Apart from the odd auto solo, the Goodwood Road Racing Club’s Easter Monday Sprint is the only opportunity for most non professional GRRC members to compete against each other.  Even so, this year a fair number of professional drivers were invited to compete including ex Works MG BTCC and Le Mans driver Anthony Reid.

When MG were developing the MG SV Anthony Reid actually tested my car. A photo of him reunited with The Beast was too good an opportunity to miss.

 

This year Anthony was in my class driving a Works Noble M600.

The fabulous looking M600 has carbon fibre bodywork and eschews high tech for simple power, lightness and rear wheel drive.

 

This is the works M600 in which Anthony Reid came close to setting FTD at the Festival of Speed in 2014. On that day and at the Easter Monday sprint, traction proved to be a problem. Getting all that power down cleanly with no traction control was tricky and cost the team vital time.

An eclectic mix of cars took part in the sprint. This Piper Le Mans racer attracted lost of attention. Behind, can be seen “Old Nail” the Vauxhall Droop Snoot Firenza of the late Gerry Marshall.

Its rare to see an X150 Jaguar XKR racing. This neat example entertained the crowd with a howling supercharger

Anthony faced stiff competition for the day’s record time from two Nissan GTR’s, which were also in my class.  The rest of the cars in the class were similarly modern and all were much more powerful than my MG.  The only car with which I could hope to compete was a early Porsche 911 S (997).  Eventually I came out on top in that particular duel but all attention was on the battle for overall (not just the class) fastest time of the day between Anthony’s Noble and the Nissans.  In the end one of the Nissans pipped Anthony to the award.  The fact an amateur driver in a £60,000 car was able to beat a professional racing driver in a £235,000 car was telling.

Another popular entrant was this immaculate BMW CSL racer

 

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Ever since the success of the Senna film in 2010 there has been talk of more films, with racing at their heart, making it to the big screen. It’s fair to say that racing films have not really enjoyed much success beyond the piston head market. Whilst I can watch “Le Mans” and “Grand Prix” many times most critics were not impressed. There have been other racing movies since but none has made much impact – but that looks like it could soon change.

The 1976 F1 World Championship battle between James Hunt and Niki Lauda, McLaren and Ferrari, was one of the most epic racing seasons of all time. Hunt, the flamboyant English playboy, was a darling of the British public and Lauda, the precise Austrian World Champion, was the villain. Added to the patriotic drama was the amazing story of Lauda’s recovery mid way through the season after a terrible fiery crash. And set against all of this was Hunt’s tortuous private life, his insecurity, and his disintegrating marriage.

Bringing all this drama to the screen would not be easy but the producers have picked a great director in Ron Howard (Apollo 13 etc). Take a look at the trailers on YouTube. The film looks like it will be fantastic. I Thought I was going to have to wait till mid September to see the film with everyone else but last week the Goodwood Road Racing Club announced they had organised an exclusive preview showing of the film, with an introduction from one of the producers, in Soho on Monday evening. I can’t wait. Luckily I read David Benson’s excellent slim summary of the season (“Hunt v Lauda”) a few months ago so a lot of the story will be fresh in my mind. I recommend the book. It can be picked up for a couple of quid on eBay.

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Getting to know the foibles of a new car is never the easiest thing to do in racing. It’s made all the harder in sprinting and hill climbing as the amount of track time you have is very limited. To try and give myself a head start this season I took the Beast, my MG SV, to Bruntingthorpe airfield in Leicestershire for a day’s tuition with experienced driving coach Mark Hales. He spent a most enjoyable day trying to give me a feel for driving the car at speed and around corners. Despite Mark’s excellent tuition I did not come away feeling confident when faced with the prospect of the Goodwood Road Racing Club’s Easter Monday Sprit the following weekend. As it was the car performed well with lots of grip and good brakes. It seemed suited to a fast circuit like Goodwood even if I was not! I had great trouble getting the car away from the line. I just sat there spinning the wheels for what seemed like ages. Starting in second gear was too slow but the car has such mighty torque it even managed to spin the wheels changing up to third. The end result was a disappointing time and final place. In fact I was significantly slower around the track than I have been in the past in my much less powerful MGF. Still, the car attracted a lot of interest and I was interviewed by One Forty One, the Goodwood Club website and TV channel. The interview can be found on You Tube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7nUdMmF7dvw

