The return of racing to Goodwood may be the highpoint of the 1998 Historic motorsport season, but as Marcus Pye reports, it’s just one of many exciting dates over the coming year.
There is a new arrival on the Historic motor racing scene in 1998, and it is already the talk of the motorsport fraternity. The reopening of Goodwood circuit in September, 50 years to the day after it first hosted car racing, has even overshadowed prospects for another wonderful Festival of Speed at nearby Goodwood House in the estimation of competitors and enthusiasts alike.
Anniversaries are among the manifold joys of historic sport, and among those to be celebrated in 1998 are 50 years of Silverstone. An emotive recreation of the 1948 RAC Grand Prix starring virtually all of the original cars, and the surviving drivers will be just one of a multitude of special events within the seventh BRDC International Festival, the fourth under the Coys flag.
Monza’s atmospheric Coppa Intereuropa event in May, Silverstone in July and the ADAC’s long-established Oldtimer Grand Prix at the Nürburgring in August form the ‘Holy Trinity’ of European meetings. American racegoers will mark Watkins Glen’s Golden Jubilee all year, with a special Formula One reunion in July.
Porsche and Lotus reach their half-centuries in 1998, and, with Lola and Cosworth passing 40 in tandem, there will certainly be plenty of nostalgia to wallow in at meetings the world over. Historic motorsport has never looked stronger, with races, rallies and speed events almost every weekend of the year. Use our guide as a companion to the Motor Sport Historic Calendar free with this issue and start plotting an unforgettable season.
Goodwood Race Meeting & Festival of Speed
Twenty-two years after increasing speeds and lack of space fir development saw it close its gates to all but testing and sprints, the rebirth of Goodwood on September 18-20, will not only mark the fulfilment of the current Lord March’s greatest dream, but also a new chapter in British historic racing, to which it will provide an exclusive new home.
The daunting 2.4-mile track on Westhampnett airfield first opened on September 18, 1948 predating Silverstone’s official debut by a fortnight when young Stirling Moss recorded his first circuit win in a Cooper 500. He became one of its big stars, taking on Juan Manuel Fangio, Mike Hawthorn and many of the world’s greatest driven in single-seater events as well as the Nine Hours and the RAC Tourist Trophy races fir sports racing and GT cars.
Having won the long battle to bring racing back to the family estate, Charles March is using his flair for detail and visual theatre to recreate a typical Goodwood meeting. Elements of all the best classes Grand Prix, Formule Libre, 500cc F3 and Formula Junior, sports, saloons and GT cars will be incorporated in a programme entrenched in history, right down to the cars.
Entry to the 12 races will be by invitation only, and Goodwood’s search for cars which appeared at the circuit in period has already met with success. Top drivers such as Moss, Sir Jack Brabham and Roy Salvadori will be hack to compete, as will some of the cars – Maserati 4CLT, BRM V16, Jaguar D and Ferrari 250SWB – which triumphed in their heyday. If you attend one event in 1998, this should be it!
Despite the deserved hullabaloo over the circuit, you can be certain that the Festival of Speed will not suffer in comparison. A favourite with fans, the automotive garden party of the season is sure to be a sell-out with another inspirational gathering of men and machines under ‘The Innovation Years’ banner on June 12-14.
Details of this year’s stars and cars is emerging week by week, but the line-up will include entries from several Grand Prix teams with McLaren resolved to recapture the course record from Jonathan Palmer’s Williams and a tremendous contingent from the USA, headed by 1978 Formula One World Champion Mario Andretti.
As well as driving his old Grand Prix machines, Andretti will demonstrate Indycars in the company of Rick Mears, Bobby Rahal and Al Unser Jr, a quartet which has amassed no fewer than 11 USAC and CART championship titles and six Indianapolis 500 victories.
A raft of cars, from the dawn of the Brickyard in 1911 will trace the history of Indycar racing decade by decade to the current Penske-Mercedes PC27 which Unser will drive. Anybody who saw Emerson Fittipaldi fling last year’s PC26 up in adverse conditions will not want to miss this. Surely, the weather cannot be so unkind two years running?
Coys International Festival
Many of those invited to compete in the Goodwood showpieces will also play starring roles at the Coys Festival on July 24-26. With the sheer size of the campus as the backdrop for Europe’s most comprehensive pageant, the flowing Historic Grand Prix circuit inspires scintillating racing and four-wheel-drifts of which Fangio would have approved.
Silverstone’s first half century is to be showcased with a cavalcade of cars representing each year and the BRDC’s attempt to recreate its inaugural Grand Prix of October 1948. Anyone who has seen Baron de Graffenried drive even in his advancing years will not want to miss his swashbuckling style in his original Maserati 4CL.
