It just isn’t sensible to leave brick-built walls lying around in the middle of a motor race circuit. As Molesworth would have put it “…as everbody kno”. But the self-evident hazards of such an exercise were regarded as A Good Idea back in 1952 when the Club Corner chicane was introduced at Goodwood, to slow and deflect race traffic away from a trajectory which had seen them drifting round the curve away from Woodcote Corner and sliding threateningly close to the pits and pitlane.
So it was that Goodwood’s famous chicane was introduced, and I guess the hazard it posed was so daunting that its brick walls on the right-hand entry and left-hand exit apex survived substantially free of attack for years. Many spinners clattered through the timber sections of the chicane, and numerous runners misjudged their line and scraped the brickwork, but hardly anybody gave it a real clout. Until Easter Monday 1957, that is, when Jean Behra lost the brakes on his BRM Type 25 and scored a monstrous direct hit on the exit wall which broke the whole assembly off its foundation – and didn’t do great favours to the BRM either. But the brickwork was cemented back into place, and the hazard endured.
In the FJ race at the 1963 TT meeting, American rising star Timmy Mayer had his Tyrrell Cooper’s caliper fail as he braked for the chicane. So he whacked the wall. It wasn’t the BARC’s greatest moment as in the confusion yellow flags ‘under-performed’, oil gushed across the track and the ambulance was sent first to Woodcote Corner. Spectating drivers Keith Greene, Jim Russell and Andrew Hedges all pitched in to help, and Timmy was removed to hospital with thankfully minor neck injuries.
In Goodwood’s last frontline F1 race, on Easter Monday, 1965, Jo Siffert whacked the wall head-on and bowed his Walker Brabham’s chassis vertically like a banana. Again he escaped ‘unhurt’, denying what were in fact painful rib and shoulder injuries.
But the brick wall lived on. And on. Goodwood chief marshal Ted Croucher recalls its nemesis: “The Team Surtees transporter finally took it out at the end of a test day in the ’70s. John wasn’t at all happy with his blokes: ‘And now I find I’ve got to drive the bloody transporter as well!’”.
At a recent meeting of the National Motor Museum’s advisory council, one fellow member – a motorcycle specialist – offered a delightfully penetrating description of the wood-trim fascia quality offered by a leading British motor manufacturer in the 1960s.
I hadn’t heard it before; I apologise if you have. He recalled, “Wasn’t it said that their wooden trim panels were so poor that the woodworm had to bring their own sandwiches?”