2007 Goodwood Revival
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Autumn Colours

John Elwin has been racking up the kilometers during the latter part of the season, Goodwood, Spa and Reims, magical names all, have been his destinations......here are his thoughts and his visions.............till next year.

John Brooks
December 2007


Mists and Mellow Fruitfulness
The onset of autumn brings the end of summer and the prospect of long dark evenings. This year, of course, summer never arrived, leaving the leftie Global Warming doom-mongers to back pedal and hastily re-brand their agenda as Climate Change. Leaving all that aside though, autumn also brings two of the very best – and very different – historic meetings. It also saw the late arrival of summer weather...

It is incredible that we have just witnessed the tenth annual Goodwood Revival Meeting. Seems like only yesterday that we walked out of the gates at the end of the first one thinking “they’ll never manage to do that again”. But oh yes they did, year after year. Having attended every single one it has been fascinating to watch the growth of the event too.

When Lord March first announced his time-warp event we all winced a bit at the thought of having to don jacket and tie to go racing but we soon got used to it. So well has the period dress theme caught on that clued-up charity shops up and down the land have cashed in handsomely ever since. There was even a Ladies’ Day this year. Why, even Brooksie – making his debut appearance – put in more time agonising over what to wear rather than what lenses to take!

Sportsmanship and Gamesmanship
The racing itself has been good right from the start but if anything has got a little too intense of late. Despite the fact that Goodwood is a stand-alone event, not part of any championship or anything, such is the cachet of competing at the Revival there is an element of win at all costs. There is nothing wrong with healthy competition, but driving standards have not always been of the best but fortunately Goodwood have recognised this; at least one ‘name’ driver found his entries were not accepted for a year or two!.It was particularly disconcerting however, that the two most serious accidents this year involved highly experienced historic racers.

Historic motorsport has always been a heady mix of gentlemen drivers/successful businessmen indulging their passion together with the relatively impecunious enthusiast racing on a budget, together with professional drivers. However there are now some very serious people spending very serious money to race at Goodwood, and size of wallet does not equate to talent. There are those who are trying to race – and win – in machinery that is beyond their ability. Many have been quick to realise that Goodwood provenance is now adding value to machinery – and I don’t just mean to cars that raced at the circuit pre- ’66!

Despite those reservations, the Revival has given us the opportunity to see some fabulous cars racing, cars we perhaps otherwise might not have seen in action. The scurrilous might even say that some cars that would not have existed, but for the Revival. Unfortunately though, we have also seen some valuable cars badly damaged, sometimes a little  unnecessarily. The beauty of the Goodwood track is that it unchanged from its heyday (1948-1966), and don’t forget that the circuit closed in 1966 largely because the speed of then-current racing cars had surpassed the safety levels of the track. Now, safety has been improved with tyre barriers etc, but conversely many of those pre- ’66 cars have been the subject of a further 40 years’ development (yes really). If you don’t believe me, the fastest lap in the RAC TT Celebration race back in 1998 was set by a Jaguar E-Type lighweight at 1m 30.958s. A similar car, in similar conditions set the fastest time again this year. The time? 1m 27.529s. A glance back at the results sheets over the years will reveal even bigger reductions in lap times in other classes.

Such has been the growth in popularity of historic racing that it is breeding its own group of superstars. Goodwood in particular always attracts a number of famous names, some of them still racing at or near the top, but now drivers such as Peter Hardman, Martin Stretton and Gary Pearson are more than capable of giving them a run for their money. Others too, such as Justin Law, Oliver Bryant and Edwin Jowsey have established themselves in this area of the sport. Justin Law is spectacular in a Group C Jaguar and is quite the equal of many of the star names who drove the cars in their heyday. Conversely, modern-day drivers such as Emanuele Pirro, Dario Franchitti, Jean-Marc Gounon and Tonio Liuzzi have really revelled in the opportunity to race cars older than themselves.

As we look towards the tenth anniversary event, Goodwood are promising us yet more surprises. Wonder what they’ve got in store?

British Expeditionary Force
One month on and the first week-end in October saw a large part of the historic racing circus de-camp to the Belgian Ardennes for a very different event. Many of the same cars and people but just very different in style. Equally enchanting though. A week-end later than usual but there was no need to worry about weather as the Spa-Francorchamps circuit was bathed in unbroken sunshine and clear blue skies for the entire week-end. How often does that happen here? The multi-hued trees of the surrounding forests provided a fabulous back-drop that would make New England envious. Old England’s got nothing on this place either, but that’s another story.

Feature event of the meeting is the Spa Six Hours, contested by sports and saloon cars from the sixties, but a full supporting programme over the two days saw racing for everything from Formula Junior to Grand Prix Masters. In all, the best part of 600 cars took part, some of them racing more than once, and getting on for 1,000 drivers were involved, most races being two-driver affairs. The grid for the Six Hours alone contained 82 cars. Most modern-day race organisers can only dream of such figures.

The beauty of historic racing is the variety. So much of modern racing is of the one-make variety now and even F1, the pinnacle of the sport, has talked common components etc to reduce costs. Having said that though, FIA fuehrer Max Mosley took umbrage when a certain team supposedly tried something of the sort this year!

