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HEAVEN AND HELL

 

74th Goodwood Members Meeting

The hunt

 

  The Goodwood Members Meeting on the weekend of March 19-20 was a mix of stunning highs unfortunately punctuated by near catastrophic lows. Where the qualifying and first two races on Saturday ran like clockwork, the racing on Sunday was repeatedly truncated by safety cars and two enormous accidents.

 

 

  For once Lord March was unable to come to an agreement with the weather Gods and Saturday began under a grey sky with an artic breeze that forced many of the crowd to huddle around the fire baskets thoughtfully provided between the on track activities. And the amount of on track action was, as usual for a Goodwood meeting, absolutely packed in. You could never complain about value for money, if anything there was too much value. If you wanted to catch all the action on track there was very little time for all the other activities to be enjoyed.

250F

  And the Goodwood team always provide some very odd things to keep you amused. Have you ever tried to herd ducks for example? Or race ferrets?  These were just two of the funnier member activities in which the spectators could earn points for their teams (all spectators are allocated a team for the weekend to which they and all the teams and drivers can score points for an overall team win). You could play darts, billiards, kick rugby goals, fight out a tug of war or race pedal cars as some of the saner events but they all just distracted from the main focus of the weekend. Although I did miss the Martini making competition of two years ago. My Martini may not have scored too many points but it certainly had some judges gasping for breath.

  The Members Meeting is sort of a mini Revival meeting without the fancy dress and run with a wider spectrum of cars. Whereas the Revival restricts itself to the type of races run when the circuit was operating in period (1948-66) this weekend allows for racing from other periods as well such as the Gerry Marshall Trophy for 1970s touring cars, late 60’s Formula 3 cars and what must have been everyone’s favourite race this year, the S.F. Edge Trophy for Edwardian era cars in which the youngest were 1923 Alfa Romeos and Bugattis and the oldest, a 1903 Mercedes. None were more energetically driven than the 1905 Isotta Franschini Fiat of Mike Vardy, who’s engine was so long that Mike was sitting above the chain drive, BEHIND the rear wheels. To witness this fire breathing monster performing opposite lock power slides out of the chicane had to be the racing highlight of the weekend. This unlikely event also produced the closest finish of the weekend with just two tenths of a second separating the victorious Duncan Pittaway in a 1921 GN Curtis from Mathias Sielecki’s 1923 Delage. Julian Mazjub’s 1916 Sunbeam Indianapolis was just a further 1.8 seconds back. To show just how hard they were trying, Pittaway’s fastest race lap was seven and a half seconds faster than his qualifying time and six seconds under Mazjub’s pole position time.

Isotta

  Possibly the best race was the one hour Alan Mann Trophy for Ford GT40s which ran into Saturday’s twilight. Any one of four or five cars might have won before Steve Soper took the flag. Initially Rob Huff led a squabbling pack before his brakes cried enough after 13 laps. Rob Hall and Mike Jordan then scrapped furiously until the pit stops for driver changes where Andrew Jordan swept past Hall’s co-driver, Scott Walker. The Hall/Walker car then dropped down the order as the Jordans, who had started down in 14th, looked set for a comfortable win from the Ellerbrock/Stippler car which ground to a halt just one lap after setting the race’s fastest lap. With just 10 laps to go though, the leaders suffered a wheel bearing failure handing the lead to Soper who had the Phil Keen/Oliver Bryant GT40 right on his tail. Unfortunately this dice was only to last another three laps before Keen’s oil warning light stayed resolutely on and he retired that car to avoid any engine damage.  That left Soper to cruise home in the dark to take a 22 second victory from Tony Wood/Martin Stretton with Joaquin Folch/Simon Hadfield a further 14 seconds back in third.

GT40

  Unlike the first of the revived Members Meetings a couple of years ago the “high speed demonstrations” were exactly that. After a lap behind a pace car the drivers are let off the leash to circulate as quickly as they are comfortable with. This made for a far greater spectacle for all concerned. In the demo for Group 5 sports prototypes the sight and sound of no less than seven Porsche 917Ks and six Ferrari 512s on full song was worth the price of the trip from Sydney all by itself. It led to one rather dapper elderly gentleman to lean in close to me and whisper, “You know, my dear fellow, this could just make a chap unseemingly aroused.” It was impossible to disagree with his sentiment.

