First time out...
So many of Britain’s greatest drivers made their name at Goodwood but none more so than the four on these pages who all had their first ever race on the Sussex circuit
Inaugural Goodwood Meeting, September 1948
The place was pretty bleak, but it was a lovely meeting. We went with our Cooper 500 in a horsebox, me, my father and mother and, I think, a girlfriend; it was very much a family thing then. We also brought along a German prisoner of war who’d been working on the farm, Don’ Muller, because he knew a bit about cars. We took our own fuel, as we were running alcohol; five gallons of that went a long way.
All the important drivers were there that day it was the first Goodwood meeting but I didn’t actually have much competition in my race, which I won with a bit of a margin.
It wasn’t the most difficult of circuits, but not the easiest either: Fordwater was a fast and demanding complex.
But the great thing about Goodwood was the friendly atmosphere. Everybody was friendly, from Freddie March, or the Duke of Richmond and Gordon as he was then, to the marshals on the corners.
We only lived six miles away from Goodwood, so I could hear the sound and almost smell the place while I was hoeing the sugar-beet, never thinking I would race there, let alone go on to become an international racer.
I got interested when my stepdad took me there, and I became a marshal – I was on duty the day Moss had his big accident.
Then I went off to college, and my next visit was my first-ever race. That was March 1964. My friend John Penfold and I had built up a Lotus 7 with a 1500 Cortina engine. I was supposed to run it in for 500 miles but it got to the night before and I got fed up and only did about 80. On the day it was pissing down, and because it was a libre race not only was our 100bhp Cortina lump up against Climax-engined stuff but also Hugh Dibley in the SMART (Stirling Moss Automobile Racing Team) Brabham BT8. The flag fell and I set off into the spray and I barely saw anyone after that — I never saw the Brabham at all.
Then I saw John holding up the pit-board with ‘P1′ on it. Being first had never entered our heads, so we didn’t have a ‘P’ or a ‘1’ in our box; he’d had to chalk it on. I won the race, and they gave me an alarm clock, which I still have today. Of course it was wonderful to win, but we were just so surprised as we were only racing for fun. We packed up and went home with our five-gallon oil drum and lapboard stuffed into the passenger seat, while Dibley and his crew were still loading his Brabham onto its trailer…
It was more than a dream, even though when I was doing the Jim Russell school beforehand, Russell kept going on about what a great future I had. I didn’t race at Goodwood again that year, but the following year in a Lotus 311 broke Jackie Stewart’s lap record there. So Goodwood means more to me than most people realise.
I also tested a Porsche 917 there for John Wyer it just shows how insignificant the danger was to us then. Of course the 917 was quite small compared to the 962, and I even drove one of those at Goodwood!
The first time I raced at Goodwood was the first time I had even seen a motor race. I’d been racing ‘bikes for a while, and Mike Hawthorn, Reg Parnell and Tony Vandervell had all told me I should try cars, so in 19591 tested an Aston DBR I of Parnell’s, and then Tony Vandervell sent a Vanwall down for me to try. They both offered me contracts, but it wasn’t until 1960 that I decided to mix cars and ‘bikes. I had met Ken Tyrrell by this time, and he announced that he had fixed up a race licence for me if I would drive one of his new Cooper-Austin Formula Juniors.
I qualified on the front row and had a big dice with Jim Clark, but on the last corner I made a mistake I forgot I was in a car not a bike, and he pipped me to the line. That was March 1960.1 didn’t drive at Goodwood any more that year because I joined the Lotus Formula One team. Of course I drove there later on in fact I should have won two TTs at Goodwood – I was leading them both, but Clark took me off in 1963, and then the following year Innes Ireland did the same.
There was never much in the way of facilities there, but then there wasn’t at any of the newer circuits. The older ones had established facilities there was even a hotel at the Nürburgring but there was nothing at the new airfield ones.
As a circuit? Well, it’s an airfield; but at least it’s not completely flat. Fordwater was a very teasing corner I remember losing the Vanwall there in testing but they’ve kept those two fast corners in the revived circuit. I’m looking forward to driving there again. This period dress code means it’s more formal than before, but it’s still less formal than anywhere else.
Yes, my first ever race was at Goodwood, in March 1952, in a second-hand Healey Silverstone with a Riley engine. Technically it was my mother’s; I persuaded her to trade in her MG TC and my Triumph Thunderbird motorbike for “something more suitable.” Of course, I didn’t let on what it was more suitable for… She put up with the car because she was quite keen on my racing a case of ignorance is bliss, especially then when safety was not much considered. She was rather sad when I eventually decided to give up racing.
She never came to the races, but on Friday night I would drive down to Goodwood in the Healey with my father after he had finished at his dental practice. We would stay the night at Bognor, then be scrutineered and practice on Saturday morning, do a couple of races in the afternoon, then drive back to Cheshire. It was about 220 miles home again, but in those days you could get along pretty quickly on ordinary roads, and I enjoyed driving so I didn’t mind. It was good for your discipline to have to protect the car; I did about seven races that year and managed to drive home from all of them.
I think they were nearly all at Goodwood. For Silverstone you had to be a member of the individual clubs, but I had joined the BARC whose meetings were at Goodwood. I might do one handicap and one scratch race, though I didn’t have a hope in the scratch event against Le Mans replica Frazer-Nashes and the like. I think I only won one handicap.
I have fond memories of Goodwood; it was always a drivers’ circuit. The facilities were very basic the pits had corrugated-iron roofs and were open front and back. They’d protect you from vertical rain but nothing else. We only had the tools we could carry, which was really just the standard toolkit. And we had to take our own petrol rationing was still on. We could just get a couple of jerrycans in the back.
Those races were well-attended, and there was a tremendous atmosphere; you really felt you were performing to a crowd, not just a handful of people. And they were well organised; Jeff Morgan, the Clerk of the Course, ran a tight ship.