For the first time in my life I have declined an offer to drive a race car. I've come quite close in the past, invariably because the dimensions of its cockpit and those of this editor have been sadly at variance but, this time, I was just too scared.
The scene is the press day for the Goodwood Festival of Speed and the Revival meeting, the plan a few light hearted squirts up Lord March's front drive. The car is the magnificent Broadspeed Jaguar XJ12 coupe, as raced by Derek Bell in the mid-70s and which took pole position in every race it ever entered. Great fun.
The problems start with the weather which, frankly, is foul: cold as hell, blowing a gale and pouring with rain. Problem two is the car has in excess of 500bhp, numbers three and four that its tyres are 25-year old slicks. What does it, however, is a throttle which opens beautifully but shows rather more reluctance to close. Every time I touched the accelerator I would have to hook a foot behind it and pull it back before it blew the original and unrestored engine into a million bits.
It was such a shame, one of a breed of trivial little problems which affect all old racers from time to time, but when Don Law suggested the car was undriveable I can't say I leapt forward to protest. But all is not lost; it will be back in business soon both for Bell to drive at the Festival and for you to read about on these pages.
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I was sufficiently interested in Bernie Ecclestone's assertion that women drivers will never again make it to the top rank of the sport to commission Mark Hughes to take a look at those who have come before (Ladies First on page 40). Of them all it was the name of Desiré Wilson that came shining through. Then her husband, Alan, wrote to me offering this further food for thought. She qualified on the front row of her first ever F1 race; the only two of her co-drivers in sportscars ever to lap quicker than her were Thierry Boutsen and John Fitzpatrick; in her first ever race in a Porsche 935 she qualified a second faster than any other 935 driver; she shared a car with Indycar veteran Lyn St James at Le Mans in 1991 and was twelve seconds a lap quicker in qualifying and never less than eight seconds swifter in the race. Selective quotes? Yes. From a biased source? Of course. But, you'll agree, food for thought nonetheless.
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Dazzled by the response we have received to various mentions of the Grand Prix Legends computer game on these pages, we have decided to give it away. The only catch is you have to subscribe first; do so and I have little doubt that you will find the game more than worth the money on its own. You will find further details on page 18.
Cover: Gunnar Nilsson driving the Lotus 78, Spanish Grand Prix, 1977