About The Speed Trials
The idea for a speed event in Brighton was first suggeted in 1902, however it wasn't untill three years later in 1905 that local hotelier, Sir Harry Preston persuaded the Town Corporation to lay a motor racing track. A track which used the pioneering material of "Tarmac" as its surface and was in fact the first of its kind.

The Town Council collaborated with the Automobile Club of Great Britain and Ireland (Which later became the Royal Automobile Club) to organise and event known as "Brighton Motor Week" which ran from the 19th - 22nd July 1905 and consisted of a series of motor races.
The first event on the 19th July 1905 ran westwards, from Black Rock to the aquarium, the opposite directions to which the race currently runs. It attracted over 400 entries and cars were classified according to rolling chassis prices, i.e. £300-£400. They were timed over a flying start kilometre and were allowed to have the addition of a passenger if they so wished. Motorcycles competed in handicap races and were timed over a standing start mile and were based on engine capacity, weight of machine and weight of rider.
During this first event 3 world records were broken; 2 by French motorcyclist Henri Cissac, who set a new record for the flying kilometre with a time of 26 seconds and a top speed of 86mph and also for a standing mile which he lowered to 53.2 seconds. The other record was set by Harry Rignold who lowered the flying mile record from 64 seconds to 46.2 seconds.
The worst luck of the week fell on The Hon. Charles Rolls (later of Rolls Royce Fame) whose enormous four-cylinder 26.5 litre Dufauls started belching flames and smoke and making horrendous moaning noises near the finishing line, terrorising the crowds as it di so! it is alleged that the car was still being built on the channel crossing on its way to Brighton
The last day of the week was essentially a "Ladies Day" and the best performance by a driver was by Dorothy Levitt in an 80hp Napier.
This first event drew huge crowds down to Brighton and also included a number of concerts throughout the city and a pre-race banquet!
In 1906 the Speed Trials were placed under threat when a body of ratepayers obtained a ruling stating that the resurfacing works of the track was "wasteful, extravagant and unnecessary and was therefore illegal" The Brighton Corporation were ordered to pay the bill themselves. But, in 1907 an appeal was won on the grounds that the improvements made would benefit the public and create a smoother surface for all users.
The next event wouldn't take place until 18 years later, when the Brighton and Hove Motor Cycle and Light Car Club organised an open event on the 14th July 1923. This time the event ran in the opposite direction and the club decided on a measured half mile with a standing start. Competitors were run in pairs and indivdually timed. The event attracted between 200 and 400 competitors and over 10,000 spectators. The fastest time of the day was recorded by motorcyclist EH Spencer on his Douglas 494cc at 69.29mph.
In 1925 a police ban on racing taking place on public roads was passed which might explain why no events took place untill 1932. It was then that someone remebered that Madeira Drive belonged to the Town Corporations and was therefore not subject to the ban. The Brighton and Hove Motor Club (as it was now known) obtained permission to use it and switched the annual Speed Trials back to Brighton from Brooklands.
The 1932 meeting attracted a huge crowd estimated at 100,000. The most outstanding feature of the afternoon was the battle between Sir Malcolm Campbell in his Supercharged Sunbeam "Tiger" and Mr John Cobb in a huge Delage. Although Cobb made the better start, Campbell gracefully reeled in his rival and crossed the finishing line at 120mph, winning by 13 yards and creating a new car record.
The following year a new course record was set by Noel Pop on a Brough motorcycle. ge covered the half-mile course at an average speed of 80.36 mph. This meant he must have crossed the finishing line approaching 130mph.
The Speed Trials were once again threatened in 1935 when there was a proposal to put a roof over Madeira Drive and turn it into a covered car park for 3000 cars. Luckily these plans didn't materialise and the event was allowed to continue up until the war.
The Speed Trials were restarted in 1946, were granted an International Permit and the course extended to 1 Kilometre. Racing equipment was in short supply afterthe war but there were a number of ingenious constructors who made use of surplus military machinery. One example is Archie Butterworth who assembled his AJB using a Steyr V8 engine from a German military vehicle installed in a jeep chassis with a four wheel drive.
New classes started to be introduced from 1958 and were initially limited more or less by price. In 1962 further classes were introduced for Saloon Cars 1601cc-4000cc, Sports Racing Cras up to 1600cc and Sports Racing Cars 1600cc and over.
In 1963 Americans Dante Duce and Mickey Thompson came over to Britain to demonstrate the sport of Drag Racing. They competed against Sidney Allard who ran his home built dragster. Unfortunatly the Dragsters could not perform to their full potential due to the uneven surface and the fact they were not set up to run a kilometre. Dragsters were a popular attaction until 1974 when they were stopped from entering due to safety reasons as instructed by the police and the RAC.
In 1971 Madeira Drive was completely resurfaced and the distance was reverted back to a kilometre. A year later in 1972, a new innovation was the provision of a standing start 1/4 mile for the motorcycles in addition to the traditional standing start kilometre for the cars
In 1975 it look as though the Speed Trails was going to have to be postponed due to lack of finance but luckily due to tremendous support from competitors and minor sponsorship from London tobacco merchants Fribourg and Treyer the event was able to continue.
In 1980 the Speed Trials celebrated their 75th anniversary by reverting to the 1/2 mile standing start; a format first used in the pre war events. This allowed some assaults on the previous records which were smashed by the newer and more modern designs and engineering. The previous record of 22.45 seconds was destroyed by Mark Williams in his Hesketh DFV who knocked almost seven seconds of it.
Since 1981 competitors have run singularly as a safety precaution initiated by the rising speeds of more modern machines. In 1986 the Speed Trials also saw a change in the class structure into which the cars are divided.