Everywhere you look at Coys, with wall-to-wall racing and hundreds of sideshows, there are wonderful photographic opportunities. This year in particular will bring special memories for drivers who raced in Silverstone’s formative years, and enthusiasts who have watched the place be transformed from an old airfield to a state-of-the-art motorsport complex whose origins are barely visible.
Historic Grand Prix cars and sports racers of the 1930s to the 1960s, stunning Le Mans Prototypes of a later era which are back on treaded tyres this year, thus will slide as they were designed to do and a host of GT machinery will provide the action. Saturday’s auction is your opportunity to buy something which could put you on track next year…
FIA Cup for Thoroughbred Grand Prix Cars
Formula One cars will always be regarded as the ultimate expression of a designer’s craft, which is why motorsport-mad amateurs aspire to racing the Grand Prix machines of their youth, or the years when they were too busy building businesses and raising families to fulfil sporting dreams.
Now in its fourth year, the FIA Cup for Thoroughbred Grand Prix Cars allows the more pecunious among them to compete in the 3-litre cars of 1966-85, an era dominated by the Ford Cosworth DFV engine, which won an unprecedented 155 World Championship events from 1967 until 1983, when the sizzling 1.5-litre turbos were making more than twice the power.
The glorious sound of a DFV sets the heart pumping like no other, and the 500bhp powerplants are not treated gingerly by TGP competitors. They race their beautifully prepared cars hard in what has, with the governing body’s sanction, evolved into Europe’s premier historic championship. Paul Ricard and Most in the Czech Republic are new on this year’s calendar.
Faithful to the epoch, the races are more open than we have come to expect from contemporary Grandes Epreuves, with aces like Martin Stretton (Tyrrell 005) and Michael Schryver (Lotus 72) capable of mixing it with the later Williams, Brabham and Tyrrell chassis, helped by ride height rules and control Avon tyres.
Defending champion Bob Berridge and Richard Eyre have graduated to Williams FW08s, but expect stern opposition from Ian Giles (Brabham BT49) and Steve Hitchins (Lotus 91). Mike Littlewood in John Fenning’s ex-Gilles Villeneuve Ferrari 31215 will be a sight to behold, and if Stretton’s team completes its six-wheeled Tyrrell, it won’t be there to make up numbers.
Donington Park again hosts Britain’s rounds of the other FIA Historic Championships in September an event in which home competitors like Marcos guru David Methley (GT) and double Formula Junior champion Tony Thompson (Lotus 27) have strong records against the best drivers from Europe and beyond.
The Historic Sports Car Club’s traditional Super Prix at Brands Hatch in July centres on Motor Classic’s Three-Hour Sportscar race a resounding success on its debut last year and puts Thoroughbred Grand Prix cars back where they belong on the full circuit. They return for a championship finale on the Indy circuit within October’s Formula Ford World Cup meeting.
Domestic HSCC championships cater for cars of the 1960s and 70s. The renamed Thundersports series has attracted more registrations over the winter, and Classic Sportscars action is usually close, but historic Formula Ford racing is really frenetic.
International Supersports Cup
The Canadian American Challenge Cup and its European Interserie cousin were arenas for the biggest, baddest, loudest and fastest V8 sportscars of them all, in a power-crazy era which Porsche’s fire-breathing turbocars blunted in the mid-1970s.
The 850bhp dinosaurs live on, however, in the International Supersports Cup, an automotive Gladiators contest in which the drivers (like the majority of those in the original Can-Am races) are able amateurs who seek their thrills at 180mph.
Expect titanic battles between Chris Chiles’s brutal March 707 and Germans Jost Kalisch (BRM PI53) and Peter Hoffmann (McLaren M8F), and Geoffrey I lobbs’s Lola T222 to get ever closer. Action in the 2-litre divisions is no less intense, with the charismatic Group 6 Chevron, Lola and Toj chassis out to embarrass the ‘big bangers’.
The calendar has a new look, with debuts at Most and Le Mans, and a huge grid for Spa in May.
Vintage Sports Car Club
Vintage racers do it sideways, so the legend has it, and a trip to Silverstone’s traditional season opener on April 18 will have you mesmerised by the cars and the skill of their drivers, to the point where you will want to become a ‘groupie’, and follow the circus from race meetings to hillclimbs al summer.
Svelte Bugattis and towering Bentleys share the tracks with spindly chain-gang Frazer Nashes and impossibly beautiful Alfa Romeos, while the sight of abnormally brave fellows (lunatics?) in three-wheeled Morgans dicing with heroes like Mark Walker in aero-engined leviathans is worth travelling a long way to see.