With such a big grid the Six Hours certainly has variety in bucketloads. The quality of the entry stepped up a gear this year. Recently we have witnessed some pretty wild hot-rods taking part but they have largely been weeded out although there is still mutterings amongst MGB owners, no less, about the disparity of performance between supposedly similar cars. However, they field was headed by no less than five Ford GT40’s and inevitably the winner was expected to come from amomgst their number. Christian Glasel did indeed blast off into the distance from pole position at the start, his black car hounded by Shaun Lynn’s blue version, driven by Michael Mallock, but one by one the GT40’s fell by the wayside, leaving the way clear for the Dutch-entered Shelby GT350 Mustang driven by John Hugenholtz/Rene Herzog/David Hart to take the flag first. A beautifully prepared and incredibly rapid machine this, it has also tasted success in TourAuto. As if to emphasise the variety, not far behind at the finish of the shortened race was the replica Aston Martin DP214 owned and driven by Wolfgang Friedrichs together with David Clark and Simon Hadfield. This was the third consecutive visit to the podium for this car, having won in ’05 before finishing third last year, later promoted to second after the Ford Fairlane (yes really) ahead of it was discovered to have some slightly non period electronics.

Time Table
Did I say shortened race? Spa does have one or two organisational glitches. The Six Hours was scheduled to start at 4pm with a 10pm finish – that’s non- negotiable as there is now a noise curfew at Spa. However, the tightly packed timetable left little leeway for delays – and inevitably there were a few – together with a slightly casual, shall we say, classic car parade just before the big race meant that it actually got underway at 5pm, finishing at ten to ten. I have heard unofficially that teams have recived a part-refund on their entry fees but this is an event that everyone looks forward to all year (internet forum traffic proves that!) and such things really should not happen.

The rest of the programme at Spa consists of a good cross-section of historic racing, ranging from Pre-war cars, thru’ Formula Junior, ‘fifties sports cars, sports racing and Formula 1, the majority of the events being organised by the burgeoning Masters organisation. Having added the Julius Thurgood-run Top Hat series’ to their portfolio this year they also took the opportunity at Spa to announce yet more new classes next year for seventies sports prototypes.

One very succesful new series, not under the Masters banner, is U2TC (Under 2-litre Touring Cars). Although comparatively new, this well-policed series attracts a goodly-sized entry of Alfa Romeo Giulia’s, BMW 1800Ti’s, Lotus Cortina’s, Mini Cooper’s and the like. The one-hour, two-driver races are a welcome breath of fresh air and serve to remind just how far modern touring car racing has sunk – can a series of 10-minute bash ‘n crash races really justify the tag ‘World Championship’?

Spa’s race was won by a Lotus Cortina from Sweden, the speed of which did raise a few eyebrows, leaving former Grand Prix driver Jackie Oliver to come home second in the BMW he shares with Richard Shaw.

The atmosphere at Spa takes a lot of beating, and the camaraderie and socialising amongst the teams etc really makes this one of the most enjoyable weekends of the year. Moscow-based Kiwi Roger Wills and his Lotus Cortina epitomise the spirit of the occasion and must have set some sort of record for endurance, the Cortina completing some ten hours of racing over the week-end. Originally entered in a couple of the support races, the Alan Mann Racing- liveried machine also got pressed into service for the Six Hours after Roger’s Corvette Stingray displayed a propensity for destroying gearboxes even before qualifying got under way. Not bad for a 42-year-old car!

Champagne Campaign
Sandwiched between these two great traditional outings was a brand new event at a very old venue, namely the “1er Week-end de L’Excellence Automobile de Reims”. Yes, the public roads that go to make-up the Circuit de Gueux were closed once again for a week-end in September, not withstanding the fact that the long straight down to Thillois is now a motorway. How do you overcome that? Simply close one side of the motorway so that the racers blat down one carriageway whilst the normal traffic grapples with a contraflow the other side of the barrier. Not very ‘elf ‘n safety, but there you go!

Actually this was a slightly frustrating event; it could have been so much better but hopefully the organisers were sufficiently buoyed by the 20,000 attendance over the week-end to do it again. Essentially you bought a “package” that allowed a series of runs on the circuit together with hospitality and so on. Inevitably there were an awful lot of Porsche 911’s and the like, but in amongst them were some genuine race cars (and ‘bikes) with Reims racing provenance. There were also a few oddities too. Ever heard of Fournier Marcadier Barquette before? No, neither had I. (It’s a sportscar dating from 1965, bit like a Lotus 23 in appearance but with a narrow rear track).

Star attraction – well, three-pointed star – was to be a series of demonstrations of the Mercedes-Benz W196 Streamliner driven by Jean Alesi, this being the car that Jean-Manuel Fangio drove to victory here upon it’s debut in the 1954 French Grand Prix. It never really worked anywhere else but is a magnificent bit of kit to behold. Sadly it flatly refused to run cleanly and never managed more than one lap at a time. It’s appearances were a little unpredictable as it was a case of “it’s running, let’s go! The beastie required a full plug change every time, and there are 16 of them, one bank of the canted-over engine being a little awkward to access to. The mechanic from Stuttgart must have been really glad when it was to go home! His efforts were nevertheless really appreciated by the enthusiastic crowd.

The paddock area contained a fair few gems if you looked for them, but if this event is to succeed it needs a little thought in that direction. ‘Les Amis du Circuit de Gueux’ have done a great job of repainting the pits and circuit buildings complete with period advertising etc and there is clearly a lot of goodwill locally so hopefully it become a fixture on the calendar. As I’ve said, nothing like a bit of variety.

Well, that’s about it for this year. With the nights drawing in I guess it’s time to pour a glass of wine (only one!), switch on TV (mustn’t leave it on standby) and get out the videos and DVD’s (are we still allowed to do that?) and look forward to another great season next year.

John Elwin
October 2007

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