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Bemsee - Club History

The name Bemsee is a contraction of the letters BMCRC, and is the name by which the British Motorcycle Racing Club known amongst all its riders and supporters.

The club was formed in March 1909, at Carlton House, Regent Street; headquarters at that time of the British Automobile Racing Club (BARC) who operated the Brooklands Racing Track at Weybridge in Surrey. The founders were Major F. Lindsay Lloyd, R.O. Clark, W.H. Wells, A. V. Ebblewhite, A. G. Reynolds, F. Straight, O. L. Summers and E.C.W. Fitzherbert.

The first race meeting was held on a Thursday, April 18th 1909, and was highly successful, despite rain in the closing stages of the afternoon's sport. The gate was reported as being sixty to seventy. There were two main races, both handicaps, and preliminary races to decide the handicap allowance. The first was a two-lap affair with prize money of one pound, and the second a Hill Climb (up the short and steep Test Hill), with competitors running in pairs.

From then onwards, Bemsee continued to organise racing at Brooklands until the Second World War, when the track became a major wartime facility with the Vickers factory located inside its banked tracks.

The classic races of teh 1920-30 decade were the 200 mile solo and sidecar races, and the Hutchinson Hundred handicap race, first held in 1925. But the mainstay of the programmes throughout the years that Bemsee raced at Brooklands were the short-distance and Lightning handicaps, held over three, five or ten laps of the outer circuit. With the advent of the thirties and the influx of the road-race bred machine, the character of the racing began to change.

As a variant of the outer circuit races, the "Mountain" circuit was devised, and by means of artificial barriers and the steep slope of the banking, a short and tricky circuit was created where, unlike the full circuit, sheer maximum speed was of less importance that acceleration and handling. Finally, the "Campbell Circuit" was built, planned with the aid of the late Sir Malcolm Campbell of "Bluebird" fame. A road section linked the banking with the Fork by way of several corners and a bridge over the river Wey. The circuit was thus half-road, half-track.

The twenties were the hey-days of the great tuners, Le Vack, Temple, Marchant, Waters, O'Donovan, to mention a few; and the racing machinery was not confined to three or four makes, but drawn from nearly every manufacturer in the country. The era of the across-the-counter racing motorcycle was to come, and when it arrived, the character of Brooklands and racing began to change. The specialist and professional tuner was less prominent than hitherto, and there came a host of private owners who were not whole-heartedly Brooklands habitues, but divided their interests between track and road racing. Although it was not realised, the character of Bemsee was also changing.

Brooklands was not the be-all and end-all of racing as it was before this new era, for many members took part in road racing on the continent and in the Isle of Man. Some, including current Bemsee President Gordon Cobbold, tried their hand at the new sport of dirt track racing introduced into England in 1927. But Brooklands was the mecca of speed, and the IOM a "shrine in an outer constellation".

In those years, Bemsee was widening its scope and interests, and laying sure foundations for the future. This was fortunate, since the situation changed drastically when the club reformed in 1947 at the end of the war. Brooklands was not restored as a racing circuit, but was sold and allowed to fall into ruins. To all those who race there before the war, this was a bitter disappointment, and it left the Club without a home. Rightly or wrongly, the famous old track was long mournedd by those who spent their Saturday afternoons amongst its bumps. It is sad that in Britain today there is no place where a motorcycle can be held at full throttle for hours on end, where the limit of endurance is not bounded by the rider's skill but the by the reliability of his engine.

After the war, Bemsee was for a long time without a permanent home. It's headquarters were at times at Haddenham, Dunholme Airfield in Lincolnshire, Silverstone, Croydon (for Crystal Palace circuit), then Brands Hatch in Kent.

In the early '90s, after extended megotiations with new circuit owner McLaren - the F1 car team - Bemsee moved to its current home at Lydden Race Circuit in East Kent. The popular circuit is managed by Bemsee (or in fact by its sister company, Lydden Circuit Ltd), on behalf of McLaren, and car and auto-cross races are held in addition to several motorcycle meetings throughout the year.

Lydden is a superb spectator circuit. Just about all of its one mile length can be seen from any point on the circuit, thanks to the natural bowl it is located in.

For 1996, there are several safety improvments being made, with the moving back of tyre walls and extension of gravel traps at Paddock Bend, the Devils Elbow, and the hairpin.

Other circuit improvements in the pipeline include a much-needed new toilet and shower block in the paddock.


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These pages are maintained by Roger Ford (email: raford@uk.oracle.com)