Tomorrow, Madeira Drive will be taken over by the roar of motor engines and the pursuit of speed. Brighton & Hove’s National Speed Trials is one of Britain’s oldest motor racing events, and can trace its history back to 1905.
This photograph was taken during that inaugural Motor Race Week on 19-22 July 1905. Although the identity of the driver in the photograph is unknown, he competed against some illustrious company: other drivers included Charles Rolls, co-founder of Rolls Royce, and flight pioneer John Moore Brabazon. The fastest time of the day was set by the Australian star Selwyn Edge, with a speed of a little over 90 miles per hour.
But the success of the speed trials was not only due to the drivers. It is one of the enduring legacies of Brighton hotelier and entrepreneur, Sir Harry Preston. Preston took the lead in persuading Brighton Corporation to lay tarmac on Madeira Drive for the purpose of a motor race. Madeira Drive was the first road in Brighton to receive this treatment, but as motor cars rapidly replaced horse-drawn vehicles over the next few years, the remainder of the town’s roads soon followed.
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