Archived: Britain breaks 24-hour record

Brooklands in 1907

Artist's impression of the edge of a race at night

As early as 1907, Selwyn Francis dubbed Brooklands the Edge by averaging 65mph over 24 hours in Napier

One great pioneer of British motorsport is one who, unfortunately, is not well known anymore: Selwyn Francis Kray.

Born near Sydney, Australia in 1868, he and his parents moved to London when he was three years old. He became an avid cyclist and was talented enough that at the age of just 23, he joined the England team for the first Paris-Bordeaux race. He took third place.

His fame naturally found him a job in the growing bicycle industry. Working for Dunlop, he was one of the early adopters of the new passenger car, buying De Dion-Bouton in 1896.

The edge's passion for cycling also led him to become friends with Montague Napier, Napier's engineering company.

Edge was bitten by an automotive bug, so he asked his friend to fit his former racing Panhard with a Napier engine and replace his tiller with a new steering wheel style, resulting in Napier's name in the car world.

In 1900, now established as an importer and seller of French cars, he realized that seeing the Genesis of Motorsport through the marketing value channel of racing.

So he entered a thousand miles of trials from Newbury to Edinburgh and back - Napier's car, winning in its class and is one of only 12 drivers (out of 64) to be classified.

What could be better advertising than the world championship for cars? It was, in fact, the idea of ​​the Gordon Bennet Cup, which was launched by an American newspaper mogul.

After the cancellation of the record, in 1901 due to concerns about the obligatory tyre, Edge duly won the 1902 race, and his two retired English and three French rivals, with his 40 hp. With. special completion of the 351-mile promotion in just 11 hours.

Old Maxim goes win on Sunday, sells on Monday and is reported to have sales of Napier to France and British exports across the English Channel to both triple. After that, Kray became a sales manager in the company.

His greatest achievement, however, came in the summer of 1907, when he dubbed Britain's first dedicated racing track breaking the 24-hour endurance record, which was set by the 1094 km national car at Indianapolis in the US, doing 1582 kilometers.

Set in Brooklands, according to Autocar, were "a small tent for drivers, a couple of small cranes on wheels, stacks of Dunlop tires mounted on removable wheels with wires and enough cans of gasoline to fill a small lake."

This was in addition to not only the edge of the 60 liter. With. a six-cylinder Napier, but also a pair of almost identical two-seaters to follow (each with two drivers doing three-hour shifts), as well as at least seven spare cars.

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The edges were also wise to build a small adjustable glass screen to protect against the elements.

An average of 60 mph was the target, and "as the cars went under the bridge, one can appreciate in one moment that their speed was higher than most express trains."

"The first two hours were practically uneventful," we continued. The edges stopped for water after two hours, but then you don't have to do it again for another eight.

“As dusk failed and night fell, the trail's appearance was most remarkeble. Light wells [a type of paraffin-operated blowtorch] were placed around the top edge, with a screen behind each so drivers never ran red lights.

“Down the center of the track was a line of storm lamps that are placed on a line that is measured, drivers working outside of them to ensure the full distance is covered.

"On the smaller of the two curves, the track is higher than that of the ground in the inside, so to prevent the possibility of an accident this part was marked with a magic lamp."

Therefore, this mechanism was enough, which, to our disappointment, the lights of the cars should not be used.

“The effect of constant speed on the tires became apparent after 350 miles. It should be understood that no tires have been changed to cars. Whenever a tire gave out, the wheel's tear wire was removed and a duplicate wheel with the tire inflated was put in its place."

Twenty-four wheels were changed (each one took about half a minute if no petrol or oil was also needed). This use of removable wheels with wires, rather than the usual wooden stuff, not only saved the edge of a 7min pitstop, but also prevented a possible total failure when, as happened several times, the tire was sheared off the rim.

We continued: “Taken as a whole, the whole event was significant. He's completely taken it to the next level. The organization was excellent, running an extraordinary machine; and stamina edge is equally superb.

“As for the cars, besides replenishing water, gasoline and oil, they ran through without any mechanical breakdowns, with the exception of the red car, which broke the rear springs. On one of the walking machines too, he stated the cylinder was broken because the water level was allowed to get too low.

“When Blade passed the 1440th miles, at 21hr 45min, there was much applause, and great enthusiasm was exhibited when he dismounted at the end of 24hrs.

“At the finish, all participants received a standing ovation, and the edge had some difficulty in pulling himself out of his admirers and friends; everyone wanted to congratulate him and shake his hand.”

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The record continued to stand for 18 years, from the very edge, failing to beat it in 1908.

The Londoner was a protected character, but "a soft spot in his heart for his ancient cycling friends of bygone days" gave us an interview in his office a few days later.

Car: "It doesn't seem to be that impossible after all, then, Mr. Kray."

Edge: "No, no."

"Didn't it seem terribly slow to you, or at least monotonous?"

“Not a little. Quite the contrary, I assure you. I was amazed at how miles piled up. When Mr. Ebblewhite went out for a total of thousands of miles, I was very surprised!”

"But didn't you feel frazzled in every part that flew over?"

“No, not once, and in fact, I was only a little stiff and bruised when I finished. I took no solid food, but kept myself going for cocoa, meat broth, bananas and grapes."

"Do you think the concave super-height cans of a self-steering car are round curves?"

“Oh No, I had to taxi around the curves; the machine demanded to keep its course.

"Do you tend to sleep while driving?"

“Oh no, not at all, but I went to bed at 9pm on Saturday after a light meal and slept like a log.”

As Brooklands himself noted that "a car that proves itself to many cars along the way will undoubtedly prove to be a car on the road, but a car that we currently think is all that is desirable on the road doesn't show many advantages." for this patch of cement.

He added that "in the 120 mph car race at Brooklands," as popularly suggested, "requests crashes of the scariest ones in person," stating that the auto is limited to 80 mph "would be safe and just as exciting, entralling, interesting and instructive.”

Napier dominated the first two years of racing at Brooklands under Edge, before he retired from racing entirely in 1908 after a quarrel with the French over his use of detachable wired wheels. Four years later he fell out with his old friend Montague over company politics and sold it to the firm for £120,000 (the equivalent of £13 million today!) on the condition he stayed out of the auto industry for seven years.

He left to become a pig farmer in Sussex and, after an unsuccessful stint owning AC in the 1920s, retired at large. He died in 1940, aged 71.


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