It’s Goodwood Revival Time Again
Charis Whitcombe takes a sneak preview...
...and cadges a ride with Derek Bell
Like birthdays, the Goodwood Revival seems to come round far more frequently than once a year. The big difference, of course, is that we’re delighted to see the Revival pop up in our diaries – this year from September 1st to 3rd. For these three magical days, the historic race circuit will once again resemble a gigantic film set where every visitor who takes the trouble to dress to a 1950s theme (and the majority do) is playing a part in the drama.
New for 2006 is a race for small-capacity sports-racing cars of the 1960s, with up-to-3000cc engines: think Lotus 19 and 23; Elva Mk7 and Mk8; Ferrari 206 Dino and Maserati Birdcage. The Madgwick Cup will see a full grid of these baby sports cars, tiny but remarkably rapid, swarming round the Sussex circuit. Meanwhile, for the first time since 2003, the Fordwater Trophy will bring together some little-seen endurance specials – standard, small-capacity production sports cars with wind-cheating bodywork. MGs and Austin-Healey Sprites with Le Mans or ‘Sebring’ bodies will join slippery-shaped models from Morgan and Triumph; even Jaguar.
Among the grids of sports cars, single-seaters and motorcycles, the two races which stand out are the two-driver ‘celebrity’ events. The St Mary’s Trophy, a two-part saloon car race staged on both Saturday and Sunday, is this year for 1950s cars; hence the huge Jaguar MkVII will do battle with peanut-small Austin A40, dicing luridly with Ford Zephyr, MG Magnette and Morris Minor in a grid thrillingly (and bizarrely) driven by such stars as Sir Stirling Moss, Bobby Rahal and usually the odd modern F1 pilot.
Meanwhile, Sunday’s Royal Automobile Club TT Celebration race is altogether more serious – though no less thrilling. Expect to see Lightweight Jaguar E-type; Ferrari 250 GT SWB, GTOand 330 LMB; AC Cobras and Aston Martin Project cars. Some £30m-worth of cars, in other words, driven in anger by heroes of the calibre of Derek Bell, Jochen Mass, Richard Attwood, Jackie Oliver, Henri Pescarolo, Patrick Tambay, Rene Arnoux... and more.
Which brings me to the Editor’s daunting brief. “Pop down to the press preview day at Goodwood and get a ride round the circuit with a Big Name. Derek Bell would be good.” Yeah, right. Only somehow – at Goodwood – the miraculous happens. The utterly charming Mr Bell said he’d be delighted. “A few laps in a Jaguar – is that okay?” he asked. (The famous CUT 7 E-type Lightweight, as it happens.) Yes, Derek. That would be… okay.
“I’ve only driven this car for 50 seconds,” says Derek as we wait for the pit-lane light to go green. Those 50 seconds, I discover, comprised two sprints up the hill at the Festival of Speed – both of them winning times. “And they’ve resurfaced the circuit since I was last here, so I won’t push too hard…” he adds as we accelerate raspily onto the pit-straight in the noise and heat of a race-car cockpit on the hottest July day ever recorded. Pushing hard or not, he was right on it from the very first corner – Madgwick. We drift with elegant precision, Derek moving the steering wheel by only small amounts to control the slide, a testament not only to his skill but to the beautiful balance of the car. On through Fordwater (less a corner than a kink) and then to the trickiest part of the circuit and a superb place to spectate – St Mary’s, infamous for Stirling Moss’s career-scuppering accident all those years ago.
Down the Lavant Straight – “the E-type I’ll be driving at the Revival is rather quicker than this one”, shouts Derek – and then hard (very hard) braking for the tight right of Woodcote. On every lap, the digital speedo in front of me registers exactly 174km/h at Derek’s braking point for Woodcote: such impressive precision.
Right-left through the chicane, a mere paper-thin sliver of air separating the silver flanks from the red-and-white curve of the chicane walls, sliding out to brush over the rumble-strips, and then more raspy acceleration past the pit wall and the reflective sparkle of photographers’ lenses.
Thank you Derek. Buoyed up by the adrenalin thrill of the ride, I cadge ‘lifts’ in two other cars. First, an MG Magnette piloted by Bruce Chapman, grandson of Nancy Mitchell, the famous lady rally driver (in a Magnette) of the 1950s. This year’s St Mary’s Trophy will be Bruce’s Goodwood debut. And finally a few laps with Tony Dron in a glorious Aston Martin DB3S – eyes streaming in the full-on airstream of this open-top icon, when the lack of a harness (or even a seatbelt) has me clinging on over the bumps.
Roll on September. Remember, tickets are by advance booking only: tel +44 (0)1243 755055 or see www.goodwood.co.uk.
The website also has the latest news, press releases and a timetable of events. It's updated over the whole event, in real time, so if you can't make the whole weekend, every day's action is recorded for you.
Text: Charis Whitcombe
Photos: Charis Whitcombe + Ian Wilson of AutoGraph images of MotorSport - Strictly Copyright
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