An invite to the Palace!

O.K. not the Royal Palace, but Crystal Palace in South London on the 31st. May 2010 for a timed Sprint event. This was preceded on the 30th, May at “La Vie en Blue” (Life is Blue) Prescott Speed Hillclimb event near Cheltenham in Gloucestershire. This involved driving to and from both and competing in my road going modified Talbot Matra Murena 2.2.

Entering Pond Hairpin at Crystal Palace

Both events are run where cars run individually up or around the course. They are timed to within 100th. of a second with a lighting beam timing system, broken by a timing strut attached to the front of each car. Now for anyone with a sense of motoring racing heritage and history, what places to be privileged to compete at.

Prescott Speed Hill Climb is one of the UK’s most prestigious racing venues, having played home to top flight motor racing as well as vintage and classic meetings for cars and bikes for almost 80 years. Here Stirling Moss had his first drive in a racing car, the first ever Cooper made it’s competition debut and in later years Peter Collins, Graham Hill and many other famous names joined the ranks of Prescott competitors. The 1127 yard course rises over 200 feet via short straights, fast and slow corners and a breathtaking hairpin, with the fastest modern racing cars completing the course in an exciting 36 seconds.

Prescott Speed Hillclimb Course

The Bank Holiday weekend started for me on the 28th. May when I loaded the Murena and filled my bespoke 20 litre fuel tank to the brim (good for at least 100 miles at 3000rpm. in 5th. gear). After 2 x laps of Cirencester by mistake en-route, I arrived at my cousins in Tewkesbury. With an en-suite guest room and a spare double garage, it provides the perfect local base to Prescott.

The saturday morning of the 29th. was pretty wet and miserable, so rather than heading off to Prescott I found myself in B&Q in Cheltenham, sourcing plumbing fixtures and fittings for an outside tap at my cousins house.

I headed off to Prescott in the afternoon when the sun arrived and parked up with all the other Matra owners on the M.E.C.U.K stand. The afternoon soon passed with lots of catching up with old friends, lots of informative discussions, observations and new plans being formulated in my mind for making the car go even faster next year.

Titus Taylor informed me that he had recently attended the Prescott Hillclimb Drivers School, so this was an opportunity to pick his brains. That evening after competition had finished an impromptu and very pleasant walk of the course followed. With detailed course discussion and analysis with Titus, Roy Gillard, Chris House and Dick Husband.

The day of the event on the 30th. arrived and an early start ensued for signing on and scrutineering of the car. The first 2 x practices went O.K. but I found that if I was to think about all my new found knowledge too much I was actually slower! I then found that if I drove more naturally using my gut feelings, then things would start to flow smoother and faster.

Unfortunately my 1st. timed run ended in a FAIL when I lost control going through the Esses. My post race pace notes from last year’s event at “La Vie en Blue” actually said “fast as possible” and not as I thought “flat out” through the Esses! This resulted in a rear end visit into the Armco and a visit from some very nice people in an Ambulance. There was minimal damage to the car although a rear lens was unfortunately broken, but I was able to continue once I had been checked over O.K.

1st Timed Run resulting in a FAIL through the Esses at Prescott

My 2nd. timed and final run was taken more conservatively as I had to get a time on the board. This was 54.44 secs. Compared to my previous best time last year of 54.24 secs. this was 0.2 secs. slower, which was disappointing.

However the winner Bob Gibson’s time last year was 50.06 secs. compared to 50.46 secs. this year, which was 0.4secs. slower. So perhaps weather and track considerations taken into account, maybe my time was an improvement after all?

Results “La Vie en Blue” Prescott 30th. May 2010

Class 9 Post 1971 Sports Cars results. NB. Times of Simon Taylor and Mark Garner.

