Historic Scene - The Revival's racing referee

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Gordon Cruickshank

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Former racer Win Percy is the man Lord March trusts to ensure Goodwood’s historic meeting doesn’t end in tears

Goodwood Revival was as exciting as ever — and for some entrants, a damn sight too exciting. Racing accidents will always happen, but there seems to be something about such a highprofile meeting which, like one too many pints, strips away inhibitions. In some races we saw driving more suitable for the Clio Cup than in a field so precious you could barely buy it with that Cambridge couple’s Euromillions.

Not all these clashes or ‘offs’ were blameable — a race meeting without a bent panel would be a wondrous thing. But given Goodwood’s unusual circumstances — limited run-offs and earthcovered tyre banks — and the lack of carbon-fibre safety cells or crumple zones in a 1950s or ’60s racing car, the consequences can be significant.

Following some previous impacts, Goodwood introduced a driving standards official. For four years this has been Win Percy, touring car champion and Le Mans pilot, and after the meeting I spoke to him about his weekend. Naturally neither he nor Goodwood would comment on specific incidents or drivers, but I wanted to know where he draws a line, and how carefully he has to tread.

“It’s the only old-style track we have left,” Percy says. “It’s fast and flowing, it tempts you into flirting with the verges, adding speed, putting a bit more steering in. I recognise the lure — I love the Revival, I did many of them and I miss it terribly.” (Win was a popular driver here until the medical error that left him part-paralysed.) “But it’s easy to forget that over the grass is not Tarmac run-off but an unyielding barrier. You get invited here either because you’re a famous driver, you have a great car, or to put on a good display. It’s an honour; you’re not getting points. I have to make people realise that places don’t count. But there are some diehards you’ll never get through to.

” So what sort of weapon can he wield in the drivers’ briefing? “No weapons, I just point out that there are drivers here who’ve had yellow cards, and others who aren’t here at all. My message is, if there’s any doubt when lapping or passing, which is when most incidents happen, think twice. The only thing at stake is the future of the meeting. The biggest stick I can wave is to say ‘do you want it on your conscience that it was your actions that hurt somebody — or even ended Goodwood?”

And what about after an incident? Some of these people are very big names. “I say exactly the same things to them as to the inexperienced guy who’s invited for his car. Sometimes they come to me to explain an incident, but if comments have to be made, I face them. And some people say ‘thanks for saying that’.”

Percy has no direct power over drivers, as he points out. “I work for Lord March and Goodwood. I advise, I comment, I discuss with the Clerk of the Course, then I present my report. It’s up to March’s team what happens next.”

We spoke in September, when Win had just finished that report. Was there an ‘action list’? “Certain people are named. I’ll present it to the team shortly, but I have no part in any further action.” But as an invitation-only event, Goodwood has a unique deterrent available — the empty letter box come entry time.

Win deserves credit for handling this difficult and invisible post. There’s no payment, no kudos, and he sits in front of TV monitors all weekend. “It’s got to be that way. I have to see it for myself,” he says. “I took it on when I decided not to renew my race licence, but I miss the fun of the meeting, the atmosphere. Every year I say I can’t do it again — but I’ve already agreed for next time!”

We miss Win’s cheerful face in the paddock, too. But for the Revival to survive, someone needs to be in that cabin. Thanks, Win.

Gordon Cruickshank

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