The ‘Test match special’ article (September issue) brought back memories of my first visit to Goodwood in 1974, when I was in the area for a few days.
All around the entrance were signs advising ‘No photography without written permission’. Puzzled, I went into the control tower and spoke to the man on duty. He said as long as I didn’t photograph aircraft I would be OK. We had a deal! More importantly he said that if I hung around I might see the McLaren team testing. Wow!
Late in the day, a convoy of vehicles drove in. A Luton-type Transit van, in Yardley livery, was unloaded. What came out I could not determine: I’d never seen a single-seater like this one.
I managed to find who was in charge and asked what it was. He eyed me suspiciously but when I explained that I was just a very keen (24-year-old) enthusiast he told me that this was the first shakedown run for that year’s Indy 500 car. No wonder I didn’t recognise it; I’d never seen a turbocharger before.
“Could I take photos please?” “Only if they are for your own personal use.” Another deal, although because of the poor light, late afternoon in February, they are not of publishable quality.
Jody Scheckter was the driver. After a few exploratory sessions checking for leaks, etc, and with strict instructions not to go over 5000rpm because the power came in with a real bang, he went out again. The car could be heard all the way round the circuit.
Then, suddenly, a rapid rise in engine note, a squeal of tyres, a thump and then silence. For a brief moment nobody moved… and then panic. People jumped into any vehicle available, including the trusty Land Rover fire tender and an ancient St John’s ambulance, and headed off around the circuit. The car was towed back, minus front wing but otherwise undamaged.
Jody arrived in the ambulance, the back doors burst open and he leapt out, threw his helmet into the back of his Cortina, jumped into the car and drove off without saying a word. The day was over. I went and thanked my man in the control tower who said, ‘Come back tomorrow. There’s a couple of teams booked in.’ Wow again…