Now I won’t bore you with the history behind this event as I did that for last years review, however for those that missed it then I have a little recap for you. Crystal Palace Park is located in south east London near the borders of north west Kent under the post code of SE19. The park itself comes under the London Borough of Bromley but due to its rather large size its borders also cross Croydon, Lambeth & Southwark boroughs as well. So its due to this fact of its sheer size that back in 1927 the very first motor race took place on the 21st of May using the pre-existing paths that were there. This included the infamous loop past the lake which became very famous over its years as well as being used at last years & this years event! Motorbikes were the first motor racing you could see at the park where they used tarmac on the bends & hard-packed gravel for the straights! This made for some interesting racing as you can imagine but as the years went on improvements were made to the circuit as well as its overall size. It grew from one to two miles and in 1937 the BBC broadcast the first ever televised motor racing from Crystal Palace as well. However the outbreak of World War II meant the Ministry of Defence took over the park stopping race meetings which finally returned in 1953. However the circuit was reduced to one point three nine miles at this time and redesigned bypassing the infamous loop past the lake! Complaints from local residents – see they were at it even then – reduced the number of meetings held in the park with the final major race taking place on the 23rd September 1972. Some minor club events did still continue after this date, though the circuit’s final closure in 1974. Motorsport did briefly return between 1997 & 2000 which was driven purely by enthusiasts, however the approaching millennium & associated celebratory events in the park brought an end to that project. However over the last four years thanks to the Sevenoaks District Motor Club & major sponsorship from the Ancaster Motorgroup (who also spookily sell GTR’s) the sound of racing has once more been echoing from the park …
So the week leading up to this years event was blessed with weather typical of a British summertime … rain, rain & more rain! Even on the Saturday, which last year had been the events first day things were not looking good. So with the alarm going at 5am on Sunday morning a tentative peek at the sky was rewarded with blue skies & a rare strange yellow ball of fire in the sky that was warm!
Overall this years Motorsport at the Palace, or MATP to make things easier was the best one so far with approximately eight thousand people being entertained by one hundred and ten competitors on each day. The actual racing is a timed sprint event between two points & not a traditional race around a circuit. Competitors are against the clock trying to get the best time in their respective classes which can make for some spectacular viewing, especially as there are no tyre warming laps & just a few practice runs each morning! The course uses old sections of paths that were part of the Crystal Palace circuit of years ago including the fearsome North Tower bend & of course as we may have mentioned before – the loop past the lake! MATP has been called ‘plug & play motorsport’ by some due to the thirty seven tons of armco barrier, straw bales, P.A system, crowd cordons & other equipment used. These are brought in, setup & then after the event completely removed leaving only a few tyre marks on the roads & pathways. With nothing else to suggest that cars were racing around a seven hundred and forty meter course is amazing if you go back to the park after the event. This also shows some serious hard work & dedication put in by those responsible for the benefit of the public & enthusiasts to which we all thank you!
One of things that many love, including myself about MSAP is the sheer variety of cars that take part. There are some seriously rare racing beasts here which are used in anger & not left to sit in a museum or display gathering dust. Rob Cobden’s superbly engineered twin-supercharged 1937 Riley Falcon special is just one example of this & a huge contrast compared to Tony Beeseley’s 1996 Suzuki-powered Jedi single seater! Other cars included Colin Robbins’s fully restored 1970 Vauxhall Viva GT, Paul Sleeman’s 2013 battery-powered Nissan Leaf (so different to hear nothing by tyre squeal on the bends as it goes by) to a 1965 Aston Martin DB5 owned by the English family wallowing around the various corners! The on-track action started early in the day at 9am and didn’t finish till 5pm with the award ceremonies about 6pm to the delight of the thousands who lined the track. The Mayor of Bromley, Ernest Noad waved off the first cars & over the weekend the previous lap record was smashed as well as class records tumbling along with it. Existing record holder Gary Thomas who was driving a Force PT shaved off almost a second from his previous best time to 32.87 seconds. Jason Andrews topped class 4 in his Sunbeam Tiger with a time of 42.6 seconds & Andrew Webber won class five & set a new class record of 39.15 seconds in his Lotus Elan. The event was to also hold another first for a UK speed event by having the timed runs appear instantly on a dedicated website. Tony Beesley, who secured Sunday’s fastest time of the day in his Jedi Mk4 was quoted saying: “This was my first visit to Crystal Palace in 40 years and it was full of nostalgia, wonderful camaraderie and a fantastic atmosphere. To be able to compete with such a diverse range of cars in front of such a crowd was fantastic. It will be remembered as one of my best days of motorsport!”
Away from the track there was plenty to see & do for everyone with a larger number of trade stands than previous years along with food & drink vendors, funfair rides, electric go karts & computer race simulators. On a side note it was a Saturday and Sunday victory for the GTROC with one of its members winning the Sunday race car simulator challenge by posting the fastest time & winning a cash prize! On the Monday a younger GTROC member won their three minute heat on the electric go carts, this was despite another of the carts being quicker as they just replaced the battery too! Other competitions at MATP included the Kleers Show & Shine which was won by Bill Newman & his Jaguar XK120. Best club display was won on Sunday by the Jaguar Enthusiasts Club & on the Monday was the Stag Owners Club – so well done to all!
Elsewhere amongst the action the live motorcycle runs proved as popular as ever and the last minute addition of Loris Capirossi’s 2003 MotoGP Ducati proved a particularly notable (and bloody loud) attraction which proved very popular this year! The Sunday & Bank Holiday Monday managed to raise over £3,500 for local charities & with the Royal London Society for Blind People and St Christopher’s Hospice added the total amount donated to date has totalled almost £15,000!
So next year if you fancy something a little different, MATP is well worth attending & we as the GTROC are always present with a club stand at this event as guests of Ancaster. On this years stand our most notable car was the R32 GTR of RSVFOUR (Brian) who has restored the car back to its factory standard glory! The car certainly drew the crowds as well as the enthusiasts who were more used to seeing modified examples rather than the version Nissan originally intended! If next year you fancy your Skyline, Stagea or GTR on our stand then please get in touch.