There’s not an event in the world that comes remotely close to the Goodwood Revival (above). A lot of people have tried, and there are some other great events, but England is the only place where you could create this kind of thing. Goodwood is the only circuit where it would work, and Lord March is a visionary with a team of people who have the energy and the commitment to make it happen. These guys really know how to throw a party. It’s just unique, and everybody wants to be a part of it.
I told my wife I was thinking of giving it a miss this year because it clashed with the Indycar race in Japan. She said ‘OK, you can go to Japan, but I’m going to Goodwood’. For a guy who loves racing to have his wife or girlfriend tell him she’s going to a race with or without him, that could only happen with Goodwood. You know, you don’t ever hear them say ‘let’s go to Magny-Cours’ – right? You see so many old friends you never see anywhere else, so it’s a tremendous reunion for racing people.
This year I was back racing with Adrian Newey in his lightweight E-type Jaguar in the RAC TT Celebration race which we’ve won in the past, so the pressure was on. Everybody thinks Adrian must have re-engineered the car but I don’t think that’s the case – it’s just a real quick car and so nimble. We all want to win and for some of us – the ex-professionals – it’s a matter of honour. We want people to see us at our best and not have them saying ‘well, you know, he never was that quick anyway’. So yeah, it’s real racing, and the circuit is fast, with very few places to go if something goes wrong.
Which is exactly what happened when the right rear wheel came off the car at one of the fastest places out there. I’d just taken over from Adrian at the pitstop and there was no warning. I heard the sound of metal on metal, and then I saw the wheel passing by my driver’s door. There wasn’t much I could do. I was concerned about the Cobra ahead of me, and we touched slightly before the Jaguar went onto the grass and into the tyre wall. We hit pretty hard and I felt a bit sore and bruised afterwards – and of course the car was knocked about which is such a shame. But I guess we were lucky, I didn’t hit my head on anything, and it might have been a lot worse.
I felt sorry for Adrian – but he was my engineer in 1984 and ’85 and we’ve always had a phenomenal relationship. In those days he was the engineering department, there was no data acquisition, stuff like that, so it was up to me to tell him what the car was doing and up to him to interpret that and make the right decisions. That was very successful and it still holds today – I get out of the car and he’s nodding before I even get the words out. And Adrian is a darn good driver, very competitive, and he drives the car to where he thinks it should go.
Historic racing is all about the tyres – you have so much less grip than with the modern cars that we race. You drive today’s cars on the front end, go storming into the corners and then get back on the throttle all the way from the apex. Driving historic cars is much more of a ﬁne art, you’re balancing the cars on the throttle and there’s much more of a feeling involved – seat of the pants if you like – and so you’re drifting, sliding and using the power to balance the car. You need to be more sensitive, it’s not so physical as a modern car and you don’t have the downforce to hold the car on the road. People talk a lot about the brakes, or lack of brakes, but actually it’s much more about the tyres.
So, all in all, not the Goodwood Revival I was expecting. I spent a few days recuperating in Paris before setting off for Spa where I was back out in my Lola and in a Shelby Mustang for the six-hour race. There’s never a dull moment in what has been a hectic year so far.