A 1978 Hawk Formula Ford versus Fangio’s 1951 title-clinching Alfa Romeo 159; the windswept (and challenging) Ty Croes circuit on Anglesey versus the manicured lawns, champers and jet set of the Festival of Speed; car on a trailer, one-man tent versus transporter, country pile; handful of speccies at a round of the BRSCC’s North West Pre-1987 FFord series versus 150,000 at Goodwood. In the space of a week I experienced the extremes of historic motorsport — and loved ’em both.
The first took the shape of my race debut. I’ve always fought shy of going racing. First off, I’ve seen how it is done properly and know how much that costs. Secondly, I’ve always deemed it a no-win (literally) situation: the long shot would be to unearth a hidden talent, then suffer the frustration of not being able to use it because of cash flow problems; the more likely scenario — off the pace and in the way — would be even more annoying.
A misfire and leaky gearbox prevented any testing — and ate into the first half of a very short qualifying session. The end result was 12th on the grid — a distant last if you wish to be pedantic. In the race itself I put on a bravado show of oversteer, found 2.5sec — and was lapped twice on my way to 11th. Okay, okay, make that last. I can’t deny that I was disappointed by my ‘speed’, but the overriding feeling was euphoria.
At Goodwood that was replaced by a deep humbleness. Having parked my works Alfa, swapped motor racing tick-tack with my blue-overalled, non-English-speaking mechanics, I walked down the line of the cars and stars waiting to ascend: John Surtees, Sirs Stirling Moss and Jack Brabham. Yikes! Better not stall it. However, halfway up the hill, euphoria had kicked back in.
True, I have now confirmed my fear that I will never make a racing driver — at Ty Croes (its main straight overlooks the Irish Sea) and Goodwood I found myself briefly taking in the views — but in doing so I enjoyed my two most memorable outings as Editor. Now I know why Schumacher jumps for joy on the podium. What I don’t know is how he carries so much speed into a corner.