The ideas of March

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ideas of I iv are.'”

Since Goodwood ceased to operate as a racing circuit, back in July 1966, there have been intermittent whispers that it might re-open. Today, there are rather more than

mere rumours on the subject . . .

Consider the options should you wish to go and watch some motor racing at some point during Easter 1994: OuIton Park, Brands Hatch, Thruxton, Snetterton, Cadwell Park, Castle Combe, Mallory Park, Mondello Park. . . some of them even host two meetings over the course of four days. It is, traditionally, a hectic weekend for the sport. And it could become busier still,

When you study the schedule for the Easter weekend in 1996, it’s possible, just possible, that Goodwood’s name may be nestling amongst modern-day racing outposts, for the first time in 30 years . . .

Why so?

Cast your minds back to April 1993. In that month’s edition of MOTOR SPORT we mentioned that Charles, the present Lord March and heir to the Goodwood estate, was eagerly investigating the possibility of returning the racing circuit across the road from Goodwood House, the family home, to its original purpose.

Earlier this year, his fervent ambition was given added impetus when the local council agreed, in principle, to allow nine days’ racing usage every year, for unsilenced historic racing cars (the plan has always been to re-open the track for cars built between 1948 and 1966, Goodwood’s original period of operation).

“We have,” says March, “still got a lot to do, but experts in this sort of thing tell me that we’re about 50 per cent of the way to achieving what we want. If we succeed, then 1996 is probably the earliest reasonable date for racing to recommence. It’s far too early to start talking about possible fixtures, of course, but an Easter meeting? Well, it would be nice, wouldn’t it? Given the circuit’s history, that would seem like the right thing to do.

“I’m very enthusiastic about the project, but 1 am aware of how much remains to be done. I wouldn’t be foolish enough to say that I was 100 per cent confident, but I hope it will happen.” His optimism has firm foundations. When the local council discussed the issue, there

were 18 votes in favour, four abstentions and none against. . .

“For the first time,” says March, “the local authorities have really taken on board the economic situation. They can see the need for a potential tourist attraction.” Not to mention, of course, the creation of a few jobs.

Before entering the labyrinthine process of obtaining planning permission, March set out to meet local councillors, environmental groups and residents, in order to discuss his plans and ways of making them acceptable to all concerned. If racing is to return, for instance, the circuit will be used less for other activities. At present, you could argue that Goodwood has never really closed, per se. Motor racing might have been knocked on the head, but sprints, corporate days, racing school activities, private testing, owners club events and diverse other pastimes, not all of them automotive, mean that the track was in use on no fewer than 300 days last year. With the resumption of racing, however, there would be less noise pollution than hitherto over the course of a year. This will be achieved in two ways: firstly, there will be the aforementioned reduction in usage for some of the functions previously outlined (March talks about doubling the number of days on which the circuit may not be used); secondly, acoustic banks, great walls of earth designed to deflect the rasp of D-type Jaguars and suchlike, will be built up. (The problem would be most critical in the Lavant area of the circuit, but sound engineers estimate that the new banks will cut noise levels by 50 per cent in the nearby village.)

Of course, construction of such banks requires planning permission, in the same way as changes to the circuit infrastructure will do, but while it is traditional to obtain planning permission as stage one of any development process, March first preferred to sort out the issue of noise. Once this has been finalised, hopefully within the next couple of months, then planning applications will be submitted.

While the mood may be optimistic, March is always quick to stress that he is approaching the task of restoring Goodwood realistically. “We still have to go through the various processes of negotiation, and to come up with satisfactory compromises. Until that’s done, there are potential obstacles. I’m led to believe, though, that we’ve already accomplished the most difficult bit.”

Although some changes to the present circuit are inevitable, March hopes to keep them to a bare minimum. -“For me, it’s critical that the track itself should be just the same as it was. We want to retain as many of the original features and as much of the character as possible. We’ve even toyed with the idea of using white trellis fencing, like we used to have here.

“The pit lane entry will have to be moved back towards the chicane, we know that. As it stands, it would be too dangerous for racing. We won’t be having any Armco, We’ll use earth banks protected by substantial tyre walls. The RACMSA has been incredibly supportive, and has approved the system, and we will of course have gravel traps at strategic points.” The nine racing days will be used to run a total of four historic meetings, but there are other ideas in the pipeline. March hopes, for instance, to be able to build a museum, and to set aside one day in the year when those who loan their cars for exhibition can use them in anger on the circuit. “We want to get the racing side up and running first,” concludes March, “but in the long term I’d like the museum idea. I want to emphasise Goodwood’s place in our national sporting heritage.” S A

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