Battersea Park and the Unmarked Grave

I had a few moments before I went on Wandsworth’s Radio Sports Show on Saturday, so I went for a walk around the local park where a few years before history had been made. Not that you’d know.

The year is 2015, the month is June and Battersea Park is playing host to the first race meeting in London for 43 years. Not since 1972 and Crystal Palace had London held a race meeting. It had held demonstrations of racing cars but not an actual meeting. I was witness to the championship finale of the first 2014/15 season of Formula E where Nelson Piquet would claim victory for NEXT EV TCR Formula E Team.

However, walking around the park there is no evidence at all that Formula E ever set foot. The only evidence is patches of tarmac that had to be re-lain before the race meeting. There is no plaque, not even, as there is in Monaco a small white line marking the start/finish.

Part of this is understandable. Formula E was not universally popular. The protest group Save Battersea Park, or @SaveBattPark on Twitter, was against the event predominantly because of the disruption caused by the infrastructure needed to set up the event. Three weeks in advance of the event JCBs and lorries came into set up and close off parts of the park designated to be the pits complex and fan zone.

I can see why they had their grievances but on the other hand I completely disagreed with their plight. As a person who has lived in Wandsworth, the borough where Battersea Park falls into, for all but one year of my life I felt proud that motorsport was coming to my door.

So often the motorsport fan has to spend a lot of time to get to an event, getting up in the early hours of the morning, travelling long distances to get to a race meeting in the middle of nowhere. It was fantastic knowing all I needed to get to this one was my Oyster Card.

And what a meeting. Yes, the track was not ideal for spectating and the PA system for the commentary had a lot of quiet spots, but we were witnesses to history. Motorsport in London had been consigned to the past and yet here it was, the latest and most innovative motorsport series on the planet, rushing past us at over 100mph.

Which is why the lack of commemoration of the event is even more tragic. Save Battersea Park won in the end, the series came back for 2016 but agreed never to return. Still there is no evidence of it today.

It’s as if Wandsworth Council and the community in general are ashamed of what happened. They’re ashamed of having hosted Formula E, leaving the perimeter road as an unmarked grave to the history that was made.

I don’t want much. Just a stone, a plaque, a sculpture to say motorsport happened there. To say what happened on those summer days in Battersea Park where motorsport became local, and came to the masses, just for once.

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