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Motorsport at the Palace returned to Crystal Palace Park in South East London

Aston Martin DB6

Aston Martin DB6


London, 26-27 May, 2019

After a year’s hiatus in 2018, Motorsport at the Palace returned to Crystal Palace Park in South East London for the Sevenoaks & District Motor Club’s sprint meeting on part of the old racing circuit on the Bank Holiday weekend of 26-27 May, with some entrants competing on both days, and others on only one or the other. The sprint event is over a 740 metre long course, part of which is on the only remaining section of the old racing circuit around what was North Tower Corner on the original track. With its makeshift paddock area on the grassland between the purple rhododendron bushes in full bloom, it is a real back to grass roots meeting, no pun intended.  Putting on any event requires a great deal of work and cost, so the S&DMC were thankful to the range of sponsors who brought funds, together with the support of the London Borough of Bromley, who own the park, and whose mayor paid a visit over the weekend, which makes this popular event able to take place.

The paying public get access to all areas, including the competitor paddock, where one could get close to the cars and competitors, who always seemed willing to chat about their machinery, and many allowed children to sit in them for a souvenir photo. Overlooking the course, the old terraces of the original Crystal Palace not only provided a historic backdrop to the event, but also featured the main vendor area, refreshment outlets, kiddy karts, diggerland and a classic motorcycle display, which became a live parade each day, whilst the elevation of the terraces also provided a good viewing platform for parts of the course. There was also the car club displays on the grassy banks beside the paddock, where there were further refreshment outlets and entertainment. These included a stand for Reptile Events, a reptile rescue charity, with a variety of snakes and lizards which visitors could handle, the largest of which was “Citrine” a 4m long albino Burmese python, so-called because of her pale yellow markings.

If variety is the spice of life, then the competitor paddock certainly provided it. The competing vehicles were arranged in a number of classes relative to type, state of tune and age, and featured an eclectic array of machinery, some of which competed on both days and others only on one or the other. The earliest competitor was a 1929 Lovell Elkhart Sprint Special, which belied its looks and age, with tyre smoking starts off the line. Through the ‘30s cars, there was a pair of Wolseley Hornets, a 1936 Frazer Nash Emeryson, an Austin 7, a Fiat 508C TT and a Riley TT Sprite. Then there were classic sports saloons like the Mini-Cooper, a lightweight Hillman Imp, a Lotus Cortina, a variety of Ford Escort variants and Sunbeam Talbot Lotus, rally Escorts, sports and GT cars like an Aston Martin DB6, a Ferrari Dino 308 GT4, Jaguar E-Types, plus single seaters like a 1968 Brabham BT21B and a1972 Ensign LNF3, to the “all popping and banging” modern swift saloons like the Mitsubishi Evo and Subaru Impreza, which are always great crowd pleasers. Looking at the entry list, there were competitors from far and wide in the British Isles.

Notable were 74 year old Tim Dodwell and his twin sons Robin and Simon, with Tim and Robin having driven their cars from west of Taunton in Somerset and Simon from Stroud in Gloucestershire. Ostensibly it could be classed as an international event, as there was a pair of regular competitors from Germany, father and son, Gerd and Joerg Griepe sharing an Audi RS3 and a RS6 Performance, such is the allure of this meeting. Another entry worthy of note was the pretty Ginetta G4 of Tony Young, which had actually raced at the Crystal Palace 50 years ago, and on which he had burned the midnight oil to complete its restoration to run in the event for its 50th anniversary. This he succeeded in doing and posted a respectable time of 45.89secs for the course.

There was virtually constant track activity over the two days, which kept things interesting for the spectators, with two practice runs and three timed runs per day for each group, plus the previously mentioned classic motorcycle demonstration runs. In addition these were interspersed with driving test demonstrations through a series of cones laid out on part of the course. The fastest time of the day of the weekend was taken by Andy Greenen in his Empire Evo 2, with a time of 30.57secs, which was a full 0.73sec better than his previous record time set at the event in 2017.

Keith Bluemel          05/2019.