Are you ready for the Historic Grand Prix of London?

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Author: James ElliottPublished:

I wouldn't make any great claims to being a hotshoe – though, like my very limited schoolboy rugby career, the extent and quality of my youthful competition driving seems to get ever more impressive with age and alcohol – but like all classic petrolheads, my every journey becomes about plotting venues for races, sprints or hillclimbs.

On the family's annual holiday in Corsica, as mentioned in a previous blog, I spend most of my time on the balcony planning the hillclimb I will run up the  sinuous mountain road in the distance. Actually, it isn't that sinuous, unlike every other road on the island; it's more like a giant Shelsley and I long to one-day see Simon Taylor's Stovebolt Special roaring up it.

And that is just one of thousands of examples of my mentally trying to turn every stretch of road in the world into a speed venue. And especially urban ones, where the challenge is even greater.

Even on my commute there is the 150 yards of hill that I have inappropriately dubbed the Richmond Hillclimb. The one-way Nightingale Lane, though, would be fraught with logistical issues… and cresting the brow and braking, before you hit something very hard, would be as treacherous as the Brooklands Test Hill.

That didn't make it any less fun to drive, of course, until I discovered several times on the blind, sharp left-hander that taxis and cyclists don't think that the one-way signs apply to them. The St Margarets Esses, as I like to call them, have similar issues.

No visit to Crystal Palace (above, Rindt at the wheel) or Brooklands (below, Birkin giving it his all) is complete without contemplating the feasibility of rebuilding the circuits, though both those cases are tempered with the stark reality that it would be impossible.

The one that always gets me more than any other, though, is Richmond Park. Let's ignore some of the more fundamental issues: that the surface isn't really wide enough to run an Olympic cycle race, let alone a motor race, or that the park is awash with more than 500 deer (and we all know what happens when they start wandering around on F1 tracks), or simply that the Queen might not like it.

For those that don't know it, Richmond Park is about 2500 acres of land in South West London that borders Richmond, Kingston, Roehampton and Sheen.

The basic circuit would be just over seven miles and – with the minimum of roadworks – could incorporate a two-mile straight and enough rises and falls and super twisty bits to offer all the thrills that any driver or spectator could ask for. Use the lattice of smaller roads within the grand 'Outer Circuit' and you could have all sorts of fun. I have even decided the best spots to put the grandstands and where the start/finish line would be.

Given the number of Lycra-clad cyclists permanently circling the route, each one dreaming they are Eddy Merckx in the yellow jersey just one stage from victory, I am on to something.

It is even more reassuring to know that motor sport heroes of the past have felt exactly the same way.

Tim Birkin (above) was allegedly a big advocate of using Richmond Park for motor sport and a plan to race there – though long after the Charles Jarrott event on a track at Sheen House in 1897 – was, according to lore, actually proposed and discussed at the RAC Club.

With that provenance, what better place for the oft-discussed Grand Prix of London, or, better still, the never-discussed Historic Grand Prix of London?

Comments

Col O'Firth

I have often had similar thoughts about Richmond park.

You do have to be careful though, as those little wooden posts that line the circuit do a lot of damage if you hit them, as my mum found out in 1992 when she went slightly off course in an e34 5 series bmw.

The repair bill was huge. And the park police weren't very sympathetic - said she'd have to pay for the posts to be replaced.

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