In the pits at Goodwood

In the pits at Goodwood

Following the disappointment of Goodwood, my next outing was at the Farnborough and District Motor Club Dimanche Sprint at Rushmoor Arena near Farnborough. Its a relatively tight course but one I know well. Things, however, started badly. The wet weather made the track treacherous and at the first corner, a slow 90 degree right, I span thankfully without hitting anything. My embarrassment was relatively short lived as both the following cars did the same! As the day wore on and the track dried out my times got quicker and in the end I improved from last in class to a respectable 4th with only Porsches and Caterhams ahead of me. part of my improvement was down to finally getting the hang of getting away from the line without spinning the tyres. The knack is to merely drive off like you are slowly leaving some traffic lights and then to pile on the power once a fair bit of momentum has been obtained.

A bleak Aldershot morning

A bleak Aldershot morning

Buoyed up by my performance at Rushmoor I was looking forward to the Crystal Palace Sprint on the May Bank Holiday weekend. This is one of my favourite events and I have driven at every one since motor racing returned to the Palace in 2009. It’s a fantastic event – the only motor racing event in London. It’s little know that the the first ever motor race in the UK took place at Crystal Palace in 1899. Racing continued in various forms both before and after the Great War. In 1936 a new purpose built circuit was inaugurated but it was only used for three years before the Second World War brought all Motorsport in the UK to an end. After the War racing returned in 1953 on a new longer and faster circuit. Whilst never the host to an F1 race, F2 races attracted all the stars of the day from Jochen Rindt to James Hunt and Niki Lauda. In its later years the circuit also hosted fast and close saloon car races and attracted up to 60,000 spectators. As cars got faster the track became more dangerous. There was virtually no run off and average lap speeds by the early seventies were over 100mph. Racing came to an end in 1972 and the course reverted to park land. The Sevenoaks and District Motor Club staged a couple of sprints on part of the old circuit in the late nineties but the local council refused to allow these to continue after the millennium. The resurrection of motor racing at the Palace in 2009 was agin organised by the Sevenoaks Club and h proved a massive success. Held over two days it has for four years now been blessed with great weather and big crowds of over 5000. The sprint attracts over one hundred entrants on each day and as well the racing there are car displays, trade stands, kids activities and catering – all in a pleasant park setting.

Motorsport at the Palace

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At Crystal Palace I found myself in a large class of 20 cars of various types ranging from Subaru Imprezzas to a Suzuki Cappuccino. And I did terribly. The course was very tight and ran partly on the old pre War circuit and then up to the frighteningly narrow North Tower bend. This has negative camber and is surrounded by banks and trees. When it was part of the original race circuit it was 25 foot wide, now it’s less than half that. Grip was not a problem, gearing was. It was too fast to go round in first but changing into second lost too much time. I just could not get it right and finished a humiliating 18th in class beaten even by the diminutive Suzuki! In fact I ended up 30% slower than the winning four wheel drive Subaru. A real shame as it’s a great event and I wanted to do better.

The Beast with victorious Subaru Imprezza.

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There were some interesting cars at the Palace. The Chaparral sports racer below, for example, look at the pipes on that!

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Pre War cars were out in force including this very smart Amilcar and this Riley exiting the first corner.

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Beautiful Fiat Balilla with iconic Crystal Palace transmitter.

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Over forty years apart, Jacky Ickx in the winners Crayford Cortina convertible 1967 and the car, back at the Palace this year.

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