I have just ordered a head set which mentions no crown race inclusion or indeed exclusion purely as a controlled experiment to which hopefuly we may have an answer. I will also shout and swear if there is not one included with said head set. I shall then report my findings on this here thread.
Early indications are leaning towards there being no headset or crown race on the kitchen table when I get home tonight. This is in my opinion no form of an answer to the not at all stupid and reoccuring question. Which came first. The head set or the crown race.
Well, my headset was in the post box. Not on the kitchen table as planed thus throwing to experiment all to cock. Any one could have slipped the crown race in there with out me knowing. This experiment is now null and void. The headset has however now been fitted to a bicycle frame and it seems to allow the forks / bars to turn with much less resistance than when the headset is fitted without the crown race. Does this mean anything? I don't know!
I once sold one without a crown race. Sold it cheap obviously and it was a Hope one so easy to get a new one. I kept it to make it easy to swap between rigid and bouncy forks on the HT as that had another Hope headset in it.