Old Glory's Goodwood

American cars and drivers played a small but intriguing role in the history of the circuit. Paul Fearnley picks out the transatlantic highlights — and lowlights

Goodwood is quintessentially British; there's nothing quite so red, white and blue as the South Downs. There is, however, a tinge of Stars and Stripes within that...

It was the effervescent, Paris-born, card-carrying American (when it suited him, French when it didn't) Harry Schell who got the USA's Goodwood ball rolling in September 1950. His little Cooper T9 beat all corners in the meeting's third five-lap handicap. Amazingly, though, America would have to wait another nine years for its second driver success at the venue. But when it came, it was an important one.

British-born Tom Cole, the first American to race regularly in Europe after WWII, came close to it in 1952, finishing second in the first Nine Hours in a Ferrari 225 co-driven by Graham Whitehead. But it would be Carroll Shelby who eventually ended the wait. The Texan was a member of Aston Martin's late-1950s sportscar squad (and its less successful Formula One team). He'd finished third in the 1958 Tourist Trophy in a DBR1 shared with Stuart Lewis-Evans, and for the '59 event was paired with Jack Fairman in one of Feltham's three works cars entered for the world title-deciding TT. In the red corner were three Ferrari Testa Rossas, with an impressive driver line-up that included Dan Gurney and Phil Hill.

As usual, Stirling Moss hared into a big lead – only for disaster to strike when his DBR1 (with co-driver Roy Salvadori aboard) caught fire in the pits. Team boss Reg Parnell promptly called in the Shelby/Fairman car for Moss to take over and, as usual, Stirling charged back to the front, eventually winning the race– and the title – at a canter. Hill was credited with third, along with Brooks, Cliff Allison and Guido Cabianca, while Gurney brought the TR he'd shared with Brooks home in fifth.

There was another American angle to this famous race. Masten Gregory was in Ecurie Ecosse's Tojeiro-Jaguar when he effected Goodwood's greatest escape. When its brakes failed on the approach to Woodcote (some say he was trying too hard because he was off the pace of his young co-driver, a certain Jim Clark), he somehow managed to contort himself so that he was stood on his seat as the car slammed into the bank. Masten was flung out, breaking a rib and dislocating a shoulder, but he had taken the right option: his just-vacated cockpit snapped shut like a mantrap as the car folded.

Gregory wasn't the only American who attempted to merge car with crowd. Tommy Hitchcock was contesting the 1963 TT when his 250 GTO got out of shape at Madgwick, rolled and plonked itself atop the bank, within inches of the startled spectators. He would make amends two years later by scoring America's third Goodwood driver success, winning a 10-lapper in a Brabham BT8.

One to go. Yes, that's right, American drivers registered just four wins here, and the last of them was by Roy Pike, a Californian who came to the UK to pursue his dream, and who liked it so much that he still lives here. His Goodwood victory was registered in the F3 race at the 1965 Easter Meeting, his Brabham BT16 beating the BT10s of his muckers Piers Courage and Jonathan Williams.

American cars were slightly more successful but had to wait a long time before breaking their duck. Cadillac power brought Allards a number of wins in the early 1950s; Dizzy Addicott had a very successful '62 with a Lotus 15-Buick hybrid — two wins, three fastest laps; Jackie Stewart used Buick power to win a GT race in September '63 with Ecurie Ecosse's mid-engined Tojeiro. But it wasn't until the following year — 16 years after the circuit's first meeting — that a true 'Yank tank' scored a win. And even then it took the quintessentially English `Gentleman' Jack Sears to notch it up, his mighty Ford Galaxie beating the Lotus Cortinas of Jim Clark and Peter Arundell in the Easter Meeting's tin-top bash.

There are those who say that the AC Cobra is a British car, and that the Americans simply put the chrome on! But not even the most ardent cynic can deny that a brace of Shelby American Daytona Coupés driven by Gurney and Hill is as Mom's apple pie as motor racing gets — except that they were run by Alan Mann's Byfleet concern on this occasion. Carroll's men were chasing the 1964 GT title when they contested that year's TT, and Gurney did the business, finishing third overall and first GT.

On pole for that race was a car that would have a significant American legacy: Bruce McLaren's Oldsmobile-powered Elva. (Can-Am was just two years away.) Bruce raced the car at Goodwood again in Easter 1965, but was beaten in the Lavant Cup by Clark's Lotus 30, another lightweight British two-seater with hefty American V8 power. The big bangers were starting to kick in: John Coundley's Elva-Olds won that year's Whitsun Trophy, while Mike Salmon (Mustang) and John Sparrow (Cobra) also scored wins at that meeting. In the Easter Meeting of '66, 'Yogi' Muir's Falcon beat the Mustangs of Jack Brabham and Salmon in the St Mary's Trophy.

Road-racing American single-seaters, of course, have always been in short supply. Lance Reventlow's Scarab attempted to buck the trend, but when Chuck Daigh contested the 1961 Lavant Cup, run to the short-lived Intercontinental Formula, the front-engined machine was, as usual, off the pace. Which is why American F1 wannabes of the '50s and '60s had to turn to foreign machinery — even Jim Hall. This Texan would build some of the most ingenious sports-racers of all time, but when he still held aspirations of becoming world champion, he was at the wheel of a BRP-run Lotus 24-BRM, which he took to fourth place in the '63 Glover Trophy.

America has one more, unusual Goodwood legacy. Bob Said was racing a 500cc F3 in the early 1950s when Moss pointed out that Madgwick could be taken without lifting. Bob bravely followed this advice, but his times were not improved because of the extra understeer his more vigorous approach caused. That was the moment, Stirling has since explained, that he realised flat out was not always the quickest way.