28 03 2018

Sun, Snow and Racing: 76th Goodwood Members’ Meeting

White Hills

It was the first time in thousands of miles driving at Goodwood that the scenery had been white. The track had been gritted and cleared but the infield, outfield and hills in the background were pure white as we headed out the grid on Sunday morning. We had qualified and even raced into dusk with snow falling on Saturday, but it had not really settled. This was a full winter landscape.

Friday had been beautiful with blue skies and sunshine although we knew the forecast. I had picked up my good friend and team mate for the weekend Marino Franchitti on the way. Not only was this more fun and practical than going independently but also it gave us a chance to discuss the Triumph Dolomite Sprint that we would be sharing in the Gerry Marshall Trophy. Marino had not had a chance to try the car due to timing of test days and his commitments with Singer / Porsche so we ran through the usual (gearing, brakes and balance) in preparation.

The Dolomite belongs to Robert Brooks, former Chairman of the BRDC, founding Chairman of Bonhams and key supporter of Goodwood since the first Festival of Speed in 1993. Robert continues his support of Goodwood in being a Governor of the Members' Meeting and it was wonderful that he asked me to drive his car again.

Family Affair

Not only was I driving with Marino in the Gerry Marshall Trophy but I was driving against him in the Salvadori Cup and again against him in the Moss Trophy sharing a car with his wife Holly! Her father, Nick Mason, was also there with a Ferrari 512 BBLM and our children are great friends, so it was set to be a busy family event off-track as well, something that works so well at Goodwood.

Moss Trophy

Holly had been invited for the two-driver Moss Trophy with their very original AC Ace Ford (Ruddspeed) which has been in the family for many years and is run by their company Ten Tenths.  She had initially asked her sister Chloe to drive but, as she was unable to, she asked my wife, Quirina. Fortunately for me, Quirina did not have time to test prior to the meeting, so the honour fell to me. Lucky boy!

I had driven the Ace for five dry-ish laps the week before, enough to familiarise myself with the controls and gauges and assess the car. It is nicely balanced with a torquey 2.6-litre engine and decent brakes for a 1950s road sports car. We would run out of revs in top gear twice per lap but the option to run on larger diameter tyres would also affect the balance as the tyre section would also be increased. We had no time to test, so decided to go with the devil we knew.

Qualifying was wet and snowing with an oil and fuel slick around the length of the circuit, near enough on the racing line.  I went out first to try to get some temperature into the new tyres, staying out of people’s way as they slid around and hand over to Holly.  We were never going to be at the front of the grid, giving away a decade of technological advance, so we only had everything to lose.

Our aim was to complete the session without fuss and see what we could achieve in the race. This plan worked although our careful qualifying approach landed us in a close last place!

It was much drier by Sunday afternoon and Holly took the start of the 45-minute race, gaining a few places, which were swapped back and forth. I took over just before half time with a dry line on the circuit and damp patches elsewhere.  A yellow and red flag and suitably slippery surface greeted me at the first corner, Madgwick, with an E-Type stopped by the marshal’s post mid corner, so it would be a matter of building up speed there gradually. Fortunately, a quick driver change meant that I was out just ahead of a rival, a Lotus Elite.

I really enjoyed the next twenty-five minutes, finding more and more grip and balancing the car on the brakes and throttle without overdriving it.  It is so easy to abuse the brakes and tyres on older cars especially in a forty-five-minute race, something I always keep in mind.  The cars which had stopped around the circuit indicated that we were gradually moving up the result sheet anyhow.

One enjoyable overtaking move was on an Aston Martin DB4 GT.  I had been closing on it for a few laps when I spotted a leading E-Type approaching on the Lavant Straight, lights ablaze.  I signalled him past, switched on my headlights and followed through on his tail. Very satisfying until a few laps later I decided to switch off my lights at St Mary’s only to find that the engine cut out at Lavant.  I had switched off the fuel pump too!  The Aston sailed passed up the straight as the Ace spluttered into life and I had to do it all again. A shame, but we finished 18th out of the 28 starters.

