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Sunshine Superman

I’ll admit it, I’ve never fallen for the rantings of opportunists like Al Gore & Co., but now I’m warming (sorry!) to the idea that man might have an affect on the climate – well, one man actually.

No matter what time of the year Lord March organises an event he almost always manages to summon-up the most perfect weather for the occasion, and this years’ Media Day was no exception. You’d think planning the day for mid-March in what has been one of the coldest winters in a while would ensure us of a chilly reception, but what happened? A whole week of spring- like weather ensured that our day at Goodwood was just perfect. Why, we even basked in the sunshine whilst Lord March delivered his welcoming speech from the front steps of the House – once compere Amanda Stretton had alighted from the Royal Navy helicopter that flew her in, that is.

We learned that the theme for this years’ Festival of Speed (3-5 July) will be ‘True Grit – Epic feats of endurance’, as typified by Jackie Stewart’s victory in the 1968 German Grand Prix, driving with a broken wrist, or Mick Doohan’s courageous return to motorcycle racing in 1992, without full use of his right leg. However, it is the always-breathtaking display in front of Goodwood House that catches the eye of every visitor and this year the featured marque is Audi, as the German manufacturer celebrates its 100th birthday. To celebrate the occasion Goodwood are bringing together what is hoped to be the largest collection of Silver Arrow racers ever seen together in one place.

Coming up to date with the modern interpretation of Silver Arrow racers, reigning World Champion Lewis Hamilton will be doubly honoured for his charity, the Lewis Hamilton Foundation, which helps under-privileged youngsters fulfil their dreams has been selected as the official charity. Lewis gets to fulfil a dream of his own too, for he will drive a McLaren-Honda previously raced by his hero Ayrton Senna.

It is amazing to think that is ten years since Audi last filled the prize location with their ‘re-creation’ of the Avus banking. They have not revealed the precise details of this years’ display but it is sure to be spectacular. There may be a clue in the fact that the event poster features a Peter Hearsey painting of the R10 TDI Le Mans winner. A number of Audi works drivers are expected to be present, including Hannu Mikkola, Stig Blomqvist, Allan McNish, Emanuele Pirro, Tom Kristensen and Frank Biela.

And indeed, a Type D Auto Union took pride of place in the static display on the Media Day. “Does this (the steering wheel) come off? Lord March enquired of Audi UK’s David Ingram as he attempted to squeeze into the cockpit for a photoshoot. But before David could answer, he followed that question up with, “it does now!

Photo shoots abounded, and with Bugatti’s centenary also being marked a 1937 Type 57C clothed in a copy of a stunning design by Gangloff that was never actually built as the order was cancelled. The low-slung machine comfortably upstaged the nearby brand new Rolls Royce Phantom Coupe and provided the ideal backdrop for Jodie Kidd to pose with a poodle, the tall model towering over both Lord March and the Bugatti.

Even the humble Mini has its’ day at Goodwood as Alec Issigonis’s little marvel hits fifty, and so the early 1959 example found itself adorned with a bevy of mini-skirted models, much to the delight of the assembled photographers. No wonder the poor little chap needed propping up on bricks – it was probably all too much for his Hydrolastics!

For many, the highlight of the day is a passenger ride up the Hill in one of the variety of cars in action on the day. They ranged from Lukas Huni’s 1926 Bugatti Type 35C thru’ to that new Roller. Thrills came at all speeds, from nearly getting sideways off the line in Gary Caroline’s 1928 Morgan Super Aero three-wheeler (Morgan’s another centenary celebration, by the way) to almost being the first to crash through Goodwood’s straw bales if you were the lucky person riding with Richard Dodkins in Roger Wills’ McLaren- Chevrolet M1B. After the season he had last year I don’t think Roger would have been too happy with a repair bill this early in the season…

Also in action was Jacky Ickx, reunited with the Mirage-Cosworth GR7 he drove in 1973, whilst Jochen Mass was back behind the wheel of the works Ford Capri RS he also raced in the same year. The Porsche 917 is forty now, and to mark the occasion former Le Mans winner Richard Attwood had a run in David Piper’s green example. The Daytona Speedway also records its fortieth anniversary this year and in honour of that Lord March has tempted a selection of NASCAR racers across to the Festival, represented at the Media Day by a Buick Regal used by Bobby Allison during his championship- winning season in 1983.

