The sight and sound of the sole surviving V16 Auto Union mountain climb car, a great silver fish of a machine which slithered and growled under expert control, twin rear wheels scrabbling for grip in the omni-present rain, was as unforgettable to the 100,000 people who watched, entranced, at the fifth Goodwood Festival of Speed, as it was to its driver, Hans-Joachim Stuck.
As if the clock was turned back to 1939, when his father Hans wrestled this 600bhp monster, and its sister car, up such fearsome roads as Germany’s Grossglockner pass, magic reigned when the tall German climbed into the cockpit. Clad from head to toe in white, and wearing his father’s goggles over the soft kid leather helmet, the younger Stuck gave a virtuoso display.
“To be in the seat where my dad sat all those years ago is a very emotional thing,” said Hans-Joachim, a Festival debutant “The response of this engine is fantastic and the chassis is surprisingly forgiving, but I have to thank my father for the idea of the extra wheels which give so much more grip in the wet. This whole weekend has been a great experience for me.”
It was a sentiment that echoed through the arboreal paddocks surrounding the majestic Goodwood House, once more host to perhaps the finest array of cars and motorcycles ever assembled in one place, providing a visual and aural feast for a sea of smiling faces from five continents.
Our host, the Earl of March, and the team of stalwart ‘fixers’ who share his passion for motorsport (inherited from his grandfather, 1931 Brooklands Double Twelve race winner Freddie March) left no stone unturned in their quest to attract hitherto unseen vehicles. If the Auto Union astounded everybody under the age of 60, the participation of Jim Hall and his legendary Chaparral sportscars, in all their innovative splendour, brought joy to all equally.
“The Festival is an unbelievable event, and we are proud to have been invited,” said Hall, whose high-winged 2F roadrunner of 1967 brought to an end the Texan team’s successful campaigns in Europe. “It has been our privilege to run three cars, and to be caught up in the enthusiasm of so many people for Chaparrals.”
Former Le Mans winner Carroll Shelby was another American at the motorsport’s greatest garden party for the first time. Blown away by it, he made light of the rain. “Three days before I left we had eight inches in two hours, so this is just a light shower.” he joked, “but this meeting is absolutely a marvellous thing. Providing I’m on the right side of the grass next year I’ll be back.”
With thunder and lightning playing overhead to emphasise the drama, even the torrential rain, unprecedented in the event’s history, could not compete with cars and stars of this quality. “I’ve never seen weather like this in all my days at Goodwood,” said Shelby’s 1959 Aston Martin team mate Roy Salvadori, who would still rather be at the venue than anywhere else in the world.
Stars on the 1.16-mile hillclimb course, through the estate which has been home to the Dukes of Richmond and Gordon for 300 years, don’t come greater than Formula 1 World Champions Sir Jack Brabharn, Phil Hill, John Surtees, Emerson Fittipaldi (who was brilliant in last year’s Penske Indycar) and Jody Scheckter, while Surtees’s guests from the two-wheeled world included Barry Sheene and American Freddie Spencer for the first time, as well as Giacomo Agostini and Phil Read. “This event is sensational. There couldn’t be a better thing for motorsport,” said Sheene, in from Australia to ride a Suzuki RG500. Stirling Moss paid tribute to our late colleague Jenks with runs in Fangio’s Mercedes 300SLR (which trailed them home in the 1955 Mille Miglia) and ran side-by-side with Tony Brooks in Vanwalls to remember Aintree ’55. And first timers, Chris Amon, Carlos Reutemann (who wrung the neck of his old Brabham BT34 ‘lobster claw’), Bob Bondurant and quadruple World Rally champion Juha Kankkunen were among many stars who entered into the spirit.
Current Grand Prix drivers Eddie Irvine and Johnny Herbert had fun, Eddie sharing a 1985 Ferrari turbocar with Stefan Johansson (its original driver fresh from his Le Mans victory) and Rene Amoux. “It’s very important for the public to be able to make contact with drivers and see cars very near,” said Amoux. “At Goodwood I saw cars I have never seen in my life.”
`Decades of Power’ continued an evocative series of themes, and had it all — from American Buck Boudeman, who returned with the unbelievably sleek Stanley Turtle’ Steamer which reached almost 60mph in 1903 to the current Jordan-Peugeot F1 car, driven by designer Gary Anderson. Team boss Eddie Jordan also drove the original 191 for the first time. “It’s my little treasure and I’ve never enjoyed myself so much at an event,” said Eddie. “Goodwood has been an unbelievable pleasure for all of us at Jordan Grand Prix, and I think every Formula 1 team should make the effort to come here.”
Jody Scheckter revelled in the occasion too, fishtailing his 1979 World Championship-winning Ferrari 312T4 down the avenue to the first corner with gusto, its flat-12 wail reverberating through the trees. Thirty years of Cosworth DFV power was highlighted by Martin Stretton’s dextrous and equally musical display in Jackie Stewart’s 73 series-winning Tyrrell 005. “I only had one moment and it lasted from start to finish,” grinned the Historic ace. Stewart, watching with King Hussein of Jordan, seemed to approve.
The battle for best time of the weekend, more a matter of pride than an official accolade, between Germany’s rising star Nick Heidfeld (McLaren-Mercedes MP4/11B) and outright hill record holder Jonathan Palmer (in Damon Hill’s 1996 Williams-Renault FW18), was won by the former in 47.3sec in the only dry spell. Palmer, out to get his own back, was quicker in the wet. Despite the quagmire, competitors — supported by an army of officials — succeeded in providing spectators with memories to last a lifetime, against all odds. Lord March, still on a high after driving Porsche’s 936 Le Mans winner and the wild 911 GT1, as well as the Chaparral 2A, could smile no wider when Ernst Schuster (who made a gorgeous Porsche 907 fly) described his Festival of Speed as “the best organised event in the World.” MP
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