The Goodwood Revival weekend is an incredibly unique experience. A retrospective look at motor racing from the late forties to the mid sixties is draped in carefully choreographed historical panoramas, set alight by the sights, smells and sounds of the period.
No modern vehicles are allowed into the event’s perimeter at all. And the track has been lovingly restored to look as it would have done back then. So the competitors and spectators alike – bedecked in authentic period costumes – sparkle all the more, bringing the spectacle and glamour of fifties and sixties Britain spinning into life.
As it generates such an authentic, time-defying atmosphere, the Goodwood Revival is probably the world’s most popular historic motor race meeting. A record-breaking 134,000 visitors of all ages attended in 2009 over the weekend, each one eager to revel in the glory of one of motor racing’s greatest eras. It really is the closest thing to time travel you’re ever likely to experience.
So to have a car racing at such a very special weekend with glittering grids and sparkling on-track action is a real feather in the cap. But to have six competing across five races is a tremendous testimony to the quality of vehicles and workmanship being produced by JD Classics’ competition department.
You can imagine how much thought and planning is needed to get six drivers and their cars through qualifying and to their starting grids on time, primed and ready to give their best across 48 hours of demanding competition.
To begin with, we had to use both our race transporters to get the vehicles from our purpose-built units in Essex to a few miles shy of the coast, an hour’s drive or so south of London. With some races and qualifying sessions just 30 minutes apart, we’d primed eight experienced mechanics – resourced for every eventuality and well prepared to take responsibility for making sure their vehicle ran smoothly.
So with the weather set fair, the weekend’s racing for us began on Saturday afternoon in the sixth race. Chris Buncombe and Wil Arif in the Porsche 550 were competing for the Madgwick Cup. This trophy is for sports-racing cars 2.5 litres and under that raced at Goodwood between 1955 and 1960. And this year, it was expanded to a 45-minute two-driver race for the first time at the revival. ‘Celebrity’ two-driver races like this one at Goodwood are always a treat to compete in, with many wonderful classics and the odd legendary names catching the eye. So we were grateful Chris & Wil finished their race uneventfully – giving us a little more time to marvel at the spectacle on show.
Our last race of the day saw our own MD, Derek Hood, behind the wheel of our Cooper Jaguar T33 in the Freddie March Memorial Trophy. This race is a 25-minute sprint for cars that contested the legendary Goodwood Nine Hour race, from 1952 to 1955. With a glittering field of 29 cars that included Aston Martins, Austin-Healeys and Ferraris, Derek was well satisfied with his ninth place finish.
Come Sunday morning, Wil Arif again took to the track to contest the Richmond Trophy, this time in the front-engined Grand Prix car, the Connaught A6. It was the second race of the day and we all had a great time pitting our wits against a highly competitive line-up that was graced with classics such as the unique, four-wheel drive Ferguson P99.
But our two best performances were left for our last two races.
The RAC TT Celebration race is another ‘celebrity’ two-driver race, this time a one-hour run for closed-cockpit GT cars in the spirit of RAC TT races from the early 60s. And it doesn’t really get much better than this. A treasure-trove of historic vehicles take to the track, worth over £100 million, bedecked with great racing aces past and present.
Not to be outdone, our car competing for glory was a Genuine Lightweight E-Type, shared by Alex Buncombe and racing legend, Desiré Wilson – the only woman to have won an F1 race. And our dynamic duo’s more than respectable finish was crowned with Desiré’s prize as the Fastest Woman of the Weekend award, having clocked 1 minute, 30.505 seconds (95.4mph) during the race.
Then came the event that drew the weekend’s battles to a close. The Sussex Trophy is a celebration of one of Goodwood’s most illustrious periods when the RAC Tourist Trophy was the final round of the World Sportscar Championship in the late fifties.
With 28 cars in the field, Chris Buncombe in the Ecurie Ecosse Lister Knobbly and Gary Pearson in the Costin Lister were both eager for honours. The Lister Knobbly ran well and again for us, had a very respectable tenth place finish in a highly competitive field.
But it was the Costin Lister that drew the most attention of the two, swarming all over the tail of an Aston Martin for nigh on the entire race, in a fantastic tussle for second place. Cat and mouse doesn’t begin to describe it. Gary didn’t quite manage to overhaul his adversary, but his very fine third place finish at the centre of a hugely dramatic racing drama was enormously satisfying nonetheless – and a great way to end the weekend on a high.
Though not quite as rare or as valuable as Desiré, the E-Type is nonetheless a hugely exciting find. Chassis number S850660 was the third of just 12 models produced (alongside two spare bodies) and is now said to be the most original and unmolested of them all. And it has a story to match its pedigree, too.
It was flown brand new to Miami USA – one of four ordered by Briggs Cunningham for his premier privateer US race team. But having taken delivery of three, Cunningham sold our particular car to Norwegian-American entrepreneur Kjell Qvale (Jaguar’s first distributor on America’s Pacific West Coast).
A sports-car racing pioneer, Qvale took the car to the track almost straight away, at Florida’s world-famous 12 Hours of Sebring endurance race. Qvale had met William Lyons, who very much encouraged E-Type owners to race their cars. And so, steered by Ed Leslie and Frank Morrill, the sports car finished its latest challenge first in class.
Curiously, the E-Type was driven to Sebring without registration. It was then driven back to Miami still resplendent in its racing livery, with no plates, a suitcase strapped to the trunk and an open exhaust! Accompanied by a rental car, the two vehicles were being driven, shall we say, a little too enthusiastically and were pulled over. However, only the far less-attractive rental car got a ticket!
Next, Qvale took the closed-cockpit GT to race at the Leguna Seca Raceway (a track he was instrumental in shaping – in particular, its world-famous left-right ‘S’ curve Corkscrew bends). Although the car finished a very respectable eighth overall, it found itself put up for sale again in November 1963.
Then, just seven months old, the Lightweight E-Type was bought by Howard Gidovlenko, one of hydroplane racing’s premier engine builders of the 50’s. But the car wasn’t seen again until it was rediscovered in 1998, with merely 2,663 miles on the odometer. It was rejuvenated later that year and kept in the US until JD Classics bought it in early 2010 on behalf of a client specifically for racing.
Thoroughly race prepared by JD Classics’ competition racing team and still as seductive as ever, enthusiasts around the world are hoping to see more of this rare and delectable beast at historic races throughout 2011.