Motoring: Back on the right track

Goodwood, the great racing venue, is alive once more.
Click to follow
Indy Lifestyle Online
GOODWOOD. IF you are over a certain age, it is as archetypal a motor-racing venue as Silverstone or Brands Hatch. Stirling Moss launched his racing career by winning Goodwood's first race, then ended it there in his 1962 accident. Hundreds of attics throughout Britain must surely contain a dusty, miniaturised Goodwood Chicane from a time-expired Scalextric set. It was one of the fastest, most fear-creating racetracks in Europe, right up to its closure in 1966.

This weekend, exactly 50 years since it was opened, the Sussex circuit is back as a track, and the Earl of March is seeing his dream become reality. It will be the 1950s and 1960s all over again, as great names from the past race their cars on a circuit recreating, as closely as it can, its original form.

The festivities began yesterday, when Moss, John Surtees, 1961 world champion Phil Hill and his fellow American racer Dan Gurney opened the track with some celebration laps.

But the racing this weekend provides the real highlights. The revived Goodwood Tourist Trophy, a one-hour race for closed-cockpit GT cars from 1960 to 1964, takes place tomorrow. Damon Hill, recalling the memory of his father, Graham, and, as ever, wearing his father's London Rowing Club helmet colours, will drive a Ferrari GTO in this race. Stirling Moss will be in a Ferrari 250 GT, and Phil Hill (no relation) is to drive a Shelby Cobra.

Other drivers of the Graham Hill generation will include Jackie Oliver (Hill's Lotus team-mate after Jim Clark's death) and Sir Jack Brabham. Plenty of younger race aces will drive in the TT, too, including Martin Brundle and multiple Le Mans-winner Derek Bell. As in the original race, there will be a fuel stop and a driver change.

The TT is just one of 14 races planned for the weekend, however. Three supercharged V16 BRMs from the early 1950s, their 1.5-litre engines with their tiny cylinders among the noisiest and most temperamental to take to a track, are among the entries for today's Woodcote Cup, with car collector, vintage racer and Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason driving his own example.

And on Sunday, as part of the 50-strong "Dream Grid" (a rapid parade rather than a full-on race), Jackie Stewart will drive a later BRM of the type in which he began his Formula One career. It will be almost exactly 25 years since he retired from racing, having done more than any other driver to improve the sport's safety.

It is ironic, then, that Goodwood closed mainly because it had become too dangerous, as speeds grew beyond what the track could accommodate. As Goodwood closed, Thruxton, another fearsomely fast track, opened, but Charles, the present Lord March, has long-wanted to recreate what his grandfather, the Duke of Richmond (aka Freddie March), started back in 1948. The Festivals of Speed, held at Goodwood House, have pointed the way, but the biggest difficulties have been with local residents, who feared an excess of noise.

Eventually an agreement was reached: racing will be restricted to just a few days a year, and "acoustic banking" around parts of the track will both shield the noise and give spectators a good view. The idea has been to create a time-warp racetrack, free of garish sponsorship, so people can experience racing as it used to be.

Other races include events for 500cc Formula Three cars, Fifties sports- racing cars, several races for various ages of Formula One cars up to 1965, a race for historic saloons - and motorcycle races, devised by John Surtees, in which both former champion Barry Sheene and former bike-racer Damon Hill (again) will take part.

One other thing. For men, at least, the weekend is collar and tie. This is the early 1960s, remember, so do not break the spell. If you are underdressed, you will have to peer over the picket fence instead.

Further details: 0800 0181948, fax 01243 755005, web site http://www.goodwood.co.uk

Comments