In dazzling bright sunshine, motorsport made its welcome return to Crystal Palace last weekend for the annual gathering of ‘Motorsport at the Palace’. This is the third year for the sprint event in modern times, though the London venue’s history harks back more than a century to 1899, where it’s first motor race took place. The picturesque circuit had its heyday in the 1950’s and 1960’s on various configurations of a closed circuit around the park which tested the nerve of many a legend. Drivers such as James Hunt, Stirling Moss, Jackie Stewart, Niki Lauda, and Jim Clark powered all types of sports car, saloon car, along with single-seater F3, F2 and even the occasional non-championship F1 races. It wasn’t just cars as motorcycles raced at the inner-city circuit too. Sadly racing came to a halt in the early 1970’s, due to rising speeds, safety concerns, and complaints from locals about the noise. However, Sevenoaks & District Motor Club have brilliantly managed to bring a regular race meeting to the park again. As much of the old 2.2 km circuit is unusable to make a complete lap, a shorter 740 metres course makes up the sprint challenge for the drivers nowadays.
This year, the cars racing in the sprint ranged from a vintage 1934 Wolseley Hornet Special right up to the latest 2012 Nissan Leaf electric car. Pretty much all motor manufactures were featured and organised into classes depending on engine size or age. Car enthusiasts were treated to seeing such machinery as the 1987 MG Metro 6R4 formerly owned by Colin McRae, and the 1971 Chevron B19 formerly owned by ex-grand prix driver Jo Siffert and raced back in the day by Gerrard Larousse of later Renault F1 fame. Whatever car a driver had under him, his target over the course was a little over 35 seconds. It was great to see many pricey collectables being thrown around the corners lifting wheels and nudging tyre barriers with little regard for possible expensive repair bills.
Along with cars taking to the track, there were many classics on static display that visitors could come and drool over at close quarters. Smartly polished exhibits from the likes of the MG Car Club, the Alfa Romeo Owners Club and the Lotus 7 Club looked fabulous lined up in the sunny May weather.
Amongst the more modern stands of Nissan, Hyundai and Fiat lurked a marquee featuring a Formula 1 McLaren MP4 show car, and a racing simulator for future champions who may fancy testing their skills. Kids didn’t feel left out as they had the opportunity to drive karts around a twisty track too. In all it made for a great family day out.
So, if you like to see a wide variety of old and new cars in a scenic city park setting, you won’t be disappointed with a day out at Motorsport At The Palace. Put it in your diary for 2013!
See the Motorsport at the Palace website for more info