Britain By Car - A Motoring History

Saltburn Sands

A popular racing venue and the location for a successful attempt on the world land speed record.

Location  
The beach running north west from Saltburn towards Marske.

Date
1906 - 1938

Commentary 
Until the late 1930s, Saltburn boasted a firm, smooth, flat, sandy beach, which became the site of many motor races and speed trials both before and shortly after the First World War.  

The first meeting was held on the 14th July 1906 in front of an estimated crowd of 60,000 people, where Warwick Wright set a new Yorkshire speed record of 96.5 mph in his 100hp Darracq.  

The 1907 race was attended by Algernon Lee Guinness, a member of the Guinness brewing family who, despite wet and stormy conditions raised the (unofficial) English record to 111mph.  His 200hp Darracq consisted of little more than a chassis, engine, wheels and a seat, and no bodywork to speak of at all.  

Algernon Guinness, or Algy as he was known, returned to Saltburn for the following year’s meeting where, under calmer conditions, he raised his speed to 121 mph – a new World Land Speed Record for the flying start kilometre.  

The 1911 race was won by Pietro Bordino driving a 28.5-litre, 300hp FIAT S76, which apparently he drove up to Saltburn from Brooklands.  There were no speed trials during the First World War; sources suggest that racing resumed in either 1920 or 1922. 

The 1922 event, Rebecca Hilton writes, was notable for the appearance of Malcolm Campbell, by then a very successful racing driver.  As well as racing in his own Austro-Daimler, he also borrowed Louis Coatalen’s 350hp Sunbeam, a car in which Kenhelm Lee Guinness (Algy’s younger brother) had recently set the world land speed record at Brooklands.  Believing that he could reach higher speeds on the flat sands of Saltburn than the banked circuit at Brooklands, Malcolm Campbell completed six runs over a measured mile, with his best time averaging 138mph, five mph faster than the existing record.  Disappointment was to follow however, when the international Commission Sportive refused to recognise the record as the timekeepers at Saltburn had used hand-held stop watches and not the electrical timing equipment required by the rules.  

From 1924, the Sands were used primarily for motor-cycle racing until 1938 when a severe storm reduced the area of the beach that could be used for any kind of racing.  Although motor cycles returned to Saltburn Sands in the late forties and early fifties, the last motor speed trials at Saltburn appear to have been run in July 1938.  

Further details 
• Rebecca Hilton, www.saltburnbysea.com/html/speed-trials.html
• Motorsport explorer, Julian Hunt, Haynes 2012