Talk curve: historic motorsport insight

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Lancia Beta Monte Carlo or bust!

The five finalists in the Motor Sport/HSCC ‘Your Chance to be a Racing Driver’ competition gathered at Goodwood to be put to the test. Damien Smith reports

The racing novices that stepped out of the Alfa Romeo 156 road car had one thing in common: wide smiles. And that was the main purpose of this competition run in conjunction with the Historic Sports Car Club — to give five lucky readers a first taste of the thrills of competition driving.

The winner would go forward to make their debut at the HSCC season finale at Silverstone on October 16. Keen historic racer and classic car dealer Richard Thorne had been kind (and brave!) enough to offer a Lancia Beta Monte Carlo for this purpose in the 1970s Roadsports event, adding a little Italian flair to a very special prize.

The five assembled at Goodwood on a sunny August morning to be put through their race paces by the circuit’s excellent Mithril Racing school. Instructor Colin Wells took them through a thorough briefing, then handed out an exam paper that forms part of the official ARDS test, which each novice must pass to be granted a racing licence.

Motor Sport had picked out a quintet that varied in background and age. At one end of the spectrum was retired bank manager Dave Airston, a motorsport fanatic since his teens; at the other was Lucy Bromley, an 18-year-old student who had been persuaded to enter the competition by her father. They were joined by 29-year-old graphic designer Chris Wainwright, 36-year-old City worker Mark Parry and 30-year-old internet editor Nick Cammell. All were delighted to get the written part of the competition out of the way to allow them to concentrate on the fun bit.

Instructor Wells had talked them through a lap of the ultra-quick 2.4-mile circuit and now it was time to show them how it should be done. After a few laps watching Wells as passengers, each took their turn behind the wheel of the silver Alfa.

As always with racing schools, speed was not the benchmark they would be judged by. “I am looking for competency behind the wheel and a good technique,” explained Wells. “The speed will come later.”

For every driver of any level of experience, it is rare to get as much time out on a race circuit in a single day as one wishes. Therefore it was hardly surprising that each finalist was left wanting more after their handful of laps around the daunting track — and they all thought they could have gone faster!

The five proved very competent behind the wheel and the scores, combined with those exam results, were extremely close. But it was Mr Wainwright who emerged as the winner. “This is the chance of a lifetime,” he said. “I can’t wait.”

Chris will complete his ARDS test proper before Silverstone and his race. He will test on the National Circuit the day before the meeting, then it’s time for business. We’ll let you know how he gets on next month.

• For more details on Mithril Racing school, call 01243 528815

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