Street racing is not allowed in Great Britain. It is allowed on the Isle of Man, a self-governing crown dependency within the British Isles, but not part of Great Britain. it was also allowed in Ireland and Northern Ireland, for similar reasons. Great Britain has always been rather troublesome about cars, beginning with the Locomotive Acts of the 1860s and 1870s which made it virtually impossible for automobiles to use public roads in any serious way. The 1865 Act, known as the Red Flag Act, for example, required a speed limit of four miles per hour in the country and two miles an hour in town, and the requirement for a man with a red flag or lantern to walk 50 metres ahead of a vehicle in order to warn other traffic of an oncoming vehicle!
The 1878 Locomotive Act removed the need for a flag and reduced the distance of the escort to 20 metres. Intense lobbying by automobile enthusiasts resulted in the Locomotives on Highways Act of 1896, which raised the speed limit to 14mph and got rid of the need for an escort.
As cars developed this was obviously no longer workable but it also coincided with the Paris-Madrid race in which it is estimated at least 10 people were killed in various accidents. As a result of this Britain had to host the Gordon Bennett Cup on a road circuit at Athy in Ireland.
The Motor Car Act of 1903 raised the speed limit to 20 mph, but this still meant that there could only be car racing on private circuits, which is why the great Brooklands speedway was built a few years later. International racing switched to Ireland and the Isle of Man, where the Highways (Light Locomotive) Act of 1904 gave permission for the Isle of Man to hold the Gordon Bennett Eliminating Trial. The 20mph limit remained in place until someone had the idea of getting rid of all speed limits with the Road Traffic Act of 1930. An increase in the number of fatalities, particularly of pedestrians in towns resulted in the Road Traffic Act of 1934, which set a speed limit for 30 mph in built-up areas. By then there was a tradition of closed circuit racing in Britain, which was boosted in the post-war period by the use of many old air force bases.
The law, as it stands, still means that an Act of Parliament would be required for a street race in Britain. This was the case with Birmingham, which began to discuss holding street races as early as 1966, when the first proposal was made to the City Council. It was not until 1984 that the council sent the Birmingham Road Race Bill to Westminster and the Members of Parliament did not approve it until the Spring of 1985. It did not come into force until it was given Royal Assent in the autumn of 1985. A circuit was laid out on closed streets near the city centre and the first Birmingham Superprix took place in August 1986, for Formula 3000 cars. The circuit was deemed to be very bumpy and the weather was appalling. There were a large number of accidents and the race was stopped before the halfway point. It was won, incidentally, by Luis Perez-Sala, now the team principal of HRT.
After five years the event disappeared from the calendar because of the financial burden, as losses amounted to nearly £5 million, which was a great deal of money at that point. In 1998 the safety equipment that had costthe city council £2.4 million, was sold off for just £45,000.
Since then no-one has attempted to hold a full-blown motor race on the streets of Britain, the only activity being demonstration runs, such as the 2004 event on Regent Street, which had a speed limit of 75mph.