GOODWOOD, 19 SEPTEMBER 2010

REVIVAL TIME AGAIN

A Step back in time - In more ways than one!

Goodwood Revival 2010 

As I was driving down from Heathrow to Goodwood on the Thursday morning I was listening to BBC Radio 4 in the car – The Today Show to be exact.  A serious program for sure that can be counted on to consider the major stories of the day in real detail.  I listened intently to an earnest young lady describe the campaign she had established which aimed to outlaw wolf whistles and general bawdy comments made by workmen towards members of the fairer sex who happen to pass by.  Serious stuff for sure and worthy of debate.

An hour later and I am walking across the track at Goodwood towards the paddock when I pass by the well-known trio of Goodwood “road-workers” complete with old mini van and shovels.  They are regulars at the Revival and their main role is to interact with the crowd with general banter of days gone by.  As a young lady passed by one of these guys spoke forth with a classic comment from former days – “look at the a**e on her,” said he at high volume.  Then I realized I was back at the only event of its type.  Only at the unique event established by Lord March and his team is such behavior not only tolerated – he actually pays the men to do it!  Worth a thought for sure.

Journalist Simon Taylor summarizes it the same way each year – The Revival is simply the best historic racing event anywhere in the world and this year was the 13th since the circuit was re-opened in 1998.  It is my 10th and I was looking forward to it more than usual because I had no less than three cars to drive as follows:

·      McLaren M1B in the infamous Whitsun Trophy

·      Lola Mk1 in the 45 minute 2-driver Madgwick Cup

·      Brabham BT11 in the Glover Trophy

The McLaren had finally arrived safely from the USA to Frank Lyons and immediately work started to install the new wheels with historic Dunlop tires.  Equally immediately we realized we had a problem – the clearance to the bodywork was marginal to say the least.  This was not too surprising seeing as the car has never run on such tires since new and has always run on lower profile rubber in the USA.  Other minor problems required attention including replacing the gearbox oil cooler which was leaking and a rear brake pipe which had also started to leak in sympathy.  Both were easily fixed and the car was ready to roll.

The Lola Mk1 had not ventured out since breaking its gearbox at the last Revival when the unfortunate Bobby Rahal was driving.  The ‘box had been fixed according to ace preparer Rick Hall.  Not one for leaving things until the last minute (!!) Rick had decided to make the Lola handle better and was testing at Mallory – the day before the car was in the paddock at Goodwood.  Drive shafts were shortened and suspension generally tweaked along with different springs and he seemed happy with the results.  Good news as the car was to be driven by Goodwood specialist Ludovic Lindsay who has recently sold his famous ERA “Remus” and was lacking a drive.

Finally we had the Brabham BT11.  Armed with a 1.5 liter BRM V8 this car is a pukka F1 car of 1964 and was driven in period by a hero of mine, Joe Siffert.  Owned by the truly wonderful Ean Pugh the car was returning to the track after a 12-year hibernation.  The engine was fresh off the Hall and Hall dyno having been totally rebuilt by Ean’s faithful spanner ace Chris Davies.  This is the third of Ean’s cars that I have driven at the Revival and I owe him a lot for allowing me the privilege of driving these wonderfully historic machines.  Of course the Glover Trophy is full of these iconic cars driven by real hot shoes so the main aim was to display the car and come home safely.

Friday – Practice/Qualifying

First out was the McLaren.  It didn’t last long for sure.  First up there were massive clouds of smoke on braking – the tires were rubbing badly at the front.  Then after only two laps the battery died – stone dead.  So we were done and starting from the back assuming we could get stuff fixed.  Definitely not ideal as I really needed some track time in the car on the Dunlop’s.

The Lola worked perfectly which is new!  The gearbox was fine and the handling suddenly excellent with no understeer and lovely controllable drifts through the fast stuff.  Now this is what a Lola Mk1 is meant to be like.  Ludo loved it as well, which was good news as he is no mug when it comes to the pedaling stuff.  High hopes all round for a decent race.

Then came the turn of the Brabham.  Running a narrow rev band – 8000 to 10,000 only – the car was going to be like a Junior on steroids.  Momentum would be the key for sure.  As it happened the car was a joy to drive (being a Brabham) and the engine sweet and smooth.  Not wanting to stress things in any way I was nonetheless happy with a mid-grip position and was really looking forward to the race.  Once again totally predictable drifts were the order of the day.

