Everybody’s ears pricked up.What a fantastic noise! I, and several others, hastened over the bridge, across the lawn — and gaped. Mercedes had fired up its W154. Waaaap! Rip. Waaap! Rip. A heat haze. A whiff of boot polish. A jet of flame that set said greensward alight. More revs. More revs. Big blip. Off.
Stunned silence. Broken by a very British ripple of applause that said much more than any number of Mexican Waves and American High Fives ever could.
The Goodwood Festival of Speed was, as ever, an amazing show: 120,000 people weren’t wrong. Yet here I sit already on the verge of the superb Revival Meeting.
And between now and then there are the VSCC meetings at Prescott (always a delight) and Silverstone, MAC’s centenary event at Shelsley and Silverstone’s very own revamped three-day Historic Festival. Of course, you could always give VSCC Silverstone a miss and take in Nürburgring’s Oldtimer Grand Prix. After the Revival, there is the Manx Classic and a big historic meet at Imola (a track and area well worth a visit).
There seems no end to it. And, having barged — Pm afraid there is no genteel way to describe it — through Goodwood’s Formula One paddock (not so sure about the increased looming presence of Fl trucks), it’s clear demand for such events is increasing. Without question, historic racing is the boom sector of the sport.
Why? We’re back to that show thing again. Access. Sights. Sounds. Slides. Variety. The British Touring Car Championship had all this once — and may yet again. The British GT series is attempting to replace it, but lacks the mass appeal of doorhandling. I’ve-got-one-of-those’ family saloons. F3, though still crucial to the continued success of the sport, has never had it.
NASCAR has, though. In heaps. Just to see Darrell Waltrip stride through the Goodwood paddock, Evel Knievel stripes on his tailored overalls, silver flashes on his boots glinting in the sun, is to know that you are in the presence of a presence. Quotable, approachable, marketable. And quick.
Just like Juan Pablo Montoya, who was mobbed by expat Colombians at Goodwood, and squirted the latest Williams-BMW up the hill without having checked the course out — not even on foot
So all is well?
Well, today’s racing car will always be tomorrow’s historic contender. And history is created every day. But can it keep growing at the same rate? Everybody appears to want a slice of the action, a piece of the pie. Yes, it is great to see Jackie Oliver in a GT40, or Rene Arnoux in an F1 Renault, but as the smaller clubs and Octagon argue the toss about circuit hire costs for 2002, it’s vital there remains an outlet for Austin 7 specials and the like.