PICS: JOHN GOODMAN
IT MIGHT have been the first day of autumn, but the sun was blazing down on Madeira Drive for the 2018 Brighton Speed Trial. Organised by the Brighton and Hove Motor Club since 1905, the event is regarded as the oldest-running motorsport event in the UK. The event was originally held over a kilometre but was reduced to a quarter mile after a fatal motorcycle sidecar accident in 2012.
The Trial is open to cars and bikes, and there are classes for everything from production machines to full blown dragsters. Back in the 1970s they used to run Top Fuel bikes and Funny Cars – happier, more innocent (and more lung cancer-y - Ed) times.
It takes place right on the Brighton seafront, in the middle of the town pretty much. It's one of the ironies that it's run in one of the most eco-friendly parts of the country (Brighton's had a Green MP for years). But this all adds to the slightly eccentric charm of the gig.
The track itself takes some skill to get the most of it: there's not a lot of grip off the line, it gets a bit bumpy towards the top end, and the massive, enthusiastic crowd is treated to some spectacular runs, usually from the bikes. Towcester Tuning Shop (TTS) legend Richard Albans had a particularly wild run on his 1,550cc supercharged Hayabusa, wheelying, wheelspinning and fishtailing at the same time. Nice.
Fastest time of the day was set by drag racing veteran Craig Mallabone for the sixth year on the trot, with a blistering 9.14secs @177.5mph. If you know the track, you’ll know just how impressive this is…
There's a huge variety of machinery on show too, from a 1926 Douglas to state-of-the-art turbo Superstreet drag bikes, while production and full race bikes have their own classes. You get three runs, one practice and two in competition, and your fastest time is taken as the one that counts.
There are classes to win, and at the end the six fastest bikes run once more in a head to head. Unlike drag racing there are no lights to set you off – a nice lady guides you into position on the start line and a kindly gent with a wooden chock on a broomstick wedges your back wheel to stop you rolling back and getting a flying start. Everything is done at a fairly genteel pace and if your motor holds together you can have a nice picnic, it’s all very civilised.
Unfortunately the 80 or so entry spots are much-coveted and are filled quickly. But if you have an interesting, historic or very fast machine it's worth an ask. See you there next year then…