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The earth shook at the 77th Goodwood Members’ Meeting

Raucous, red-blooded racing returned to West Sussex last weekend at the 77th Goodwood Members’ Meeting, the historic motorsport calendar’s spectacular season-opener. Highlights were almost too plentiful to list – extraordinarily, we’re not lying when we say five Porsche 917s were only the start…

Since 2014, the Members’ Meeting at Goodwood has cemented its place on the list of can’t-miss historic motorsport events, and for good reason. Conceived to evoke the intimate atmosphere of the British Automobile Racing Club Members’ Meetings, which took place at the West Sussex circuit every few months between 1948 and 1966, the resurrected event is a limited-entry affair so far hasn’t failed to deliver the biggest names, the finest cars, and truly heart-stopping racing. 

Suffice to say, the 77th edition delivered on all fronts. And the organisers’ decision to shift the date of the Members’ Meeting a little further back paid dividends – the blizzards and sub-zero temperatures of the ‘Beast from the East’ that paid an unwelcome visit to last year’s event were but a distant memory. In fact, the spring sunshine shone virtually all weekend. Trust Lord March to kick off the historic racing calendar in a fashion that’s nigh on impossible for anyone else to follow… 

There are many ways the revived Members’ Meeting differentiates itself from the Revival, not least the drastically reduced crowds and access-all-areas admission. Crucially, the event is not governed by the Revival’s strict pre-1966 criteria, which means that over the course of the weekend you’ll spot more modern automotive exotica out on the historic circuit, either door-to-door racing or playing a rather fast-paced game of follow-the-leader on high-speed demonstrations. 

Unless you’ve been living in hiding for the last few months, you’ll know that the Porsche 917 celebrates its 50th birthday in 2019. Yes, the car that gave Porsche its maiden Le Mans victory was revealed at Geneva in 1969, and to mark the landmark anniversary, the Porsche Museum brought the freshly-restored chassis #001 to the Members’ Meeting for former Works drivers Richard Attwood and Mark Webber to try for size. They were followed out on the track by a Gulf-Wyer 917K, one of Jo ‘Seppi’ Siffert’s old 917/10 Spyders, and two full-fat 917/30 Can-Am challengers. 

There were also demos for six flame-belching BMW M1 Procars, a horde of thunderous Nascars, and a braying pack of modern high-downforce Le Mans Prototypes, the latter of which drove into the darkness on Saturday evening. Among them was the nine-time Le Mans winner Tom Kristensen, who climbed back behind the wheel of the Bentley Speed 8 in which he won his fourth Le Mans in 2003. In this, Bentley’s centenary year, it was a very special moment indeed. 

Naturally, it was the red-blooded racing that had Goodwood-goers really holding their breaths. There was a typically diverse roster of grids, ranging from the outrageous Edwardian pioneers in the S.F. Edge Trophy through to the colourful 1970s saloons of the headlining Gerry Marshall Trophy. The inaugural Betty Richmond Trophy, which comprised 60 classic Minis and was divided into two heats, perhaps unsurprisingly provided some of the best wheel-to-wheel racing of the weekend. Ultimately, the spoils went to crowd-favourite Nick Swift after a tooth-and-nail battle with historic racing ace Nick Padmore. 

Saturday evening’s star-studded Gerry Marshall Trophy was no less exciting – despite the best efforts of Porsche factory drivers Romain Dumas and Neel Jani and current BMW ace Tom Blomqvist, victory went to the Ford Mustang of Andy Newall and Craig Davies. The Scotsman David Coulthard, a veteran of 246 Formula 1 Grands Prix, proved he’s never lost that winning mentality – he piloted the IWC Racing Team’s Mercedes-Benz 300SL ‘Gullwing’ to a near-flawless victory in the Tony Gaze Trophy. 

A raft of Classic Driver affiliates was in action in some capacity or other, including DK Engineering, Fiskens, Girardo & Co., Pendine, William I’Anson, and Duncan Hamilton ROFGO, and with great success! Both Gregor Fisken and William I’Anson’s Ben Mitchell chalked up fantastic victories in the John Duff Trophy and the Derek Bell Cup, respectively. The young Mitchell demonstrated an admirably level head behind the wheel of his screaming one-litre Brabham-Ford BT28 as he battled with second-placed Andrew Hibberd for almost the entire race. 

Given all the ingredients and, of course, that sprinkling of inimitable Goodwood magic, the revived Members’ Meetings have run the risk of growing into a corporate-driven behemoth akin to the Festival of Speed and the Revival. But we’re pleased to report that the 77th edition felt as exclusive and intimate as ever. 

There’s nothing quite like eating dinner in the Great Hall beside a Jochen Mass or a Derek Bell, sharing fence-space on the Lavant Straight with a current Porsche factory driver, or having an impromptu conversation with ‘Quick Vic’ Elford beside the very first Porsche 917. It’s intoxicating stuff and the perfect way to tee up the coming historic racing season. So, we’ll see you on the Tour Auto? 

Photos: Robert Cooper for Classic Driver © 2019 

Find your racing car for the 78th Goodwood Members’ Meeting in the Classic Driver Market.