March of Progress

As the sunburnt crowds made their way home from Goodwood House on the Sunday evening, the Earl of March was able to reflect on another spectacularly successful Festival of Speed which had, once again, succeeded in assembling a peerless collection of historic and modern cars and bikes, together with an equally illustrious roll-call of drivers and riders to demonstrate the exhibits. In this third Festival, Lord March and his organising team had managed to attract an entry which eclipsed even the previous gatherings. With this year’s theme of “Great Racing Battles”, teams of cars had been invited with many from Europe and the USA not having been seen in the UK before. Such is the Earl’s influence that the Mercedes and Porsche museums provided multiple entries, with other cars coming from the collections at Beaulieu, BMI Heritage, Donington, the Dutch National Motor Museum and from Miles Collier in Florida.

The eagerly awaited reappearance of the 1939 Tripoli GP-winning 1½-litre Mercedes W165 — built specifically for that race when the Italians decreed it was to be run to ‘voiturette’ rules in the mistaken belief that this would guarantee an Italian victory, and not run since — did not disappoint. Even though the immaculately rebuilt car failed to run cleanly following its long hibernation it managed four ascents of the hill in the hands of museum director Max von Pein, John Surtees, and an enthusiastic Ron Dennis, and its exquisitely scaled-down appearance when seen alongside the W154 coupled with the heady acetone aroma of the fuel which hung in the air ensured it lived up to its star billing.

Possibly more emotional, however, was the reunion of Stirling Moss and Denis Jenkinson with the Mille Miglia-winning 300SLR Mercedes in a 40th anniversary tribute — the first time that the duo have appeared together in the actual car (chassis no 4) since that May Day in 1955. The years fell away as they installed themselves in the cockpit, complete with ‘period’ headgear and with Jenks holding the box containing his roll of ‘pace notes’, and didn’t the crowd just love it! Moss had been determined not to let his recent motorcycle accident prevent his appearance, although an inflated swimming ring was packed behind the seat to allow a more comfortable seating position (“Jenks and I are going for a swim afterwards!”). In appreciation of his efforts, Moss received the ‘Driver of the Day’ award.

The presence of ‘Sixties American heroes Dan Gurney and 1961 World Champion Phil Hill was another major draw, and both found themselves the constant subjects of autograph hunters and enthusiasts keen to relive their own personal recollections, with Dan in particular always holding a special place in the hearts of British racegoers Both were effusive in their praise, Hill saying, “I’ve been to just about every motor racing meeting there is, and the Festival of Speed has to be just about the best there is”. In common with all the ‘anciens pilotes’ present they gave generously of their time in answering questions and posing for photographs. Gurney was reunited with the pair of surviving V12 Eagle-Weslakes, now owned by Miles Collier, and, after pitching in with the mechanics to sort out a sticking throttle assembly, relished his runs in the ‘1967 Dutch GP’ class, which saw him ranked against Tony Merrick in the National Motor Museum’s Lotus 49 and Mike Burtt’s fabulous H16 BRM ‘lightweight’.

Hill was difficult to prise from Hayashi’s 1960 Ferrari 246 Dino replica, similar to the car in which he won the 1960 Italian GP, and was part of an emotional scene on Friday afternoon when the cover was lifted off Chris Rea’s replica of the 1961 ‘sharknose’ Ferrari 156, which has been built by Paul Harvey for Rea’s forthcoming film on the life of ‘Taffy’ von Trips. The general consensus appeared to be that there is a place for high-quality replicas of this type, particularly where none of the genuine cars are thought to survive, and this particular example didn’t look at all out of place.

Although serious competition is not the raison d’être of the Festival, with a large number of cars being entered only for demonstrations for which no times were published, most drivers were keen to better their times with each run and as last year, when Martin Brundle’s final run time with the McLaren MP4/9 of 47.80 seconds left the crowd entranced, they were similarly impressed when Jonathan Palmer blasted up the resurfaced hill to stop the clock with a stunning 46.06 second ascent in the six-wheeled Williams FW08D, 4.76 seconds quicker than he managed last year with the same car.

