Not many of us were lucky enough to witness slicks-and-wings Formula 1 cars being put through their paces on solitary mid-week test days at the scruffy Goodwood Motor Circuit during the 1970s and ’80s, long after the place had closed for racing. The few who did recall the incongruity of vivid modernity, ferocious speed and a blaring DFV-tuned soundtrack in an old-world setting. Did Nelson Piquet really conjure a sub-minute lap in a turbo Brabham BT52? Such is the stuff of motor racing fable.
At the 74th Members’ Meeting in March, there were 30,000 on hand to witness glorious ground-effect F1 cars power through Goodwood’s sweeping bends and down its bumpy (not often) straight bits. The scene wasn’t quite period in its accuracy, of course. Scruffy is no longer a word you can ever associate with the Sussex circuit, which looked resplendent once again in daffodil yellow and Members’ Meeting blue for this third edition of the revived ‘clubbie’. Also, record-breaking laps were far from the agenda for these demo runs, although enough were pushing on to give a lovely flavour of how it must have been in those ‘wilderness’ years, in cars that looked so wide and brutal on the airfield’s narrow perimeter track. James Hanson certainly wasn’t hanging about in a Williams FW07B, while myriad Lotuses – including Dario Franchitti having the time of his life in the twin-chassis Type 88 – created a wonderful spectacle. Rich in number and diversity, from Alfa Romeo 179 to Osella FA1 and many more, this was the best high-speed demo yet at Goodwood – if you didn’t count the Group 5 sports cars that had also congregated to put on a feast.
There were eight Porsche 917s, with the likes of Derek Bell and Richard Attwood belted in, and a couple of Ferrari 512s, one in long-tail spec, along with McLaren M6GT and Lola T70s. It’s something of a Goodwood cliché, but… where else? The colourful collection of 1990s super tourers completed a stunning display, both in the paddock and on track.
One of the pleasures of such happenings at Goodwood is the unencumbered view one enjoys without the mesh of modern debris fencing that lines most other circuits. It’s all so close too – and first thing on Sunday we were given a forceful reminder of that proximity after just a single lap of the Tony Brooks Trophy. Stephen Bond escaped with minor injuries from a cartwheeling shunt that started when his Lotus 18 was collected by Richard Wilson’s out-of-control Cooper and ended with him plunging into the pit straight pedestrian tunnel tail first. That he was essentially OK was miraculous enough; that no one was at the time walking where he landed even more so. Then there’s the wheel that was flung from his car into the area reserved for disabled spectators… How Goodwood’s luck held out this time, we will never know.
Lola T70 Spyder driver Michiel Smits must be asking himself the same question. His impact at Woodcote during the Bruce McLaren Trophy for Can-Am and Group 7 cars left those who witnessed it fearing the worst.
He emerged shaken and with relatively minor injuries – unlike his almost unrecognisable racing car. Scary stuff.
Red flags and safety cars blighted too many races on the Sunday, as wonderful as the grids might have been. Questions will continue to be asked about the experience and competence of drivers, particularly in the more powerful classes, and it’s surely time for a firmer line to be drawn – even if talent is not always the arbiter of safety.
On the brighter side, the Group 1 saloons of the 1970s and ’80s once again put on a fantastic display of door-handle racing, with father-and-son duo Grahame and Oliver Bryant prevailing in their Chevrolet Camaro over the Rover SD1 of Chris Ward and Gordon Shedden.
On their first Goodwood appearance, Edwardian racers and aero-engined dinosaurs put on a fantastic spectacle in the SF Edge Trophy. We were watching through our fingers on occasion at the corner known as ‘no-name’ as Mathias Sielecki’s Delage and Julian Majzub’s Sunbeam Indianapolis duelled with Duncan Pittaway’s tiny GN Curtiss. Nimbleness beat brute strength in this one, after a display of physical skill that won’t easily be forgotten.
The Hailwood Trophy was another Members’ Meeting first, with motorcycles a welcome addition to the bill. We’re used to Nortons and Matchless hordes at the Revival each September, but this time Yamaha dominated the entry as 250cc and 350cc machines from the 1970s and early ’80s buzzed around. Three-time TT winner Ian Simpson was the class of the field on his TZ350E.
On the Saturday evening a full grid of Ford GT40s raced into darkness for the Alan Mann Trophy. Touring car legend Steve Soper took the win in the car he was sharing with David Cuff, while Sam Hancock dominated the meeting-closing dusk race on Sunday, leading from pole in Ben Shuckburgh’s Cunningham C4R to claim the Peter Collins Trophy for drum-braked ’50s sports cars. More on this next month.
Other highlights included a fantastic battle between the Cobra Coupés of James Cottingham and Andrew Smith for Graham Hill Trophy honours, but it was curtailed by the safety car – an unhappy theme for the day. By Sunday evening, there was a collective sigh of relief that race stoppages and interruptions were as far as the bad news went. Damien Smith