Crystal-clear memories


Dear Nigel,
To my mind you’re the best racing journalist I’ve ever read, and Motor Sport has to be the most factual racing mag.

My question is this: were you a regular spectator at Crystal Palace and did you view from North Tower?

Each time I’ve passed you in a paddock or some place I’ve always forgotten to ask you in person. A daft question, but I’d love to know.


Dear Berni,
First of all, thank you so much for your compliments, and I’m pleased to hear you’re a fan of Motor Sport.

I can’t say I was a regular spectator at Crystal Palace because I’m a Mancunian, and didn’t move to London until 1967, soon after I left school – and that was only five years before the track closed. Prior to that, whenever I did come south for a race, invariably it was to Brands Hatch for Formula 1 or major sports car races.

That said, once I had started living in town I made a point of going to Crystal Palace, notably for the Formula 2 races run – as far as I remember – on Whit Monday, and invariably, yes, I did watch from North Tower. Don’t you feel sorry for anyone who never saw Jochen Rindt through there?

Crystal Palace had an atmosphere all its own. Although it was very short, I always thought it a real drivers’ circuit – and an extremely unforgiving one at that. There was no run-off area anywhere, and a mistake meant contact with those forbidding sleepers. I remember, too, that even in the early ’70s, when trees at race tracks were being felled by the hundred, a great many of those at Crystal Palace remained. Very dangerous, of course, but undeniably they allowed the place to retain its ‘parkland’ feel.

I was there in ’72, when Jody Scheckter’s McLaren won the last big race, and have only the best memories of the place. When I saw your question I had a look at YouTube, and came across the most wonderful footage of Jimmy Clark, hurling his Lotus Cortina round Crystal Palace in 1964 – made me quite dewy-eyed, and reminded me of those youthful days when I loved saloon car racing. If you haven’t seen it, go ito and put ‘BRSCC Crystal Palace 1964’ in the search window. You’ll thank me, I promise you…

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