Name Car 1st Run 2ND Run75 Position

Bob Gibson Renault Alpine A110 50.71 50.46 1

Tim Jeffrey Alpine Renault A610 52.15 50.75 2

John Price Renault Maxi 5 Turbo 51.22 51.71 3

Simon Taylor Renault Alpine GTA 56.52 53.12 4

Mark Rideout Alpine Renault A310 55.17 53.69 5

Mark Garner Renault Sport Spider 54.49 54.41 6

Graham Pryme Talbot-Matra Murena FAIL 54.44 7

Tony Gomis Marcadier 'can Am' Gordini 55.14 55.11 8

Andrew Holt Renault Sport Spider 57.30 57.01 9

Andy Owler Matra-Simca Bagheera ‘S’ 65.67 63.30 10

Filippo Venerio Alpine GTA Turbo 65.51 64.61 11

Michael St Clair-Johnson Renault 5 Turbo 2 61.73 73.59 12

I then loaded up the car and headed back to Kent uneventfully. After repairing the rear end bodywork with silver tape and replacing the rear lens, I finally retired at midnight.

See web hyperlinks below for the event:

The following morning of Crystal Palace on the 31st. May started at I was hoping that the burning smell as I drove through Lewisham at 6. am. were just a few smouldering tyres from the previous nights festivities, but alas it was my alternator! I had fitted a new HD battery recently, so I just crossed my fingers and continued.

The event was being run by Sevenoaks and District Motor Club to celebrate the rich history of motorsport at Crystal Palace, Britain’s oldest purpose-built race track. Modern and vintage cars would be competing for the accolade of fastest car at the Park, many of which raced at the Palace decades ago. We would be using a section of the old track 705m. in length, incorporating Pond Hairpin, the Big Tree Bend, part of the Terrace Straight and the infamous North Tower Crescent .

Crystal Palace Sprint Circuit

The event started at 9am. after a stern lecture from the Clerk of the Course about behaving ourselves, as we were being observed by everyone who matters, as to whether the event would happen next year or not? This was immediately contravened in fist practice and was quite unbelievable, but luckily there were no injuries.

See the web hyperlinks below for further amusement and general interest.

We were allowed two practice sessions and three timed runs. Practice went well as I knew the course from competition 10 years previous. My second timed run went very well indeed and proved to be a scorcher, resulting in second place overall and a very nice little trophy.

Exiting Terrace Straight

Results Crystal Palace 31st May 2010

Fastest time of the day: Fyrth Crosse / Ensign LNF3 35.55 secs.

CLASS 4 (1977 to present day)

1st. Simon Taylor 7Oaks & RAOC / Alpine Renault GTA V6 Turbo 2450cc year 1986 39.63 secs.

2nd. Graham Pryme 7Oaks / Talbot–Matra Murena 2155cc year 1983 40.98 secs.

3rd. Graham Sanson blcc / Arbath 500 1398cc year 2009 41.14 sec.

4th. Jim Giddings 7Oaks / Triumph TR8 4596cc year 1980 41.57 secs.

5th. Royston Carey Black Palfrey / Fiat 500 Abarth 1398cc year 2009 AWO 41.71 secs.

6th. Paul Fraser Sage Renault OC / Renault Alpine A310 v6 2664cc year 1978 43.08 secs.

7th. James Palmer 7Oaks / Smartcar fortwo Barabus 1000cc year 2009 43.20 secs.

8th. Darren Clayden 7Oaks / Eunus Roadster 1600cc year 1989 43.28 secs.

9th. Jonathan Dowding BARC SW / Nissan Micra 1275cc year 1998 44.50 secs.


4th.Mark Garner RAOC / Renault Spider UK Cup 1998cc year 1996 41.22 secs.

NB: I was beaten by Simon Taylor by 1.35 secs here at Crystal Palace and by 1.32 secs. the day before at Prescott. I was beaten by Mark Garner the day before at Prescott by 0.03 secs. but beat him here at Crystal Palace by 0.24 secs. So I think we all kept ourselves very honest.

I then drove home uneventfully and having parked my Murena on the drive to open the garage door, it then refused to start because of the alternator failure. If a car could swear I was convinced my ears were burning. Having just highly abused a 27 year old car over a total of 560km. including a hillclimb and a sprint competition, I think it deserved to be angry at me!

I look forward to next year and hopefully doing even better with my new secret weapon, a newly refurbished gearbox with a Quaife Automatic Torque Biasing Limited Slip Differential installed.

Maybe a few more of you fellow members out there will be able to attend or even participate next year? You will not be disappointed in either of these events.

Best regards to all,

Graham Pryme