That’s before the ERAs, Maserati 250Fs and Coopers come out, transporting you instantly back to the Grands Prix of yesteryear, and Jaguar D-types, Listers, Lotuses and Ferraris waft you into a golden era of sportscar racing, with some of the finest wheel-to-wheel action anywhere, at speeds approaching 140mph.
Just being there is like turning the pages of a favourite history book, but no meeting is complete without a tour of the paddock, to inspect or to Photograph the cars, speak to the drivers (no prima donnas allowed!) and drink in the heady aroma of racing oils until the sun sets. Oh, such a perfect day…
Paul Ricard, in the south of France, hosts the European championship season opener over the Easter weekend, where Thoroughbred Grand Prix cars, the Historic GP Cars Association, BRDC 1950s Sportscars and Sports Prototypes headline.
The FIA series for Touring, GT and Formula Junior get under way at Monza’s Coppa Intereuropa on May 16-17, where the old Milan autodromo will reverberate to the sound of Can-Am monsters as the International Supersports Cup kicks off in style.
Spa-Francorchamps, the following weekend, promises nirvana for the sportscar nut, with Supersports, Group 4 Prototypes and the British RJB Thundersports fields pitched together to form a 64-car capacity grid. German single-seaters Formula 5000s to FF1600s are also on the bill.
June traditionally means Le Mans for the vast army of British racegoers who flock to the Sarthe region of France to see history made in the world’s greatest 24-Hour race. No sooner will the tents and empty cool boxes have been stowed away, however, than they will be restocked for Goodwood’s Festival of Speed.
For those in search of something very different, Watkins Glen’s 50th Anniversary celebrations centre on July’s Formula One reunion. You will have to sacrifice the British Grand Prix, but the magical switchback circuit which last hosted the US GP in 1980 is but a short hop from New York and will evoke lasting memories.
August’s Oldtimer Grand Prix at the Nürburgring is a wonderful experience. This huge party is highlighted by a great 300km enduro for 1950s and ’60s sportscars on the Saturday. It ends in darkness, with cars howling past floodlit pits.
The west coast of America’s historic showcase is the Pebble Beach classic, a three-week Californian extravaganza of sales and concours events which climaxes with the race meeting at Monterey’s demanding Laguna Seca circuit in mid-August.
Return to Belgium’s Ardennes in September for Motor Classic’s Six Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, widely regarded as among the season’s best events. 90 starters take to Europe’s best-loved Grand Prix circuit. There’s unrivalled ambience, the awesome Eau Rouge to watch from and excellent trackside sustenance, but take your Motor Sport umbrella. If you do, it may not rain…
Historic Rallying takes on diverse forms, and provides an equally vast choice of events to suit car and pocket. Most are geared to competitor rather than spectator, although exceptions are the Tour de France Automobile (April 20-26) and Italy’s Mille Miglia (May 14-17), both of which are thinly disguised races over some of the finest and most spectacular roads Europe has to offer.
Long-distance rallies are popular as motoring adventures with a competitive element. Foremost this year are the 10th Classic Marathon in September. Organised by the indefatigable Philip Young, who kick-started the Classic Rally movement, the event takes the form of an eight-day trek from Spain to Marrakesh, and includes a lap of Morocco!
Britain’s major event, the two-day RAC Historic Rally, has been withdrawn from the FIA Rally Trophy series because few home-based crews will go to the expense of preparing cars fora single round per year but will nonetheless be a popular precursor to our World Championship round in November.
The European Historic series has thus become largely Italian-based, but rounds will also take stalwart competitors to Germany and the Czech Republic, from which Jan and Richard Trajbokl emerged as champions in their Porsche last year.
A Porsche was also victorious in Britain’s Safety Devices Historic Rally Challenge supported by Motor Sport, but vehicle eligibility this year has been widened to include less exotic 1967-74 cars.
RAC London to Brighton Veteran Car Run
The first Sunday in November is sacrosanct in the veteran car huff’s diary, for it is the day on which they polish up their bolides, don weatherproof costume and depart for the annual run to Brighton.
Spidery tricycles, ‘new fangled’ luxury models and spartan dog-carts all set off from Hyde Park at dawn in a joyous celebration of the abolishment of the Red Flag Act in 1896, which set pioneering motorists free from pedestrian speed limits.
Most of the 600 plus starters reach the Victorian south coast resort in time to collect a medal, but considering the youngest cars were built in 1904 the attrition rate thus the need for RAC patrols is remarkably low. A treat for enthusiasts of all ages.