High on The Banking

Brroklands, Maserati, B.Bira

Before the War, the Brooklands Byfleet Banking was the only truly high speed venue in England – and challenging it was for sure. Built in 1907 using cement slab, the banking was about 30 feet high and allowed speeds of over 140 mph. This Klemantaski photo, taken during the Junior Car Club 200 Mile Race on April 27, 1938 from the top edge of the banking shows clearly how bumpy it then was, with all four wheels of this Maserati 8CM off the ground as driver Prince B. Bira fights for control.

Prince Bira was a truly colorful and talented sportsman. His grandfather was the model for the King of Siam in “The King and I.” Born in Siam (today’s Thailand) in 1914, he came to England for his education and, with the financial assistance of his cousin Prince Chula, took up motor racing in a serious way. Chula formed a team for Bira under his banner of  White Mouse Racing, for which Bira carried that emblem on his cars which were often painted in the blue and yellow colors of Siam. Bira was an excellent driver who competed in many races in the 1930s in England and on the Continent, primarily with two ERAs and this Maserati.

After the War, Bira returned to racing in an even more serious vein and took part in a number of Grand Prix races, primarily as a private entrant, usually in a Maserati or Gordini. Motor racing was not all of Bira’s sporting activities as he was also an accomplished pilot and an Olympic sailor. He retired from racing in 1955 and died in London in 1985.

Brooklands was also an aerodrome and the location of the Vickers aircraft concern. Taken over by the Ministry of Defense during the War, it was used for aircraft production and was seriously damaged by bombing. The former circuit is now owned by Daimler-Benz which has assisted in the preservation of what remains of its motorsport history.

Photo by Louis Klemantaski ©The Klemantaski Collection

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