“If you’re not going to be in a race-winning car and you’re over 40 years old, you might as well just enjoy it,” says five-time Le Mans winner Derek Bell of historic racing, and Jochen Mass and Alain de Cadenet concur. The latter can’t resist a cheeky jab: “He’s over 40, you see, but in his brain, he’s a teenager!” Bell and de Cadenet were both driving Ferrari 250 GT Short Wheelbases in the Kinrara Trophy, while Mass raced a ‘Gullwing’ in the Freddie March Memorial Trophy.
The Goodwood Revival is one of a handful of occasions where these guys get to race again, and typically, there’s little or no preparation, with the first time they take to the circuit for practice often being the first time they’ve ever driven the car. “It’s so difficult to be competitive, unless you’ve got the right car and you’ve been racing regularly,” comments the Cad. “If I find myself driving a 600bhp monster in the wet, and every time I think about accelerating, the car goes sideways, I wonder what the hell I’m doing!”
Mass suggests the learning curve is still steep and relishes the challenge of adjusting to a new car, but is still mindful that the owner would like it returned in one piece. “Having survived the old days, we’ve got nothing to prove,” he says. “You get five laps to qualify and you’re against a load of guys with titanium testicles who race every week — why extend yourself?”
Bell and de Cadenet both agreed that their favourite car for this fast and challenging circuit is the Ferrari 250 GTO, which, while not particularly competitive, is every bit as special as it’s renowned to be. “I’ve driven three here at Goodwood,” recalls Bell. “And while you’re never going to feature much, it’s just the most beautiful car to drive, in the wet or the dry.”
Perhaps the most significant difference between contemporary and historic motorsport is, from de Cadenet’s point of view, that you don’t make it into the history books by winning at Goodwood. “In their day, us guys always gave our best,” he concludes. “And we still will, it’s just that our very best isn’t what it used to be, and we’ve got other considerations, one of which is that we’re not going out to earn money and attract sponsors.”
That said, all three wouldn’t miss Goodwood for the world. For Mass, meeting photographers, journalists, drivers, and team managers from his era — people he otherwise would never see — is the greatest joy of the Revival (apart from the driving). And for Bell, who won his very first race here in a Lotus 7, it’s Lord March’s freakish ability to extract people from reality: “When we all walk out of those gates tonight, we’re going to realise we’re back in the real world; whereas, in here, we’re in an enclave with our friends, fans, and acquaintances. We’re lucky that we’re a part of Charles March’s dream. Sharing his fantasy is always a treat.”
Photos: Rémi Dargegen for Classic Driver © 2017