Fabulous Fourth Goodwood

It's now the greatest historic meeting of all, says Alan Cox - but can Lord March's team keep it up?

The fourth Goodwood Festival of Speed proved to be yet another outstanding success for both competitors and the public, with Lord March and his small team expanding on the format established in previous years to such effect that the official paying attendance was quoted as 86,000 over the three days of June 21-23, with ingredients guaranteed to excite every motoring enthusiasm.

For many, the highlight was the appearance of 'The Pampas Bull', Froilan Gonzalez, who travelled from the Argentine with his son Julio in order to demonstrate Tom Wheatcroft's Mk1 V16 BRM. Donning one of his old cork helmets, complete with ventilation holes drilled in its front, this sprightly 74-year-old looked a study in concentration, nodding sympathetically as he warmed up the engine; after gently racing up the hill to the delight of the crowd, he seemed genuinely surprised as enthusiasts pressed forward to seek his autograph.

Once again, the American contingent brought a peerless collection, many of which had never been seen before on these shores. Howard Winship drove Buck Boudeman's futuristic coupe-bodied 1917 Miller 'Golden Submarine' built for showman/driver Barney Oldfield, while Boudeman himself gave spirited displays with his 'Blue Crown Special'. One of Lou Moore's team which won at Indianapolis from 1947 to 1949, this was the last FWD car to win the '500' and had not run since the 1950s a real gem. The Cunningham C5R which finished third at Le Mans In 1953 was entrusted to Monterey organiser, Steve Earle, and following their Sarthe reunion the previous weekend, the Mk II Fords which finished 1-2-3 in 1966 were also present.

As has become the custom, a choice selection of cars, some for static display, were sent by the Mercedes and Porsche museums, joined this year by a number of representatives from the 'BMW Mobile Tradition' collection, including the unraced 1939 BMW 328 with streamlined body, as well as the Len Terry-designed Dornier F2 car with amazing Apfelbeck cylinder head, entrusted to Steve Soper, and an ex-Manfred Winkelhock 320 Group 5 car shared by brother Jo, and Marc Surer. Stirling Moss was reunited with his Formula 2 Porsche 718 from 1960 and Derek Bell handled the ex-Gurney 1962 French GP-winning flat-8 Type 804, although it struggled to fire on all eight cylinders.

Lord March's mount for the weekend was a Porsche Museum 908/3 in the class for Targa Florio cars, although he only managed to find time for one run on Sunday, but he also took a turn to passenger Phillip Mach's Kawasaki combination in the sidecar class.

A magnificent achievement was to assemble all six Longnose Jaguar D-Types: apart from those regularly seen in historic racing, Ralph Lauren's and Miles Collier's ex-Cunningham versions came from the USA while Simon Taylor took a turn in the ex-Hamilton example retained by Jaguar-Daimler Heritage. Paul Frere returned to the cockpit of John Coombs' ex-ENB D-Type, in which he had finished fourth at Le Mans in 1957 and Michael Nairn demonstrated the rarely-seen 1956 winner of Flockhart/Sanderson.

The three Ford Mk Ils formed a small part of an exemplary gathering of 'Le Mans Legends' which also included the 1968/69-winning Gulf GT40 of Bob Walton and a squad of three-litre V12 Matras, a pair coming from Matra Sports' own collection and one from David Piper, who also brought two Ford F3Ls, one being his recreation of the one lost in Chris Irwin's Nurburgring accident, to join Richard Thwaites' version which the owner shared with Australian saloon superstar Frank Gardner, who probably drove as many racing and development miles in the F3L in its heyday as anyone. It was 23 years since Frank had spent any time in the old country and he was relishing his visit, offering finely honed responses to questions which reduced his audience to fits of laughter. He was also reunited with his 1968 Alan Mann Escort Twin-Cam which has been beautifully restored by Ken Shipley.

Another superb restoration was the Championship-winning Brabham-Repco BT19, looking very '1966', owned by the successor to the Repco company and driven by Sir Jack himself, while 1961 Champion Phil Hill shook down an ex-Amon Ferrari 312, complete with its spaghetti exhausts, and also practised Dave Gilmour's sharknose Dino '196SP sportscar. Another Amon car was the 1972 Matra MS120D whose wail was eagerly anticipated by those who remembered, or who had simply read about it.

Although a large number of entrants chose to run in the demonstration category, amongst those who opted to be timed there was no want of trying. GP driver-turned TV commentator Jonathan Palmer has become something of a Goodwood specialist and this year Frank Williams placed at his disposal an ex-Alan Jones FWO7B which proved to be an even better bet than last year's six-wheeler. After only one practice run, he produced a superb display over the narrow and daunting course, his first run of 45.37sec being pipped by 45sec dead on his second to claim a new hill record, 1.06sec quicker than last year. Marc Surer took up where he left off two years ago with his F2-Championship-winning March-BMW 792 and bettered his previous best of 49.28sec by stopping the clock at 48,77sec to claim second-FTD.

Impressed though the crowds were by these runs, the biggest cheers were reserved for whenever the works 1995 Ferrari 412T2 V12 of Eddie Irvine appeared. Probably thinking of other things he could have found to occupy a free weekend and foregoing the opportunity to vie for FTD, Eddie contented himself, on an unfamiliar track in an unfamiliar car, by playing to the gallery and wowing the appreciative multitude with a series of electrifying starts and sprints which shrouded the Ferrari in tyre-smoke all the way up the hill. This was the first ever works Ferrari hillclimb entry, and it gave spectators what may be the last opportunity to savour the sheer thrill of a works V12 Ferrari on song. All this effort took its toll, for the Irishman was limited to a single run on Sunday as a drive-shaft failed when he spun the car round to line up for his final run — but it is rumoured that the entire Ferrari equipe have put their names down for next year!

A contender with the GP and F2 drivers for driver of the day would have to be Michele Mouton who muscled her David Sutton Audi Quattro S1 up the hill to third FTD, pipping the early pacesetter in the World Rally Champions class, Gwyndaf Evans with the Escort Cosworth, and finishing well clear of Stig Blomqvist's RS200.

John Surtees assembled an MV Agusta tribute of superb quality, including four bikes from his own collection, and gathered together an illustrious roll-call of riders including Tommy Robb, Phil Read, Stuart Graham and, as a last-minute surprise, Giacomo Agostini, who probably turned as many heads as any of the four-wheel brigade.

Off-track, the Ford Rally Stage was well supported all weekend and the Mulberry Challenge Trophy to determine the finest sporting car fell to David Vine's 1937 BMW 328. The Cartier 'Style et Luxe', which is much more than a Concours, drew an array of fifty of the finest pre-1940 carriages and automobiles with the overall award going to the Dutch National Motor Museum's 1932 Bugatti T5OT profilee, while a special Judge's award for the 'Most Voluptuous Car of the Event' was made to the Figoni et Falaschi-bodied 1937 Delahaye 135M drophead coupe of William Connor II.

Forming a centrepiece in front of Goodwood House, Richard Noble's Thrust SSC made its public debut prior to leaving for Jordan, where its first tests are to be under taken before Andy Green attempts to take the Land Speed Record supersonic in Nevada in September.

In only four years, Lord March and his team have created the greatest historic car event in the world; it now becomes difficult to envisage how the inexorable roll can continue without some risk of losing its focus which, up to now, has proved so appealing, and without alienating the hardcore enthusiast, so the plans for next year's Festival are eagerly awaited.