Selwyn Edge's 24 Hour Record
True to his statement of intent made at that initial Weybridge meeting in 1906, Selwyn Edge assembled his team of three Napiers at Brooklands on June 28th 1907, eleven days after the opening ceremony.
The original purpose of Brooklands was for use as a test track and Edge's record attempt was to provide massive publicity and ample justification for the idea. In fact as it turned out, far more publicity than the initial opening had achieved. All of the newspapers featured the escapade. Even Punch conjured up a joke in recognition.
In preparation for the record attempt Selwyn Edge entered into a physical training program to become the man of the moment as all eyes turned to Brooklands. His car, "804" was extensively prepared, having a special fuel tank, bodywork removed, a special windscreen and canvas front mudguards. The other two cars, one white, one red, received attention to a slightly lesser extent and were driven in three hour shifts by the works Napier Test drivers, Draper, Newton, Tryon and Browning. It is often written that all Napiers were green. These two were definitely the exception.
Supported by a substantial team with a stockpile of Dunlop tyres, Selwyn Edge started at 6 p.m. on Friday 28th June to circulate throughout the night and the whole of next day. To light the track, Napiers had scoured every road surveying firm in England who between them donated over 352 red lanterns which were spaced around the track four feet below the fifty foot line, to burn throughout the night, marking out the path. By driving just above the lanterns the drivers were able to ensure that the cars covered 2 miles, 61 chains and 16 feet per lap so enabling accurate timing.
Although the three cars started from beneath the member's bridge they were actually timed from a start line towards the railway straight as all record attempts stipulated timing from a flying start. The timekeepers started working from the paddock tower but as night drew in they found that they could not see the cars so they relocated to a car close to the white lap mark across the track.
The time for each lap and the time taken for each stop was recorded both by stop watch and by proprietary Holden electrical apparatus which consisted of inflated rubber contact strips placed across the track and connected back to the timing box. Autocar magazine carried a detailed description of the system which was very high-tech for its time and despite subsequent arguments about a later record attempt, appears to have been very reliable.
Periodically the cars stopped for liquid replenishment, tyre changes and very short rests for the drivers during which Selwyn Edge kept himself going with beef tea, cocoa, bananas and grapes. On the last lap Edge's windscreen broke away but fortunately it hit him and his riding mechanic flat-on and they were unhurt. At the end of 24 hours the 60 hp Napier "804" had covered just over 1,581 miles averaging 65.905 miles per hour, beating the target by a significant margin to establish numerous world records. The only attention Edge's Napier had needed was to straighten a bent fan blade, hit by a bat which had passed through the radiator - Brooklands' first motoring casualty!
Shortly after the end of the run the weather broke and the rain poured down but all in all it had been one of those days when everything went according to plan. Both of the other cars also finished within the target, the red car having broken a rear spring. Once again Napiers were in the news . . . . . and in the history books.
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