Storm the palace

Browse pages
Current page

1

Current page

2

Current page

3

Current page

4

Current page

5

Current page

6

Current page

7

Current page

8

Current page

9

Current page

10

Current page

11

Current page

12

Current page

13

Current page

14

Current page

15

Current page

16

Current page

17

Current page

18

Current page

19

Current page

20

Current page

21

Current page

22

Current page

23

Current page

24

Current page

25

Current page

26

Current page

27

Current page

28

Current page

29

Current page

30

Current page

31

Current page

32

Current page

33

Current page

34

Current page

35

Current page

36

Current page

37

Current page

38

Current page

39

Current page

40

Current page

41

Current page

42

Current page

43

Current page

44

Current page

45

Current page

46

Current page

47

Current page

48

Current page

49

Current page

50

Current page

51

Current page

52

Current page

53

Current page

54

Current page

55

Current page

56

Current page

57

Current page

58

Current page

59

Current page

60

Current page

61

Current page

62

Current page

63

Current page

64

Current page

65

Current page

66

Current page

67

Current page

68

Current page

69

Current page

70

Current page

71

Current page

72

Current page

73

Current page

74

Current page

75

Current page

76

Current page

77

Current page

78

Current page

79

Current page

80

Current page

81

Current page

82

Current page

83

Current page

84

Current page

85

Current page

86

Current page

87

Current page

88

Current page

89

Current page

90

Current page

91

Current page

92

Current page

93

Current page

94

Current page

95

Current page

96

Current page

97

Current page

98

Current page

99

Current page

100

Current page

101

Current page

102

Current page

103

Current page

104

Current page

105

Current page

106

Current page

107

Current page

108

Current page

109

Current page

110

Current page

111

Current page

112

Current page

113

Current page

114

Current page

115

Current page

116

Current page

117

Current page

118

Current page

119

Current page

120

Current page

121

Current page

122

Current page

123

Current page

124

Current page

125

Current page

126

Current page

127

Current page

128

Current page

129

Current page

130

Current page

131

Current page

132

Current page

133

Current page

134

Current page

135

Current page

136

Current page

137

Current page

138

Current page

139

Current page

140

Current page

141

Current page

142

Current page

143

Current page

144

Current page

145

Current page

146

Current page

147

Current page

148

Current page

149

Current page

150

Current page

151

Current page

152

Current page

153

Current page

154

Current page

155

Current page

156

Current page

157

Current page

158

Current page

159

Current page

160

Current page

161

Current page

162

Current page

163

Current page

164

Current page

165

Current page

166

Current page

167

Current page

168

Current page

169

Current page

170

Current page

171

Current page

172

Current page

173

Current page

174

Current page

175

Current page

176

Current page

177

Current page

178

Current page

179

Current page

180

Current page

181

The Sevenoaks & District MC’s sprint at Crystal Palace attracted the sublime and the strange

Palaces figure a lot this year, but the only one I’ve been to lately wasn’t there. Crystal Palace burnt down in 1936, but that same year cars began racing at London’s only circuit, and while that intermittent history got the black flag in 1972 (or ’74 for some club events) the rasp of racing engines has been resurrected by Sevenoaks and District MC.

This was the third year of ‘Motorsport at the Palace’, now a sinuous sprint rather than the short-lap racing that once made the Palace famous for four-wheeled knuckle-dusting, but in the May sunshine it was an evocative reminder of what used to be, long before Brands and Silverstone were thought of. Using part of the old circuit, the sprint winds through trees as race tracks did pre-war, and as a Fiat Balilla and the GN ‘Spider’ buzzed through Pond hairpin towards Big Tree Bend it could have been the ’30s – until the roar of V8s, shrieking ’bike engines and the whine of high-voltage electricity snapped us back to 2012.

Fastest runs were always going to come from the hillclimb and sprint machines, and sure enough the tiny Suzuki GSXR-powered carbon-fibre Force PT of Gary Thomas blitzed everything else with a time of 33.80sec, a course record even though everyone was finding the track extremely slippery. He was closely harried by a 1970s Ensign, proving that a metal chassis can still do the job. Our own Simon Taylor went impressively loudly in the Stovebolt Special, boasting the most ccs of the day, though he couldn’t quite match Richard Falconer’s Chaparral 2 recreation with its forest of intakes and stackpipe exhausts, having its first public outing since the Chaparral historian completed it. It even has the proper two-speed auto ’box. While our ears recovered from the big V8s there was a clean interlude as Nissan sent its Leaf NISMO RC whispering round the park; a lightweight race car packing the drivetrain of the Leaf road car, this was making its world competition debut, a minor coup for the club, and its times put it easily among the modified machinery.

One of the joys of this day in the park is the sheer variety of the 200 cars: modified Escorts, a Gilbern, a turbocharged Clan, a kit-car selection majoring on Cobra and GT40 (I always feel an affinity for these as I once was part of a firm which made Stratos replicas), what looked like a Maserati A6GCS and turned out to be based on Nissan Skyline underpinnings, even an upright MG YB saloon.

A very crisp Anglia on Minilites reminded me of a historic rally I did in the 1980s: one entrant was a petite grey-haired grandmother in a fairly standard Anglia, and as I watched her line up for the first timed test I thought ‘good for her’, in what I fear was a slightly condescending manner. Then she whacked the revs to max, smoked the tyres, chucked the car into an impressive slide and put down a superb time.

It was Anne Hall, revisiting her glory days as one of the gang of female rally stars we could boast in the ’50s and ’60s… Back among the Palace historics sat a Cooper ‘Bobtail’, whose owner Bob Searles told me that his father worked for Cooper and tested new Bobtails on the road – which made a connection of sorts with the blazing yellow Radical SR3 nearby, the new road version of the blisteringly quick track cars this thriving British business makes.

In some ways it’s surprising that the racket of racing engines is allowed to resound across this Victorian city park, home to the famous concrete dinosaurs, but organiser Colin Billings says the council is behind them in every way bar finance; it’s the club which paid for the Armco and any resurfacing needed – up by the Terrace the cars are still running on 1960s Tarmac. Locals are supportive, as the park is big enough to leave the picnickers and dog walkers unaffected. “We don’t want to be enormous,” says Billings, “just popular.”

Let’s be honest, the competition element at the Palace is hardly crucial; like a low-key Goodwood Festival, it’s more a chance for people who don’t normally follow motor sport to get close to a variety of cars. But for those who know the history, it’s tempting to imagine that Mk2 Jaguar lickering through the trees is being chased by Clark and Arundell in three-wheeling Cortinas, or that the single-seater screaming along the top section is actually Jochen Rindt about to skate past the unforgiving sleepers (long gone) of North Tower Bend and set the irst 100mph lap. If you’d been here a few months back during the filming of Rush, the forthcoming Hunt/Lauda film, those memories would be easy to stir. If not, try a visit next May.

Gordon Cruickshank