ORDINARILY, petrolheads would be gearing up to take part in next month’s speed trials in Brighton’s Madeira Drive, writes Sam Brooke.

But this year has been far from ordinary.

The coronavirus crisis has meant the cancellation of the much-loved annual event and prompted Brighton and Hove City Council to close the road to vehicles.

So for a petrol-infused dose of nostalgia we have decided to take a look back at the history of the world’s oldest-running motor race.

These fantastic pictures from The Keep archive in Falmer show the event in its post-war prime in 1949.

By then the trials had already been running for 44 years.

The Argus: A competitor gets racing. Photo: East Sussex Record Office/The KeepA competitor gets racing. Photo: East Sussex Record Office/The Keep

It all began in 1905 when hotelier Sir Harry Preston convinced the Brighton Corporation to lay Tarmac on what is now Madeira Drive, though it was not given its famous name until 1909.

Having taken over the Royal York Hotel in Old Steine four years previously, he was keen to boost tourism in Brighton and felt a motor race would certainly attract plenty of visitors.

On July 19 1905 the first speed trials began. Sussex speedster Clifford Earp was the winner of the inaugural event, completing a kilometre in a blistering 23 seconds with his 90 horsepower Napier.

But because of the cost, another race was not held until 1923. Two years later police banned racing on public roads, again putting a hold on the trials.

The Argus: The starting point. Photo: East Sussex Record Office/The KeepThe starting point. Photo: East Sussex Record Office/The Keep

But from 1932 the trials have run pretty much uninterrupted with the sound of roaring engines and screeching tyres regularly making for quite a spectacle, barring the small matter of the Second World War.

If you recognise any of the racers who provided such exciting action over the years in our archive pictures, get in touch at samuel.brooke@theargus.co.uk.

To order copies of these wonderful photos, call The Keep on 01273 482349 or alternatively visit thekeep.info for further details. Make sure you have the photo reference number to hand.