Crystal Palace Sprint Meet Report 2019

Kent & East Sussex
27 May 2019

I have never been to Crystal Palace before despite having lived in London for many years, so was quite keen to attend AROCKES outing to the sprint meeting there organised by the Sevenoaks & District Motor Club. The club was founded in 1954 and is one of the larger M.S.A affiliated motoring clubs in the country and have a very large membership who compete in most aspects of competitive motorsport.

Attending members were: Richard D’Cruz in his two litre Spider Veloce; Mark Rayss with the S4 Spider; Doug Field in the attention grabbing SZ; Mike Carlow and the Brera; our Secretary – Jeff Kaby and the JTS Spider; myself in the little MiTo; and we were joined a bit later by Dell Sharp in a rather nice 2 Litre T’Spark Spider. I have not met Dell before so it was great to have a chat and discuss events. Dave King later made it to our display by bus to catch up with other members on his way for a pint or two at the local British Legion Club and I learnt from him that the site itself has its own little micro climate so we could expect a drop or two of rain. I don’t know whether it’s just me but it does feel like this summer is taking a little while to kick in.

Strangely enough, The Crystal Palace was originally built and located at Hyde Park and after hosting the Great Exhibition of 1851 it was moved with some modification to Sydenham Hill, S.E London until it was completely destroyed by fire in 1936 and never re-built. The park itself is now universally known as Crystal Palace. The whole park is located at the summit of Sydenham Hill and commands views into central London and as far as the North Downs.

The race circuit itself opened in 1927 and was 1 mile or 1.6 KM long (depending on whether we leave the E.U or not) and improvements were made to the track in 1936 giving it an all round hard surface and an improved circuit length of two miles. The first Grand Prix was held there in 1937 with average speeds of 56.5 MPH. During WWII Crystal Palace was taken over by the military and racing did not resume until 1953 with a reduced circuit length of 1.39 miles bypassing the loop by the lake. An injunction by local residents led to just five racing days per year. The circuit, however, still managed to host F3, F2 and non-championship F1 races. The first 100 MPH average lap speed was recorded there in 1971 by F1 World Champion Jochen Rindt, the local injunction having run out in 1970. Driver safety concerns were now becoming a feature and despite improvements it was not enough to prevent the closure of the circuit to international racing in May 1972, where Mike Hailwood recorded the fastest ever lap speed of 103.39 MPH. Minor events continued to be held on the circuit until the last ever event was held there in 1974. The only way that this track can now be experienced in total is by virtual reality via the computer simulation game “Grand Prix Legends” where the two mile circuit is re-created in fine detail. I did however manage to dig out, quite possibly from an original race program, a map or the original two mile circuit and I thought it would be interesting to picture it here.

In 1997 the Sevenoaks & District Motor Club started a series of sprint events on, what was now, only some of the remaining parts of the race circuit and this was stopped three years later due to park re-development. After lengthy negotiation with the local council and the London Development Agency, sprint racing re-commenced in May 2010 with the now annual May sprint meet with a bit of a hiccup in 2018 when racing was again suspended until this year.

That more or less brings us up to date – where there were over 130 competitors in this year’s sprint meet, and a bit of a wander with Jeff Kaby saw three competing Alfas in the form of a Mito and two GTVs.

Although the picture of the red GTV below, and driven by Duncan Richardson, looks like a step front I am assured that the appearance was purely cosmetic.

Then we happened to bump into one of our very own AROCKES members in the form of Christian Brewer. He was competing in his silver GTV, that had some pretty respectable modifications to the engine, which was from a 75, and was a 2 litre Twin Spark DOHC taking the vehicle to 180 BHP.

In this picture Christian had just finished round one of the day’s competition and was wearing a grin from ear to ear. I don’t know what you all think but I thought he looked a little bit like James Hunt- or maybe it was just the grin?

What was nice, despite all the adrenaline, Christian took the time to explain the engine to myself and Jeff and it was very much appreciated and interesting.

As the racing was over a number of heats I was able to get a couple of photos of the car competing around the circuit and I do apologise for the photo quality of the GTV on the hairpin as my little camera was operating on the limit of its capabilities.

As with all car shows and race meets, there is always a lot to do and see and one of the most unusual displays, at least in my limited experience, was what looked like a boa constrictor or python draped around the neck of its handler. That would probably be the last place I would ever consider putting it, let alone touching it. I am also sworn to secrecy to whose hand is stroking the snake but those of you who know your reptiles will know the difference.

Terry Seal was sadly absent and, by his own admission when I spoke to him later, was still in bed during the morning of the Sprint. I found a display of classic motor cycles including two Moto Guzzi’s so thought I would include them here as they were a nice pair of machines that Terry would appreciate.

As with all displays and races they all come to an end and I am pleased to say that Christian Brewer finished 5th in his class and myself and Jeff Kaby found a route home that did not include a 20 MPH speed limit or maniacal London drivers, which had plagued us on the route in.

Our next event is Hever Castle on Saturday the 15th of June, which AROCKES is organising, and is a replacement for Southern Alfa Day that for a number of reasons is not happening this year. We all hope, if you own an Alfa, you will join the display on the day (member or non-member alike) or you could  just come along and experience the extensive Italian gardens, castle and the magnificent display of Alfas. The castle was the home of Anne Boleyn, one of King Henry the VIII’s wives and is a must-see on the inside. I am rather hoping that John Third – our Chair Person – will write that article as he is the main driving force and organiser for the event. Hopefully, it will be published in the AROC magazine and repeated here later. Tickets can be pre-booked here and includes your car and all passengers.

Our section always meets on the last Thursday of each month. Just look on the website to find out the venue if you are interested in either joining us all for a pint, a chat, renewing acquaintances making new ones or even joining the club.

Till next time.

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