A sticking throffle in the Chaparral led to a hairy moment for Vic Elford at Goodwood. But this wasn’t their first Festival meeting..

entlemen please, all back in your cars, the course cars are on the hill!” This was the cue for the packed finish paddock at the Goodwood

Festival of Speed to become a flurry of action as sweating drivers gulped back their hastily-taken drinks, broke off conversations with pals, acquaintances and old rivals, and prepared for the often hectic procession back downhill to their respective paddocks.

I crammed myself back into the Equipe Endeavour E-type Jaguar in which Graham Hill had scored the model’s first-ever race win 50 years ago at Oulton Park in 1961, jabbed the starter button and reached for first gear. At that moment the view ahead, beyond Andy Willis in Aba Kogan’s glorious Matra V12, just vanished in a billowing great cloud of dun-coloured dust. Ears already tingling with the throb and scream of V8s, V12s, flat-12s, V10s and straight-sixes picked up the dominant descant of a snowmobile two-stroke engine wailing at constant speed like a model aeroplane. The Chaparral lads from Midland Texas had just fired up the Rockwell JLO motor which drives the sucker

fans on their 2J `Suckercar’ and ahead of that vast sunflower of billowing dust Vic Elford was about to head our return trip down the Sussex hill.

On its last visit to the Festival of Speed this charismatic Chaparral had given Vic a few queasy moments when drizzle dampened the surface. We were standing then under the trees by the Cathedral Paddock exit when Vic explained that the 2J was on slick tyres without any spares, so as the rain intensified there was no way they would run again that afternoon. “Oh no,” he said, “far too dangerous.” The conversation rambled on about old times with Porsche 917s, 911s and the works Ford rally cars when Chaparral Cars’ founder Jim Hall himself strode up to join us. “Hi guys,” he said before turning to Vic and saying quietly, “The fans here

will wanna see us run again this afternoon. Even though we’ve only got the slicks I think we oughta run — don’t you, Vic?” Whereupon Vic, bless him, instantly said, “Yes! Quite right, couldn’t agree more, Jim.” And he took the rumbling 2J with its wailing sucker-engine back down to the start, swung her around and came shimmering up through the drizzle — trailing a fog banner of atomized spray in his wake. This year on his last run the Goodwood road was dry as he blared beneath the footbridge and over the deceptively blind brow into the 90-degree left-hander at Molecomb Corner. “Something didn’t feel quite right as I began to brake,” he explained later, “then I realised the throttle had stuck open! I flung on left lock and amazingly it just went whaammm straight round, unbelievably fast. I did the rest of the climb riding the brakes, with the front wheels just about locking and the torque converter absorbing the excess drive — then coasted up to the top paddock to let the system cool off… If it hadn’t been the Chaparral sucker car there is no way I would

ever have got round that corner…”

“Yeah, that sucker system works great,” said the Chaparral lads back in the paddock. “The driver wasn’t too bad either,” I added. “Thank you, Doug,” grunted Vic, just behind me: unsolicited testimonial — he owes me 10 shillings.