September 23, 1972 – Crystal Palace sees its last professional race

The Crystal Palace circuit, a motor racing circuit in Crystal Palace Park in south London, England, saw its final professional race on this day in 1972. Club events would continue through 1974 before the track closed indefinitely. 

Crystal Palace Circuit
Above: Surviving portion of Crystal Palace circuit. By Christopher Hilton, CC BY-SA 2.0 Top: Racing at Crystal Palace circuit

The circuit opened in 1927 with a motorcycle race on May 21. The original one mile circuit primarily followed existing paths around the lake on the property. The road surface was made up of tarmac bends and hard packed gravel straightaways. At the end of 1936 track improvements began, which increased the course’s length to two miles. 

The first London Grand Prix was held at the circuit on July 17, 1937 and was won by Prince Bira in his ERA R2B with an average speed of 56.5 MPH. Later that year, during the International Imperial Trophy meeting, also won by Bira, the BBC broadcast the first ever televised motor racing event.

2019 Crystal Palace circuit race
Start of 2019 sprint event at Crystal Palace. By Eagleash – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

The park was taken over by the Ministry of Defense during WWII and racing was put on hold until 1953, at which time the track was again redesigned, which shortened it to 1.4 miles. A variety of race types continued to take place at the circuit, including sports cars, Formula Three, the London Trophy for Formula Two, and non-championship Formula One races. The last organized professional race took place at The Crystal Palace on this day in 1972. Starting in 1997 occasional club races began to take place on parts of the track, then in 2010 an annual sprint racing event was established for each year, only missing in 2018 and 2018 due to COVID-19.

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