Motorsport at the Palace

On a perfect spring morning on the 21st May 1927 10,000 people turned up to the inaugural race meeting at Crystal Palace Park. Organised by London Motor Sports Limited the event was held over the footpaths meandering through the park. That was the birth of Motorsport at the Palace. Culminating in the late sixties early seventies, legends such as Raymond Mays, Tony Rolt, Jim Clark, Graham Hill, Jackie Stewart, Jack Brabham, Jochen Rindt, Niki Lauda and James Hunt, (to name a few! ) entertained massive crowds and mesmerised many a schoolboy like myself. It was therefore with some concern when I drove into the park to find there were no crowds, in fact there were very few cars! What there was plenty of was security fencing and  personnel. I was reminded of the days when I frequently crossed from West Germany to East Germany. The déjà vu experience was further enhanced by a ‘fraulein’ who proceeded to recite the rules for the day, check my passes and allocate me a uniformed youth who accompanied  me to my allotted  parking space on the slopes overlooking even more fencing. Fortunately I was not alone. John’s highly polished red GTV stood resplendent and defiant of its surroundings. Where was everyone? It was cold and grey and we were fenced in but surely that was no excuse. Suddenly in the distance there a appeared a solitary red car……must be an Alfa, yes Graham had arrived. We proceeded to stake our position on the slope by erecting (with some difficulty) our section banner. Gordon arrived late in his (also red)  magnificent 2600. Having been suitably chastised at the control point for failing to arrive on time, Gordon joined us in what I can honestly say was the best all red display at the show as well as the only display of  Italian cars (plenty of modern Porsches though!

Venturing into the Paddock was akin to crossing Checkpoint Charlie from East to West. Plenty of interesting people, lots of interesting racing cars as well as a great atmosphere.

Back in the East the static display (apart from our Alfas) was at best dire with the only real interest being the original three Mini Coopers from the Italian Job and a vendor who must have had just about every nut and bolt available. The gloom was dissipated by us meeting a founding member of the Alfa Romeo Owners Club, followed by a lady who swore blind that her 4c handling on country roads was seriously scary (John referred her to Jamie Porter), and the arrival of John’s daughter, Abigail. In desperation to alleviate the gloom I opened up the bar in the back of my Spider and we all enjoyed an over chilled drink in the falling temperature.

The show was only salvaged by the sprint. Had this been a static show it would have been a disaster. Having attended pervious shows at the Palace, all with great displays, I wondered what had happened. It seems that the show has new organisers, apparently the same as the Bromley show. Need I say more.   

Mark Rayss