Rob Widdows

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A fresh fixture for goodwood

Members Only. A phrase you never want to see. Unless you are a Member.

It was Groucho Marx who observed that he would refuse to join any club that would have him as a member. I know what he means, although I did start a Motor Club at school as a ruse to avoid playing cricket.

That aside, the Goodwood Road Racing Club (GRRC) has no problem attracting members. In fact there is a frustratingly long waiting list. I mention this because Goodwood will stage a Members Meeting next March and there have been some dark mutterings from Revival devotees who have not joined the club.

If you are already a member you will likely be feeling pretty smug. You, and four guests, will automatically gain admission to the Goodwood Members Meeting, scheduled for March 29-30, 2014. If you are not signed up, you won’t be going. Unless, of course, you can persuade a member to take you as a guest.

So why has Goodwood decided to stage such a restricted event on the only two ‘noisy’ days that have remained unused out of the five available each year? And might this new event take some of the shine off the hugely popular and highly respected Revival in September?

The man with the answers is the Earl of March, who re-invented Goodwood back in 1998 and who has a reputation for staging what are arguably the best motor racing events on the planet. So, I asked him, quite simply, why Members Only, and how can such an event be as good as the Revival?

“We’ve always had two spare days without any noise restrictions,” he says, “and we always planned to do something with them, but we’ve been a bit busy with the Festival and the Revival. Now we need to grow, do something different, and look after our members. What I want to do is recreate the original members meetings at Brooklands and Goodwood, so this will be the 72nd of those, and it will be different from the Revival. It will be very simple, very authentic, very British, a throwback to racing at Goodwood in its simplest form, an intimate occasion for members and their friends, just as it used to be. Like many clubs, it’s not easy to get in, but it’s not like the MCC, or White’s, where you can wait 20 years; the queue is always moving. The Members Meeting is not a new idea – it’s how it used to be; you showed your membership badge and you came in.”

But how will the new meeting be different from the successful Revival in September?

“First and foremost, everyone will get up close to the racing, like a big family outing, a chance to get really involved in the whole thing. There will be far less infrastructure, a very small corporate presence, if any, and everyone will get close to the racing, so I hope they’ll feel that they really are a part of it. There will be very little hospitality, everyone will eat together, drivers and members, and I’m expecting a crowd of 14,000 or so, so it will feel totally different. There will be entertainment in the evening, and something fun to see wherever you go during the day, but at the heart of the event is the racing. That’s why people come.”

So what kind of racing, what types of cars, can we expect in March?

“There will be some blockbuster cars, like the Revival, but you won’t always see a Ferrari GTO. The overall mix will be different, and we will have later cars, as late as the MSA permit allows. You’ll see a 1970s touring car race and, more importantly, we’ll celebrate the years when the circuit was used for testing, which means high-speed demo laps for 1980s F1 cars. That should be pretty interesting…”