Other impressive performances came from Robin Lodge with both Maserati 4CM and Ferrari Dino 246, showing impressive starting technique, Paul Grist who was rewarded with competition success for his Alfa Tipo 8C-35, and Jonathan Baker who muscled his Lola T70MkIIIB up the hill in 51.51 seconds. John Harper and Burkhard von Schenk won two classes apiece (with Vanwall and Tasman Brabham BT4, and Alfa Romeo 8C-2900 and Porsche RS60/61 respectively) whilst even a persistent misfire in Evert Louwman’s 1957 Le Mans-winning ‘D’ Type Jaguar couldn’t prevent Robert Brooks from taking a hat-trick of class wins — other victories coming with Ferrari 750 Monza and ‘Maserati 8cm.

Other highlights of the weekend included a sensational gathering of superbly presented Ferrari sports-prototypes from the USA in the shape of Tony Wang’s 1963 330P (third at Le Mans), Peter Sachs’ 1965 NART 365P2 and Paul Pappalardo’s 1966 330P3 evoking memories of Bandini, Scarfiotti, Vaccarella, Parkes and Rodriguez, while the awesome factory Porsche 917/30, driven by Derek Bell, recalled Mark Donohue’s 1973 Can-Am campaign — sadly the confines of the course didn’t allow it to demonstrate its 1100bhp to best effect!

A fine array of Aston Martins and Lagondas were displayed around the circular drive to the front of Goodwood House — with Segrave’s 1929 LSR ‘Golden Arrow’ forming a centrepiece — to celebrate 80 years of the marque and 60 years of AMOC, and included just about every celebrated racing Aston in existence.

Proceedings had kicked off on Friday afternoon at Brooks’ auction with two of the principal lots (a 1959 Birdcage Maserati 161 at £241,500 and an ex-Hill BRM P261 at £213,900) going to join Vijay Mallya’s collection, while Motor Sport’s 1970 ‘E’ Type, used by Jenks when he was Continental Correspondent, was sold to a Belgian buyer for £21,850. Aside from the events on the hill, numerous other activities and displays vied for attention including the Red Arrows and a Spitfire display. The Cartier ‘Style et Luxe’ concours boasted a ‘definitive collection of 42 exceptional automobiles’ with the accent on originality, and a panel of judges which ranged from McLaren designer Gordon Murray to singer Bryan Ferry. Opposite this enclosure was found the McLaren F1 display, featuring six road cars and the cars which had finished first and third at Le Mans the previous weekend, the winning car, complete with Sarthe grime, finding time to take in a number of runs up the hill. A popular innovation with the crowd was the Ford Rally Special Stage, with a number of Historic Rally specialists pitted against a sprinkling of star names from rallying’s past such as Erik Carlsson (Saab 96), Roger Clark (1976 MK11 Escort) and Gunnar Palm (1995 London-Mexico Escort). Overall victory went to Adam Crowton in Peter Joy’s Triumph TR7 V8.

The other main competition, decided over the two days, was the Mulberry Challenge Trophy, to seek out the fastest all-round sporting car. This involved a pursuit sprint at the circuit, auto test, hillclimb and wheel-changing, with a field of cars ranging from 1933 Alfa Monza to 1995 McLaren F1, from which the Totnes Motor Museum’s 1937 Talbot of Richard and Trisha Pilkington emerged victorious. If points were awarded for entertainment value, Stefan Roser would have cleaned up for his style at the wheel of the outrageous Ruf CTR — a Porsche 911 derivative with twin turbos, which has been timed at 211 mph — both in the sprint and on the hill. Sadly he spun off on his second practice run, sustaining minor damage.

In addition to handling the Mercedes 154 and 165, John Surtees organised a demonstration class of racing motorcycles of the ’50s and ’60s, many entries coming from his own collection, with riders of the calibre of Sammy Miller, Derek Minter, Arthur Wheeler, Tommy Robb, Stuart Graham and Chas Mortimer joining Surtees on the hill. Only one Japanese interloper (a 1961 125cc Honda) was to be seen amongst the MVs, Manx Nortons, Gileras and Velocettes.

There can be no doubt that Lord March has found a magic formula where owners are prepared to allow rare cars to be driven in public, but without the pressure of out-and-out competition, and without the risks inherent in racing. Ally that to a garden party atmosphere with unfettered access to cars and drivers, and it is no surprise that upwards of 60,000 spectators want a part of the action.