalls arrived. The two of us who'd arrived early to put out the numbers were given the task of corralling the fifty Handicap class drivers and cars - the first batch of twenty-five would be first out for their practice run at 8.45am, with the second batch following close behind. Most of the Handicap competitors had arrived early and were ready to run in a wide variety of classic cars, modern supercars, track day cars and one guy in his wife's Chelsea tractor...


Yes that's a Maserati Monza 4000 and a Porsche GT2 RS Sun

We did a pretty efficient job with practice. One driver didn't have a legal helmet, so we sorted out a loan from a generous competitor in another class. Otherwise, we sent them all out and welcomed them all back. And then had a break while all the other cars and bikes completed their practice runs...


Practice did overrun by about half an hour. The 'sweepers' were called into action a couple of times to deal with fluid on the start line and there was plenty of smoke - most of it tyres, plus a clutch or two. We had a busy half hour rounding up the Handicap class drivers and get them back to their cars ready for their only scheduled timed run of the day, which we'd squeeze in before lunch. The schedule was very clear in all the paperwork that was sent out, but very few bothered to read it, of course... Thankfully most of the drivers drifted back, but most assumed their run would be after lunch. In the end, we had four drivers still missing at 11.50 when we lined up the two batches of Handicap cars in the queue for the start line. Our job was then to meet and calm down the four panicked drivers when they realised their class was running before lunch... And then add them to the line.

As the first batch returned there were some beaming smiles and a few sheepish looks. But everyone came back in one piece. Half an hour later and the second batch were back all safe and sound. The way the Handicap competition works is that each driver is given a handicap (from zero to 7.25 seconds this year) that is taken off their time for the quarter mile. The red Porsche GT2 was quickest down the track of 'our' fifty cars, but with a handicap of zero, didn't make the top five. The winner was a Caterham 7 R500 which had a rather generous handicap of 4 seconds - but he made it count.

For the six quickest Handicap class cars (irrespective of the handicap), that wasn't the final action of the day. Originally planned for straight after lunch - but then delayed to after the first timed run for the other car and bike classes - the top six would have a shoot-out. We lined them up at 3.30pm in reverse order - a Bentley Bentayga SUV, a VW Golf, a Subaru Impreza, an Audi R8 V10, a Ford RS200 Evo and the Porsche GT2 RS. We legged it down to the start line to see how our guys got on.


In short, the Bentley, Golf and Audi all messed up their starts. Dan in the Impreza made a superb start and then had a slight hiccup as he shifted up to third gear. The RS200 completely nailed the entire run, getting a 10.89 and putting massive pressure on the Porsche who bogged down early on, but then blitzed the rest of the run. The Porsche's time was 11.28, but with the handicaps applied, it was the Impreza that jumped from third to first, the Golf second and then the RS200 and the Porsche third and fourth. Mildly confusing, but great fun!

Having seen the six cars back and offered congratulations and commiserations (and being offered a Lotus Elise to race next year...) it was time to go off shift and head home, just a little bit knackered, slightly deaf, but very happy. The other classes continued for another couple of hours with their second timed runs and top six run-offs for the cars and the bikes. All the results can be found here:

And if you want to watch some of the action - from inside and outside the cars - search Brighton Speed Trials 2019 on YouTube. Here's one of our guys in action...

[+] 3 members Like woodcote's post

Interesting thanks. I had  no idea they still did that!
[+] 1 member Likes Gordon Steadman's post

Blimey, that's an early start, middle of the night in my book.
[+] 1 member Likes JasonB's post

Were any all-electric cars or bikes entered ?- I can't spot any on the results sheets.


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[+] 1 member Likes Scuderia_Turini's post

An electric car class was introduced in 2010. Not only are they bloody quick from a standing start, electric cars are going to be the future of the event. However, the class has been put on hold after an incident a couple of years ago - a lithium battery caught on fire and may still be burning somewhere... That focused attention on the specialist scrutineering, safety and fire-fighting issues that are unique to electric cars and their batteries. That is being worked on and the electric cars will be back when the infrastructure is in place.

Cheers Andy, 
I see Teslas in 2010. Did quite well but perhaps not as well as I suspected.


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[+] 1 member Likes Scuderia_Turini's post

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