The Best a Man Can Get?


Goodwood Revival 2009

September 17-20 2009

It’s a cliché I suppose but it cannot be denied that there is really nothing else that even comes close to the Goodwood Revival every September run by Lord March and his team.  Other events may have better racing and perhaps more track time but as a total package the annual event in Sussex remains unchallenged as the best there is.

This year had the usual special themes of course.  For 2009, there was the 50th anniversary of the Mini – car and skirt - and the 40th anniversary of the first landing on the moon.  Quite what the latter had to do with anything was a somewhat moot point but suffice to say that we had Buzz Aldrin on hand to judge a vintage aircraft display.  As far as the historic race care scene was concerned he seemed somewhat pleasantly bemused by the whole affair.

Of course the main celebration was the 80th birthday – on the Thursday as it happened – of Mr. Goodwood himself Sir Stirling Moss.  As any self-respecting enthusiast knows Stirling won the very first race at Goodwood on 1948 and ended his career in a life threatening accident on Easter Monday in 1962.  In between he won more than 20 races including several F1 events as well as three TT races.  These days he is racing his treasured OSCA fifties sports racer with unique Desmodromic head – carefully but with undiminished skill and smoothness.  As regular readers know Stirling has been a friend for some years now and of course a hugely supportive Patron of The Daisy Appeal Cancer Charity.

For Ecurie Scalpel the event involved two cars.  First up was the BMC Mk1 Huffaker that I last drove to win the Junior race at Monaco in 2008.  I was delighted to have the car at this event but was in little doubt that it would struggle at Britain’s fastest racetrack.  The car simply does not have the power of the1100cc Ford-engined Juniors or indeed the short stroke BMC cars.  Our baby has a humble long-stroke 998cc engine that hurtles the car around twisty place like Monaco but would likely be outgunned down the long straights of Goodwood.

At the last minute the Goodwood team asked if we would bring along our Lola Mk1 for the one hour Lavant Cup.  Oh and by the way would I mind sharing the car with Bobby Rahal – former Indianapolis 500 winner and multi-Indycar Champion.  Bobby is an enthusiastic historic racer with several cars of his own and as I know him to be a sensible driver I was only too delighted to accept the kind offer.

Anyone who has ever been to the Revival knows that there is a lot of hanging about!  Starting Thursday morning there is scrutineering followed by the traditional cricket match and afternoon tea.  Then there is what passes for a drivers briefing after the Spitfire display with drinks in hand – this is as British as it gets I assure you!

Thursday night, I was massively honored to be invited to a private and very small party celebration at Goodwood House in celebration of Stirling’s birthday.  I cannot thanks Stirling and Susie enough for this extraordinary gesture and I also must thank Charles March for his agreeing to me being there!  What a lovely night – twenty odd people sitting down for dinner and chatting amiably for several hours.  Here I was sitting there surrounded by Stirling and Susie and other folks such as Derek Bell, Brian Redman, Tony Brooks, Emanuelle Pirro, Doug Nye and of course Lord and Lady March and their daughter Attie.  A very special evening.

Friday at the Revival is qualifying day and my only moment of glory.  Because he had never drive the car before I suggested to Bobby that he venture out in the Lola first to get a feel for things.  Off he went and after 20 minutes of so we swapped over.  The car was being looked after expertly by Hall and Hall – thanks to Alastair and the guys – and when the session was over a few things were obvious.

First, the gearbox was a problem – stiff and slow it was really costing time changing both up and down the ratios.  Second, the car was handling better with stiffer front springs and had better power with a cold air box.  Finally – listen to this – I was three tenths quicker than Bobby Rahal!!! I know he had never seen the car before and that he is a gentleman and all that stuff but I don’t care – I have the time sheets and that’s all I can say!!  No doubt he was reserving the humiliation for the race itself!