Despite torrential rain another record breaking day took place in 1987. The seven year old course record for cars was broken by Clive Bracey in a Vebra Cheverolet. His blistering time of 15.23 seconds took him to a speed of 183mph. Twelve of the fifteen class records were also smashed.
The Brighton Speed Trials made their Television debut in 1989. The event was filmed by BBC Televisison cameras for its Top Gear programme. The programmes presenter , Tiff Needell drove a Lotus Esprit Turbo SE, a TVR 450 SEAC and a four wheel-drive Porsche Carrera. Unfortunately the event was overshadowed by a fatal accident of mortorcyclist John Rich.
The future of the event suffered even further preasure when the council undertook a rent review of the three arches on Maderia Drive under which Brighton and Hove Motor Club had their headquarters. This was compounded by the introduction by the RAC Motor Sports Association introducing noise restrictions in response to complaints by local residents. The decibel limit for cars was lowered from 115 to 113, which meant that many vehicles would have to be fitted with new or larger exhaust silencers to be able to compete.
 "Frost Cars Ltd"  made their Speed Trials Sponsorship debut in 1991. Their support is not only financial they also actively co-operate with the organisation of this unique and famous event.
In 1994, with safety in mind, two changes were introduced to the running of the event. The Course was shortened to 1/4 mile and the Racing Car classes were limited to 2000cc
1995 marked the 90th anniversary of the first running of the Brighton Speed Trials and saw an entry of the Semmence; a car which first run in the event in 1938 when it was driven by its constructor, H. Whitfield "Fatty" Semmence.
In its 90 year history the event saw a number of famous names take park, including Sir Malcolm Campbell, John Cobb, Stirling Moss, Mike Hawthorn, Ken Tyrell, John Cooper, Derek Bell, Sydney Allard and George Brown on his supercharged vincent.
At the turn of the century entries to the Speed Trials reached just under 300 with the event being more popular than ever before amongst the crowds and spectators.
In 2005 Brighton and Hove Motor Club celebrated 100 years of the Brighton National Speed Trials. A prestigious milestone which saw 370 entries and a record number of spectators. The day went without a hitch a helped cement the clubs position as organiser of yet another successful and increasingly popular event in the motor raccing calender.
In 2010 a new class was introduced for Electric Cars a sign of the progression in motor engineering. This class continues to increase each year and the development of the vehicles has been fascinating.
In 2011 the event faced yet another problem when the local council condemned the use of the middle terraces on Maderia Drive due to safety concerns of the ageing structure. This had always been a popular vantage point. The club had to quickly come up with an effective solution which would allow spectators to continue to witness the event in the same way. This was achieved by lengthening the area near the start line, allowing the audience to get closer to the action and see the cars and bikes up close as they race off the start line.
Page 65, October 1959
The 54th Brighton Speed Trials attracted 280 entries this year and showed no sign of losing its popularity in spite of the attraction of the T.T. at Goodwood. The weather was perfect all day and apart from a number of false starts and a fire in some canvas screens the long meeting was concluded without incident.
Some of the more interesting entries did not materialise or had mechanical troubles, including the Freikaiserwagen, Senunenee Special, Jack Brabham's Cooper (he was otherwise engaged at Goodwood), and Sidney Allard's [Correct spelling: Sydney Allard] twin-engined sprint car which we described last month. As usual, the sports cars occupied the morning runs and the main interest lay in the large engined machines. Both Michael Anthony and Ron Brightman had entered their Lister-Corvettes, but only Anthony arrived. These cars have been disappointing in circuit racing this season but in a straight line he managed to cover the
standing kilometre in 25.03 sec. at an average Speed of 89.3 m.p.h., to break Gillie Tyrer's record which he held in a C-type Jaguar. Not far behind came P. J. Sargent (C-type Jaguar) and P. W. Woodey (Hinton Allard) who tied at 25.76 see. In the smaller capacity classes J. Randles broke the 2-litre record in his Lister-Bristol with a run of 28.7 sec., while in the Marque sports car classes the Austin Healeys were slightly faster than the Triumphs (as they should be, of course), while the Tlis were generally faster than the Twin-Cam MGs., Rudd's potent Ace-Bristol
was beaten by his own and another Austin Healey, while K. S. Richardson's Porsche was over a second faster than Swayne's Twin-Cam M.G.-A.
A new class this year was for ladies drivingsports ears. Mrs. Sheila Park won this class in her d class with a rim of 27.45 sec.
Patsy Burt beat both Alan Brown and Ken Tyrell who had brought along the Formula II Coopers which have been ushusband's Aston Martin-engined Tojeiro with a run of 27.74 see., at an average speed of 80.6 m.p.h.
Second was Margaret Hockenbull in a 5i-litre Cadillac-Allard in 28.28 sec.
The Bentley D.C. class went naturally enough to Forrest
Lyeett's 8-litre which covered the kilometre in 2945 sec., an average speed of 76 m.p.h.
The enormous difference between a standing and a flying kilometre can be gauged from the fact that this car recently covered a flying kilometre at 141.667 m.p.h.
During the racing car classes in the afternoon Arthur Owen proved to have the fastest car present by streaking down the Madeira Drive in 23.50 see., an average speed of 95.1 m.p.h. But Ken Wharton's recard of 23.34 see., which he made in the supercharged E.R.A. 19 still intact.
Miss Roberta Cowell arrived late with the newly corn ph ted but managed to obtain third fastest time in the unlimiteed by Gregory and McLaren this season.
They were also beaten by Mike Ilatton's 1,100-e.c. Cooper and George Keylock's supercharged Ell Cooper.
The day was concluded with the motor-cycles rues which once again proved to be the fastest vehicles present. Basil Keys took his Norton-J.A.P. down the kilometre in 21.59 sec.—an average speed of 103.5 m.p.h., breaking the course record previously held by C. W. Rous.—M. L. T.