Saturday – McLaren and Lola races

Off I went in the McLaren with fingers crossed about the tires.  We had raised the ride height a lot and replaced the battery so the handling was going to be a new experience for sure.  Long story short?  I had great fun and went from the back of the grid to finish 9th overall.  Best lap of 1:24 represented and average speed of over 102mph and my fastest ever at Goodwood.  My race average was just under 100mph and the car got faster each lap as I learnt how it handled.  How was that you ask?  The car was great fun with massive poke and wonderful slides in the fast sweepers.  Top speed in the trap of 151 sounds fast enough but was actually way short of where it should be if driven properly.  I reckon there is a 1:20 to be had even by me.  Some way short of the record lap of just over 1:18 by Andrew Smith who drove brilliantly in his highly developed and very quick Lola T70 spider.

With the two races running back to back I jumped straight into the Lola and took the first stint.  All went well for the first few laps but gradually the old demons returned as it became increasingly difficult to change gears in either direction.  I even spun the car at Lavant when I could not select 2nd.  Anyway I handed over to Ludovic who set off determined to do well.  All was well until lap 21 when he coasted in with no gears at all.  Its hard to know what to say about this sorry saga which has now sidelines the car three times despite the best efforts of serious race engineers.  Rick Hall is also at a loss to explain things and we are retiring wounded to think of a solution – maybe switch to an A-series box for example.  Much depression I promise.

Sunday – The BT11

I had great hopes for this race for sure.  I love driving Brabham cars, which are so predictable and fun, and with the V8 it was a dream come true.  The dream turned bad pretty quickly though because almost immediately the car seemed a little flat and didn’t have the punch from practice.  Indeed I even had a little spin in traffic when the car lost momentum.  The guys on the pit wall could hear the engine was rough although I could not – everyone says the drivers cannot hear a lost cylinder in the 1.5 V8.  Suddenly entering Woodcote corner the engine died with a pop.  Not a bang or anything like that but it was instant and almost electrical so I coasted to a hiding place behind the chicane and watched the closing laps as Richard Attwood came through in his 2-liter BRM P261 from the seventh row to beat Frank Sytner to the win.

Chris Davis looked at the car and thought things might be related to the spark box.  However I am horrified to hear that the failure is much more serious – a cam lobe sheared and there is some downstream damage as well.  Naturally I am mortified about this but Chris has assured me this is not down to the driver - scant consolation and unlikely to ease my guilt.  Nothing to the pain for poor Ean though who was so generous and I can only apologize for any guilt by association.  I do hope he realizes that I would never run any risks with such a precious engine.

The Other Stuff

Highlights of the Revival this year included a wonderful TT race with over $200 million worth on the grid.   A great race won by the Hardman/Gounon Ferrari GTO of Anthony Bamford.  Andrew Smith’s lap record in the Whitsun was in fact a Revival record and actually beat the period record of some 37 years ago – quite a feat.

For me the chance to spend time chatting with Jochen Mass and Emanuelle Pirro once more along with debating modern blocking tactics with Bobby Rahal makes the whole thing surreal.  Imagine then the sight of Rahal with fake blood dripping down his neck from bite makes inflicted by his vampire wife.  Yes indeed, the theme of the gala ball was indeed Dracula and his “Bride”.  Once again the scene was spectacular.

The Hall and Hall team outdid themselves in providing the majority of the cars for the demonstration celebrating the 60 years of BRM.  Everything from the acoustically dangerous original V16 to the P201 V12 was there, looking beautiful and being driven on the track.  What a joy and it was only fitting that Rob Hall represented the team to accept the “Spirit of Goodwood” award at the prize giving.

My personal favorite however was chatting with John Surtees who was there to be honored by Goodwood for his career achievements on both two and four wheels.  I have been lucky enough to own a Surtees and have known him since the early 1970’s.  John and his family have suffered a lot recently with the tragic loss of Henry.  However there he was with a wonderful collection of cars and bikes to see, touch and watch on the track.  On the Saturday he rode a Norton and on the Sunday drove his wonderful Oulton Gold Cup winning TS7.

So to the thanks.  So many people helped this year as I flew in, drove and flew away again.  Andy from Hall and Hall was as disappointed as me about the Lola and I know poor Chris Davies is crushed about the Brabham.  He and his mate – another Andy – were wonderfully helpful and represented the car and of course Ean very well indeed.  Ean and Tess Pugh are true royalty and wonderful custodians of their precious collection and I can never thank them enough for allowing me drive cars that have simply been the stuff of dreams for me for many years.

Finally there is my good and true friend Frank Lyons.  I don’t think I know anyone more whole-hearted and generous in his help than Frank.  This year he was armed with the terrible Kiwi twins, Benny and Phil.  Young and antipodean they may be but they are also skilled, enthusiastic, focused and expert historic mechanics.  The health of our old cars is safe in their hands.  Thanks to them all

Watch this space for some pictures and maybe video!

 

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