The Huff was a different matter of course.  This car I know intimately and so was immediately able to have fun.  I had a great game with Mark Woodhouse and his very rapid Elva-BMC.  Frankly I was quicker than him around the twisty bits – but 15mph slower down the Lavant Straight was killing me.  Pole position was stolen by Mark Gilles subbing for the injured Ned Spieker – get well soon Ned – in his indecently powerful Lola-Ford Mk2.  I was sixth and working out how to fling it faster at the first corner!!  It seemed to be the only way that I might be able to overcome the slightly limp engine issue.

The one hour Lavant Cup was first up and contained a big range of cars and speed differentials because if was recreating the spirit of the 1950’s races.  Up front was a beautiful and very speedy Ferrari Dino and a gaggle of Aston-Martin Le Mans cars – including one that had sold for a mere 9 million – sterling that is!!  I was firmly plonked near the back against a bunch of much more modest cars such as Lotus 11 and the like.

Off we went and soon found myself circulating in a little trio of a Ferrari in front – complete with oil leak – and Mike Hibberd in his Lotus 11 behind.  It was a fun race to be honest although the gearbox was getting worse all the time.  At 30 minutes I peeling into the pits and handed over to Bobby Rahal who set off.  Two laps later he was back again because the car would not let him find fourth gear – B****r!!  so we retired gracefully – but not before he had taken more than a second off my best time – told you he would!!

Saturday night is party night at the Revival and this year is was a Flamenco theme.  Lord March sometimes excels himself and this was one of those occasions.  Before the music started for real Mark Knopfler just popped up on stage and played “Local Hero”.  If this was not enough the next thing was a remarkable display by two Spanish Lipizzaner horses on the dance floor.  If that was not enough, when the horse left there was a remarkable indoor fireworks display!  Enough said.

Sunday was the Chichester Cup for the Juniors but not before we watched some good racing.  A personal highlight for me was the TT – frankly sometimes I have found it a bit boring.  Not this year though as I watched one B. Rahal produce a stunning first stint in Adrian Newey’s lightweight E-Type Jag. Now I know this car has every development possible and appeared to be remarkably planted but I don’t care.  Bobby’s drive was superb and he never put a foot wrong.  The pairing would have come second to be honest if Peter Hardman’s Ferrari had not expired but that is the way these things go sometimes.  Winners they were and later on Bobby was awarded the Drive of the Day – well deserved.

When the flag dropped in the Junior I got off the line from the inside of the third row well enough.  Too well in fact as I found Mark Gilles in my way!  Never mind though as we all set off at a fairly furious pace.  I got into a fairly tight dice with Sir John Chisholm and Mark Woodhouse.  We had a couple of laps under a pace car required to collect an errand car or two but after that it was flat out all the way.

At the end of the race – won deservedly by Derek Walker in his very rapid Terrier-Ford I was fifth.  Frankly I was happy enough with this because I don’t think I left too much out there!  I took two seconds off my qualifying time and increased my straight-line speed.  The car ran faultlessly as usual and reminded me that my recent experience has suggested that the cheaper the car the more reliable and the more fun.  Hmmm!

Overall though it was a fun weekend and I cannot thank Bob Birrell enough for his transport and mechanical help (!!) and also Tom – on loan from Frank Lyons for the occasion.  I think Tom had fun especially when he discovered that the Huffaker was only made of a few bolts and nuts and did not require a box full of Snap-On tools!  

Always on hand during the weekend to cause embarrassment and general trouble was regular Scalpel stand-in Simon Diffey.  Diffey was in the Junior driving a Stanguellini hybrid courtesy of Jarrah Venables - thankfully i beat him or i would never have heard the end of it.  He was also running the Morley MG-Cooper and put on a pretty impressive display before being starstruck and allowing Chris Rea overtake him on the last lap.

Who thinks I should send the M1B there next year??  Julian Bronson won the depleted Whitsun field in his one this year!!

Off now to try and sell some cars and fix the remaining ones.


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