Crystal Palace Sprint

Crystal Palace Sprint

Crystal Palace, ondon

CRYSTAL PALACE HAS ALWAYS HAD a touch of mystique once the epitome of Victorian splendour and to local residents more than just a park in which to have a family picnic.

But it's hard to recall that this leafy tranquillity once boasted 'London's Own Circuit' indeed, one of this country's major race tracks, the route winding its way around the park for two miles. As a motor sport venue it goes as far back as 1899, when the Crystal Palace was still in existence.

A speedway track arrived in 1928 and a proper circuit was developed in the '30s, with the inaugural race held in April 1937. Post-war the track entered a golden age, paving the way for some classic contests.

Alas by the '70s racing regulations were such that massive investment would have been needed to bring the tight, twisty track into safe shape. Thus it was forced to close in 1972 and the circuit was mostly demolished. Some of the course remains even if it does now measure a mere 700 metres and it is on this section that

the magic is recreated every May Bank Holiday thanks to the efforts of the Sevenoaks & District Motor Club.

The course is a perfect length for a sprint one that's enjoyed by all ages of motor sport, resulting in a brilliant mix of cars.

And it's laid-back, too. The 'pits' are situated in picnic spots but that doesn't stop the competitiveness. This year's event was won by Mike Field's Stohr DSR with a best time of 35.85 seconds, although Fyrth Cross chased hard in an Ensign LNF 3.

You'll see superbly presented, unusual race cars traditional Rileys, MGs and supercharged Wolsley Hornets with Escort Cosworths, Jedis and even the latest electric cars. After over 100 years, Crystal Palace is still making racing history. Jon Hill