Whilst the action on the Hill is central to the Festival there is so much more to see, such as the Forest Rally Stage, the Cartier ‘Style et Luxe’ concours d’elegance, or the BP Ultimate FoS Tech technology pavilion. The latter proved to be a fascinating display of future trends by several manufacturers last year, and it drew a lot of interest from the public, but was let down by the fact that few of the manufacturer displays actually had anyone on hand to answer the many questions raised. It was a missed opportunity and hopefully one that will be addressed this year. The exception was Tesla, who had several representatives who were kept busy. They too were in action at the Media Day, with “the only car here without an exhaust pipe” whooshing up the hill. Having recently had the opportunity to drive an electric car, although not a Tesla, I have to admit to being a bit of a convert.

You’ve got a couple of months to recover from all that before it’s time for the Goodwood Revival meeting (18-20 September) at the circuit, where again there will be one or two anniversaries to celebrate, not the least of them being Sir Stirling Moss’s 80th birthday, which is actually the day before, on the 17th, but as Lord March says, “he’s probably using the opportunity to have a cheap party!

Sir Stirling has been an integral part of Goodwood history from the very beginning, having taken part in his very first race here in 1948 and of course also suffered the terrible accident that ended his professional career in 1962. He has subsequently competed in a variety of cars during the past ten years of Revival events.

The big events being marked this year are the 50th anniversary of the 1959 Tourist Trophy race, the most famous single race to have been staged at Goodwood in which Aston Martin clinched the World Sportscar Championship. The traditional RAC TT Celebration race will of course be the highlight event of the weekend, catering as usual for closed-cockpit GT cars from the 1960-64 period, but the 60 minute, two drivers, Lavant Cup race will honour that event from 1959 with a field full of Aston Martin DBR1’s, Ferrari Testa Rossas and Porsche RSK’s evocative of the machinery raced on the day by the likes of Roy Salvadori, Carroll Shelby, Dan Gurney, and of course Stirling Moss. Moss led from the start in an Aston before handing over to Salvadori only for the car to catch fire at a pit stop. With Salvadori needing medical attention Moss was forced to take-over the second place Aston Martin, and put in a stunning drive to win the race and the title.

The one hour, two driver Royal Automobile Club TT celebration event will feature all the usual crowd-pleasers such as Derek Bell, Jochen Mass, Emanuele Pirro, Richard Attwood, Jackie Oliver, Sir Stirling Moss et al driving examples of Aston Martin DB4GT Zagato, AC Cobra, Chevrolet Corvette, Ferrari 250 GT SWB and so on.

In recognition of the Mini’s 50th anniversary the St Mary’s Trophy race, traditionally the ‘saloon’ car race, will be exclusively for Group 2 Mini Cooper cars of a type that raced prior to 1966. That’s just put up the value of any Mini out there ripe for conversion!

A full 30-car grid of the 1275cc machines is expected (including a few Riley Elf/Wolseley Hornet variants) and given the giant-killing acts often displayed by Minis in previous years some pretty spectacular racing is assured. The race will be run in two parts on Saturday and Sunday with an aggregate result, the car owners being paired with many Mini luminaries from the past such as Rauno Aaltonen, Sir John Whitmore, Alec Poole, John Fitzpatrick, Barrie Williams and the like, joined by such stars as Derek Bell, Jackie Oliver and Bobby Rahal.

Wonder if they stage a repeat from a Mini demonstration at Silverstone’s British Grand Prix meeting in 1960 when Graham Hill and some others involved decided to set off in reverse when the flag dropped! Whatever, the ‘demo’ inevitably turned into a high-speed slipstreaming race and the cars got dented and bashed as the cars ran four or five in line, bumper to bumper, down Hangar Straight, and three abreast into corners – and these were just standard 848cc saloons! You know what to expect…

Otherwise the rest of the programme features the usual fabulous delectations of single-seat and sportscar action, and the ‘bikes of course. Away from the track there will be all the period fashions and ephemera to feast the eyes. The mock-up Earls Court Motor Show that debuted last year has been retained and will feature stands from various manufacturers, including Maserati, Jaguar, BMW and Ford, typifying a pre-1966 show. Then of course there’s the air displays with Spitfires, Hurricanes, Mustangs and the like bringing back memories from the site’s pre-race track era as RAF Westhampnett wartime airfield.

One could go on, but why not come and see for yourself? Two great weekends are in prospect, the onus now being on Lord March to once again come up trumps with the weather!

John Elwin
March 2009

Tickets for both events are only available in advance and not on the day.

Ticket hotline:
Tel:        + 44 (0)1243 755055
Fax:        + 44 (0)1243 755058

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