  In another demonstration event for ground effect Formula one cars, unofficial timing suggested that the lap record had been well and truly shattered by Rob Hall in the stunning (both in looks and sound)  Ligier Matra JS17 while Dario Franchitti announced that it would be “impolite not to have a go” in the unique, twin chassis, Lotus 88B. Amongst others, Classic Team Lotus showed up with an example of every ground effect Lotus built although sadly the glorious Martini Lotus 80, in original no wing, all skirt, configuration, was just a static display. In all there were over 30 F1 cars involved including examples from Tyrell, Williams, Brabham, Fittipaldi, Arrows, Shadow, a pair of V12 Alfa Romeos and Gilles Villeneuve’s 1980 Ferrari 312T5.

JS17

  Sunday’s racing got off to a potentially disastrous start with an almighty accident involving Stephen Bond in a Lotus 18 which was clipped by the spinning Cooper T51 of Richard Wilson at the end of the first lap. This sent Bond’s Lotus into a series of barrel rolls which ended with the car plunging into the pedestrian under-pass. Amazingly Bond suffered just a broken collar bone but even more fortunately, no spectators were even slightly injured. (a link to a video of the accident follows  -http://www.speedcafe.com/2016/03/22/video-miracle-escape-in-goodwood-f1-crash/ ) Bond was assisted from his car by one of the lucky spectators using the tunnel at the time and there was a 40 minute stoppage as the mangled Lotus was recovered. The Brooks Trophy was then reduced to a ten lap sprint in which Barry Cannell in another Cooper T51 just held off Nick Adams in the four wheel drive Fergusson P99.

  Thus began a series of races that were interrupted by safety car periods and accidents, the number of which I have rarely seen at Goodwood. The Derek Bell up for Formula 3 cars managed just a handful of laps after some early incidents and was won by Andrew Hibberd in a 1966 Brabham BT18. After the Edwardian leviathans managed to complete their race uninterrupted the Graham Hill Trophy for 60’s GT cars was also blighted by a safety car period after Karsten le Blanc pranged his AC Cobra heavily at Fordwater. After a final three lap sprint James Cottingham held off Andrew Smith for a Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe 1-2.

  Things seemed to be getting back on track after Grahame and Oliver Bryant in a thundering Chevy Camaro doggedly chased down the Rover 3500 SDI of Chris Ward and Gordon Sheddon with just three laps to go to win the Gerry Marshall Trophy. Then followed the days second almighty accident when Dutchman Michael Smits comprehensively demolished both his Lola T70 Spyder and the tyre barriers at Woodcote nearing the end of lap one of the Bruce McLaren Trophy. With a delay of more than an hour while Michiel was extricated and airlifted to hospital and repairs made to the barriers the race was eventually abandoned with just two laps in the books. Happily although Michiel suffered multiple fractures, including several vertebrae, he is reported to be in a satisfactory condition and expected to make a full recovery.

T20

  From then on the remaining races were all reduced to 10 lap sprints and even then the final race was run in ever increasing darkness. The Parnell cup went to Will Nuthall in a Cooper T20 from the similarly equipped Eddie McGuire and Mark Valvekens Gordini T16. The Whitmore up ended in a Lotus Cortina 1-2-3 won by Richard Meaden while the final race of the event went to the thunderous Cunningham CR4 of Ben Shuckburgh from an entertaining battle between Steven Boultbee Brooks in an Aston Martin DB3S and the energetically driven HWM Cadillac of Richard Woolmer.

  So as night descended over the South Sussex dales we departed the scene delighted once again with the amazing programme and array of historic racers that are always provided by Lord March and his team, even though there were so many interruptions on the Sunday, but also a little anxious, as the condition of Bond and Smits was at that time unknown. Every time I leave Goodwood I wonder how the GRRC can outdo itself again and every time I turn up, I find out.

Sam Snape

22-03 2016

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Cobra