Centenary of 100mph record set at Brooklands

28 April 2021

One hundred Years ago today, on 28th April 1921, Douglas H Davidson became the first person to reach 100mph on a motorcycle in Britain. 

Though the record had been set by Gene Walker on Daytona Beach, U.S. the previous year, the speed had not yet been achieved in Britain. Bert le Vack held the record of 94.5mph and had heard that Claude Temple and Douglas H Davidson were attempting to break it. 

It was a sunny afternoon on Wednesday 27th April 1921, when the men gathered and ran their machines along the Railway Straight of the Brooklands Motor Circuit in Surrey. Temple’s primary chain snapped, ending his run, and Davidson managed 97.26mph, which was swiftly surpassed by Le Vack on his Indian at 98.98mph. The session was adjourned at dusk until the following day.

On 28th April 1921, Temple re-joined the race and managed an impossibly close speed of 99.86mph, but it was Davidson on his Harley Davidson CA13 that registered 100.76mph along the Straight, setting a new record and taking home the Godfrey Cup for the first motorcycle to reach 100mph on British soil.*

Commemorating the anniversary

To commemorate the centenary, members of the Brooklands Museum Motorcycle Team at Brooklands Museum, assembled on the Railway Straight of the original track, alongside two vintage bikes representing the Harley Davidson and Indian Motorcycles that took part in the duel to be the first to 100mph. 

 Motorcycle Team volunteer, Martin Gegg had the idea of commemorating the event whilst he was researching the event for an article in the Brooklands Members’ magazine. Martin said: 

“I was on the edge of my seat reading the various accounts of this epic battle for the title and was determined to commemorate these brave motorcycle pioneers.

We’ve managed to get a 1917 Indian Powerplus 1000cc and a 1920s Harley Davidson together to recreate the moment Douglas H Davidson set the 100mph on a motorcycle record, here on the Railway Straight at Brooklands 100 years ago.”

Indian owner Andrew Howes-Davies, and Harley Davidson owner John Warr, jumped at the chance to bring their bikes to Brooklands and recreate the historic moment. Brooklands Museum volunteer Perry Barwick took on the persona of Bert le Vack and joined in the demonstrations on his 1939 Triumph. 

*Based on an article written by Martin Gegg for the Brooklands Bulletin, May/June 2021 edition.