Fast Thoughts: Lying Silent in Sussex

For my dissertation I’ve got to do some research regarding British motorsport. So where better to go than where it all started?

Bexhill in November is not the most beatific part of the world. It is overcast, windy, with only the odd glimmer of the sun poking through the clouds. Its early winter in East Sussex and there really isn’t much to suggest that, just over 116 years ago, history was made here on the 24th May 1902.

On that day the first motor races happened in the United Kingdom, on Bexhill’s De La Warr Parade. The course was simple; one way, one gentle right turn and an uphill finish; that was it, one day’s racing.

Or was it? In 1994, at the fourth annual Bexhill 100 memorial racing event, two stones were laid to commemorate the start and finish lines. These stones though, are not significant in size, they are in fact only the same size as a small suitcase.

Bar a replica of the victorious steam car Easter Egg that sits in the motorsport section of Bexhill Museum, they are the only evidence that this event ever existed

You might wonder why such a significant event is so under-marked by Bexhill. It is not just that Bexhill couldn’t afford large stones for the plaques in 1994, but that motorsport history is so niche as a topic in this country that no-one talks about the unseen circuits.

You only have to look at the lack of commemoration for the Battersea Park Formula E circuit and the lack of notice given to Davidstow Grand Prix track, to see how under remembered motorsport is in the United Kingdom.

This is not such much a tragedy, that would be an exaggeration, but more of a missed opportunity to ingratiate towns and cities to their hidden history. Bexhill did indeed try this with the Bexhill 100 event, that ran from 1990 to 2002; however, it hasn’t been attempted in other cities.

But what if that was done with places such as Birmingham to remember the Superprix, or Falmouth to recreate the bicycle races of the 1930s? How amazing would that be for the next generation of historians or indeed the citizens of that city? To find that on the streets you walked on, cars and bikes raced along past post offices and schools, on your running route, on your walk to school.

As it stands the only proponent of these memory races in the UK are the permanent circuits in the UK. Ordinary society is not happy to remember, past motorsport events form a smoky mark in a world going green.

Yet as we have seen in Remembrance Sunday, recently the 100th Anniversary of the signing of the Armistice, we should at least remember them because of the joy they provided.

That is not to say that we should remember or commemorate forgotten circuits in the same way as fallen soldiers. Lives lost in war hold far more value than races held.

The point is that we should not be afraid to remember, however dark the tyre marks they created.

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