De Dion Bouton Club UK

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The Horseless Carriage Exhibition 1896

"The First London Motor Show"

120th Anniversary
re-enactment at
Imperial College Kensington
7/8th May 2016

International Historic Motoring Awards 2016

The First Motor Races in Britain

It is fairly common knowledge amongst today’s historic motoring fraternity that England, and indeed Great Britain, (the nomenclature is interchangeable in motoring literature of the pre Great War period), was very much in the rearguard when it came to using the new fangled motors for competition. Whether against the clock or each other, either for pure sport, marque publicity, or prize winning in a public competition, there was such antipathy to the new motors on this side of La Manche, that it was not until the passing of the Light Locomotives Act of 1896 that the practical use of motors was even tolerated on the public highway. Let alone to allow highways, such as they were, to be closed to equine, livestock and carriage traffic for a spot of motoring rivalry.


Whilst Queen Victoria was still on the throne, the earliest major races on public roads – held away from the mainland on the Isle of Man and Ireland, were but a distant vision. The new track racing at Brooklands was not even a glint in Hugh Locke-King’s eye. From the lack of early high profile motor racing events on our islands, such as there were in France, emerges a quest to find the earliest motor competitions on British shores.


Small sections of local roads such as Glasgow (1901) and Bexhill (1902) have both laid claim to have been the birthplace of motor competition in Britain. Both of these claims ignore that there was a hill climb and speed trial (against the clock) on private land at Welbeck Park as a part of the 1000 Mile Trial of 1900, and hill climbs at Westerham and Tilburstowe later that year.

This article continues by following the links below :-


          The Victorian Tracks 

          The Lure of Speed–trike track racing 


This particular article is just an extract from one of an ongoing series in Motorvations, the De Dion Bouton Club’s quarterly journal. Motorvations readers have access to rare and often unique historic pictures, biographies, race results, together with social and period contextual information which is published in association with this historical research.  


Membership of the Club is not restricted to owners of De Dion Bouton engined vehicles. We encourage membership applications from historians and enthusiasts of the Victorian and Edwardian period of motoring. The Club is also interested in receiving early material for publishing in Motorvations.