From the early days of motorsport, owners and manufacturers alike were eager to showcase the speed and reliability of their machines. As a result, speed trials prospered across the country from 1901 onwards.

Explore some of the personalities, venues, cars and manufacturers involved in the pioneering of these early speed trials.

Sir Hickman Bacon, president of the Lincolnshire Automobile Club, a position he held until his death in 1945.



In whose footsteps do we follow here at Vintage Speed Trials? Become familiar with the motoring clubs whose legacy we strive to uphold.


automobile club

This pivotal assembly was formed on the 4th January 1901, by a group of early motoring enthusiasts. By the end of that year, they comprised 53 members, and would become recognised as the oldest motoring club in Britain.

C. W. Pennell, the Mayor of Lincoln, was elected as Chairman.

Leslie Johnson’s E-Type, GP2, displayed at the Donington Grand Prix Exhibition museum.



English Racing Automobiles (ERA) was founded by Humphrey Cook, Raymond Mays, and Peter Berthon in November 1933. It was established in Bourne, Lincolnshire, next to Eastgate House, the family home of Raymond Mays.. Their ambition was to manufacture and campaign a team of single seater racing cars capable of upholding British prestige in Continental European racing.

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legends of pre-war motorsport

helle nice

Hellé Nice

Pictured here in 1929, driving an Oméga-Six, she won an all-female Grand Prix race at Autodrome de Montlhéry in the process setting a new world land speed record for women. Capitalising on her fame, the following year she toured the United States, racing at a variety of tracks in an American-made Miller racing car. Through mutual friend Philippe de Rothschild, Nice was introduced to Ettore Bugatti, who swiftly added her to his all-male driving force. In 1931, she drove a Bugatti Type 35C in five major Grands Prix in France. Hellé Nice was easily recognisable in her bright-blue race car. Although she did not win a Grand Prix race, she was a legitimate competitor, and frequently finished ahead of some of the top male drivers.

kay petre

Kay Petre

Kay Petre was a star at the legendary Brooklands track, and the exploits of this 4′ 10″ lady caused a media sensation at the time. The abiding image of Kay is a tiny woman seated in a huge 10.5 litre V12 Delage. This was the car in which she battled for the Women’s Outer Circuit Record at Brooklands with Gwenda Stewart. At Brooklands, Petre achieved three lap records. In 1934, first in a Bugatti at 124 mph then in a Delage at 129.58 mph. In 1935, she used the Delage to achieve 134.75 mph.

raymond mays

Raymond Mays

Raymond Mays was one of the principal people behind the development of the motor racing stables of English Racing Automobiles (ERA). His lifelong ambition was to see his country succeed at the top level of international motor sport. He raced for some thirty years, and was renowned for competing at Shelsley Walsh. Mays raced there in the early 1920s with a pair of Brescia Bugattis, known as ‘Cordon Bleu’ and ‘Cordon Rouge’.

stanley woods

Stanley Woods

After watching the races at Hillberry during the 1921 Isle of Man TT Races, Stanley Woods told his friends that “I can do that.” He was able to persuade the Cotton motor-cycle company to provide a machine for the 1922 Junior TT Race. The Isle of Man Examiner newspaper described Stanley Woods as an “enthusiastic amateur”, and he finished the race in 5th place in a time of 3 hours, 55 minutes and 33 seconds.


historic motorsport venues


Brooklands was a 2.75-mile (4.43 km) motor racing circuit and aerodrome built near Weybridge in Surrey, England. It opened in 1907, and was the world’s first purpose-built motor racing circuit, as well as one of Britain’s first airfields. The circuit hosted its last race in 1939, and today part of it forms the Brooklands Museum, a major aviation and motoring museum. It remains a venue for vintage car, motorcycle and other transport-related events.

syston park

In 1926, a circuit was created in Syston Park from the estate road, and motorcycle races were held there until the 1930s. At first, these were unaffiliated but soon Syston Park became a Grand Prix venue, attracting crowds of up to 30,000. Legends such as Stanley Woods, C. J. Williams and Tommy Cann drove its course.


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