JANUARY 15, 2003
DaimlerChrysler reviving Brooklands
Back in the autumn there was a low-key announcement that DaimlerChrysler UK was planning to develop a 155-acre site in the middle of the old Brooklands racing track at Weybridge, just down the road from the McLaren factory at Woking. The land was in a fairly derelict state and was being used for car storage, lorry parking and there had been a considerable amount of illegal dumping.
DaimlerChrysler says that it is planning to build a Heritage and Technical Centre for Mercedes-Benz and planning permission has been submitted to the Elmbridge Borough Council. The new building will house displays on the history of Mercedes-Benz and other technology items. Its theatre, visitor, education and hospitality facilities will be made available to local businesses and schools.
There will also be an on-site hotel and parts of the old circuit which have fallen into disrepair will be tided up. DaimlerChrysler UK has been careful to include plenty for the community, including a 60-acre park and a riverside walk, not to mention improved flood protection. There will also be a new "aviation village" in the museum grounds which will remember Brooklands's contribution to the aviation industry.
The most interesting part of the plan is that there will be a new circuit built on the site which will incorporate part of the old Campbell Circuit. The application states that the track will be used for Mercedes customer demonstration runs and parades linked with museum activities. This is probably related to the new McLaren Mercedes SLR super cars which are going to built at the new McLaren headquarters in Woking.
Brooklands was the birthplace of British Motorsport and aviation. The world's first purpose built motor racing circuit was opened at Brooklands in 1907 and the track later became a center for the British aviation industry as well. The museum today attracts 115,000 visitors a year.
The plans are being opposed by some locals who argue that it conflicts with the Elmbridge Borough Council Plan, fails to meet the requirement to positively enhance the Brooklands Conservation Area and that it will dominate the current Brooklands Museum.
The McLaren team - which is part-owned by Mercedes-Benz - may have no plans to use the new track for testing its F1 cars but one cannot help but think that as McLaren battles to beat Ferrari, the fact that the Italian team has a test track on site at Fiorano, is one which has not escaped the notice of the men at McLaren and Mercedes-Benz. Getting planning permission for such a thing would be impossible given the suburban location of Brooklands but once a test track facility is built, it might at some point be possible to get the planning authorities to accept a little more noise.
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