Goodwood has just held its press day where us hacks are kept up to speed with what the Earl of March has planned for this year’s Festival of Speed and the racetrack. A conference and a cup of coffee would have sufficed, but such is not His Lordship’s style.
This day now seems bigger than the first Festival, held back in 1993. Apart from the privilege of scorching up the hill in cars as diverse as a new Porsche 911, Chrysler Viper GTS and one of my dream motors, a 1970 Dodge Hemi Charger, there were several sights I shall be taking to my grave. One, to be fair, was a sound and it was emitted by the recently unearthed and gloriously tatty Matra MS120B which claimed pole and led the famed 1971 Italian Grand Prix until Chris Amon’s visor came adrift, something of a hindrance in a race won at over 150mph. Then there was Jochen Mass spin turning a 1990 Group C Mercedes C11 in the field at the top and our intrepid Grand Prix Editor jammed into the near non-existent passenger space of a Le Mans winning Porsche 936 that had just been belted up the hill by Derek Bell. If you ever pondered the definition of exquisite agony, it could be found written all over Simon’s face.
Lunch that day was particularly illuminating. The aforementioned Mr Bell was locked in a discussion with Murray Walker and John Surtees, the subject? Michael Schumacher and his actions at Spa last year. The notion that his altercation with Coulthard was unforgiveable made Bell, in particular, bridle. “The problem is that unless you have actually done it you will never have any idea of the pressures you are under. Those who say it was a terrible thing to do are not qualified to make such a judgment. Until you have been there, you cannot understand.” Surtees agreed vigorously and then threw light on the accident itself when I asked why Schumacher, with an impregnable lead was still on the limit “Because that was probably safest for him. When you are driving that hard, everything seems actually to slow down. If you slow down, you break that rhythm and unavoidably interfere with your concentration. I can’t tell you how many races I’ve seen thrown away by drivers deciding to ease off…” A racer’s perspective if ever there was one.
We’re asking for another 15 pence for MOTOR SPORT this month and rather than keep mum and hope you don’t notice, I thought you deserved an explanation. Simply, if we are to continue to take this title forward and invest in it properly, we need your help. I care little that we still cost no more than the opposition. What matters more is that you think this magazine is worth it and that its future is something you continue to want to support.