Salvadori Cup

The Salvadori Cup was for International Sports Racing cars up to 1960.  I drove a 1959 Lotus 15 with two-litre Coventry Climax engine which belongs to Quirina. The car is very original and raced in the 1959 TT at Goodwood as well as Nürburgring 1000km, Pescara and Silverstone in period.  Its more recent history includes winning the inaugural sports car race at the Goodwood Revival in 1998 in the capable hands of Robert Brooks. Marino was driving the Maserati Birdcage of Nick Mason/Ten Tenths and my brother Rupert was also in the Salvadori, driving his Belgian-built Widi. The world is small.

A podium finish was unfortunately never on the cards for us as we had too little time to test and set-up the car and found play in the differential which was causing the rear end to twitch sideways, even in the dry. Having raced the Lotus in the wet at over 160mph I know how good it can feel and this was not it. Richard Purves who runs the car is excellent and prepared Roger Wills’ Lotus which finished second in the same race, but there was nothing we could do at the track.  The icy winds and wet circuit did not help my confidence but it is always wonderful to drive at Goodwood and show genuinely historic cars in action.

Gerry Marshall Trophy

The last race of the weekend for me was the Gerry Marshall Trophy, Part 2.  Part 1 had been frustrated by mechanical issues so we were hoping for at least one good session.

The Dolomite is only two litres compared to the Capris, Mustang and Camaros with up to 5.7 litres but we had finished in the top ten before at Goodwood and hoped to do it again. We were the fastest car through the speed trap approaching St Mary's simply by carrying speed but we were giving 12mph on the Lavant Straight and start line compared to the Capris simply due to their power.

I felt sorry for Marino that he had not had a chance to get to grips with the car although he did feel its potential.  The water pump failed on the second lap of practice (qualifying) so we had to start at the back for Part 1.  Fortunately, Marino had immediately spotted the rise in temperature and saw it throw out coolant, so shut off and pitted. The heads are prone to issues so we feared the worst. The team at Setford Racing stripped the engine, checked the head and rebuilt it in time for the evening race which started at dusk.  Starting at the back meant I avoided some of the first corner drama in front but had a lot of work to do. It also gave me the chance to build up speed and check the engine was OK. Whilst the snow wasn’t settling, it was a bit greasy off-line making overtaking more difficult in the failing light.  The brakes did not feel right and I lost a lot of time getting clear of some cars by which time I had lost contact with the pack and reference for grip levels. A cracked disc was the cause of some of the instability under braking.

I handed over to Marino half way through the 45-minute race, warning him of the brake issue and he set off into the night. He kept putting in the laps despite the brake issue and lack of previous time in the car. We finished 21st out of the 28 starters.

Part 2 was a single driver, 15-minute sprint race, live on ITV4. Usually for the owner, I drove for Robert.  The team had sourced and changed the brake discs and fitted new, bedded pads.  The silver lining of the previous troubles was that it was a reversed grid and I started on the front row.  A clean start meant that I was second through the first corner before being pounced on by Capris but I held my own down to Woodcote on the first lap before the Safety Car came out.

It took several laps to recover the cars involved and repair the barriers damaged in the first corner chaos during which time I realised that the brakes again had a problem. They hardly slowed the car and the pedal again had a notch in its travel. After the restart, the few remaining laps were frantic: some scrapping Capris in front made for good entertainment but were holding themselves up and we were losing touch with the leader. I was faster through the corners but they had 12mph more speed on the straights so there was little I could do. I regained one place but lost one to the big UFO 635 BMW and finished fourth.

Impressions

The most memorable impressions for me are racing in white scenery and seeing the driving snow in the headlights.  My off-track highlights were the Formula 5000 engines revving in a Minute of Fever for Henry Hope-Frost, racing motorbikes riding through Goodwood House on Friday night and the Saturday performances and fireworks.

The dedication of all who attended and worked at the event is staggering. Particular thanks must go to the marshals who braved the conditions all weekend as well as the Duke of Richmond, his family and team at Goodwood.  Also, Ten Tenths, JRP Racing and Wayne Loveland of Polygon and the team at Setford and Co. for running the respective cars, as well as, of course, their owners.

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