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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I encountered a rare car at a service station on the M6 toll road yesterday evening. The owner of this gorgeous Porsche 918 Spyder hybrid supercar very wisely chose to park well away from everyone else and possible door opening dings!



887 hp and a 210mph top speed. Stunning looks and 4 wheel drive. A better car in all ways than the P1 and La Ferrari



Yes that really is gold leaf on top of the 4.6L V8



Two black beauties! Parking the Jag next to the Porsche shows the Porsches compact dimensions



Some interesting new iron (aluminium, carbon fibre …) at the FoS this year. Highlights below.

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The new Ford Mustang – finally available in right hand drive. Aggressive retro styling looks good – shame about the awful colour

 

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More “motor show” colours on the McLaren stand. Am I the only one who prefers the simple look of the MP4-12c nose to that on the new 650S nose? Must be as apparently there was so little continuing demand for the old car once the 650S was launched that they have now stopped making it.

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The Jaguar F Type Project 7 is an important car for Jaguar. Based on the slightly more extreme concept shown at last year’s FoS , the Project 7 is actually a production car – indeed the fastest production Jaguar ever. Its V8 is tuned up to 575 bhp – 25 more than the R Coupe. It also has bespoke aero, and trick suspension and diff with standard carbon ceramic brakes. The screen has a greater rake than the standard convertible and it has an D Type imitating faring behind the drivers role hoop. Inside it looks fairly standard and weather protection consists of a rather impractical clip on hood like the recent Boxster speedster. Its a striking car and they hope to sell 250, and only 60 in right hand drive. But what’s it for? Too comfortable and therefore heavy for a racer (and the rollover protection looks too scant) yet too uncomfortable for every day use. Is it therefore just for collectors and occasional track days?

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This stunning Jaguar SUV concept is far more likely to make JLR lots of money. Aimed at rivalling the Audi Q4, BMW X3 and especially the Porsche Macan it should perform well and in a different segment to current Land Rover products. I would certainly buy one. The bad news is that we are unlikely to see one for sale until 2018, with a hot version not to follow until 2019.

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VW ran their diminutive XL electric car up the hill. It looks like the future for urban transport but is very very small and very very expensive.

 

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The new Renault Twingo Sport looks like great fun. Based on the same platform as the new Smart 4-2 it has a rear mounted 1L turbocharged engine. Hot versions later this year should have 140 bhp making the car a mini 911!

There is always a fine selection of Le Mans sports cars at Goodwood ranging from those from the earliest days of racing to the very latest winning machines.

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Andy Wallace is reunited with his 1988 Le mans winning Jaguar XJR – 9

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This year’s Le man winning Audi e-Tron. Havings stumbled in the early rounds of this year’s World Sports Car championship they managed to win the race that really mattered. Sound familiar Peugeot?

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1970 Ferrari 512, just like in the film Le Mans..

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Mercedes high speed transporter carrying the fabulous Uhlenhaut Coupe (see previous posts from Stuttgart)

 

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This year’s Le Mans Toyota hybrid

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Gorgeous Jaguar D Type Le Mans winners – 55, 56, 57. This Ecurie Ecosse car won in 1957 and provided the design inspiration for the Project 7 Jaguar

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Vast V12 Sunbeam racer from 1920 and even bigger 1911 Fiat

Due to restrictions on testing (!) there were no contemporary Formula One cars tackling the hill at Goodwood this year. That did not stop some of the teams bringing cars for static display or bringing cars from previous seasons for their drivers and test drivers to run up the hill. Even then runs were restricted to demonstration performances with plenty of doughnuts and burnouts and very little speed. We had to look to the historic guys for real pace.

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Jenson Button in the McLaren MP4-26 he drove in 2012.

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Max Smith Hilliard in his 1972 Surtees TS9B. Seconds later he stuffed it into the bales at Molecombe corner. He was unhurt and at least he was trying!

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Legendary Brazilian Emerson Fittipaldi driving the McLaren M23 with which he won McLaren’s first world title in 1974.

One of the best things about the Festival of speed is the close access to the drivers available for fans.

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British GP winner Johhny Herbert sharing a laugh at the Williams pit

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John Surtees was celebrating the 50th anniversary of his world championship with a class of cars and bikes associated with his career in action on the hill all weekend.

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An immaculately turned out Paddy Hopkirk reunited with his Monte winning Mini Cooper

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Twelve time World Motor Bike Trials champion Dougie Lampkin in action

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Felipe Massa reflecting on his good fortune to no longer be at Ferrari

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I had a good chat with Andy Wallace about Le Mans in 1988. The XJR made 250 mph down the pre chicane Mulsanne Straight. At night he could see so little as the lights were mounted so low that he had to pick out his braking points by calculating distances from land marks as they flashed by. To this day the XJR is the fastest car to have driven at Le mans. Andy has no desire to ever drive that fast again – he said it was something you could only do when young, fearless and lacking in imagination.

Winter tyres are relatively new to the UK market and I have long been sceptical about their benefits. The UK is hardly continental Europe and we have historically tended to avoid the long periods of winter snow and ice that such tyres are designed to combat. So when the big tyre and car manufactures began to push winter tyres a few years ago I thought it was nothing but a fairly shameless attempt to get consumers to buy something they did not really need. However the last 4 or so years have produced unusually cold and long winters with much snow and low temperatures from December till March, even in the warmer southern lowlands of the country where I live. When I was young snow in winter was almost unheard of, now it’s a yearly occurrence. So much for global warming! The change in weather and the public authorities’ inability to cope with it has contributed to the boom in the sales of SUVs in the UK. My family would certainly not be without our X5 now.

It’s fair to say that the XKR, magnificent machine though it is, has not in the past coped very well with harsh winter weather. Even when it’s Dunlops were new wet roads, let alone those covered in ice or snow, would induce wheel spin and under steer that could at times be alarming. When the roads were icy or snowy the car was undriveable. I therefore read with some interest an account by a journalist at Autocar of how he improved the road holding of their long term test XKRS by fitting winter tyres. As my Dunlops were near the end of their life I bought a set of the recommended Pirelli Sottozero winter tyres from my tyre dealer. They were eye wateringly expensive at £1500 for the four but my dealer will look after my summer tyres in a “tyre hotel” until March when I can swap them back over for a nominal charge.

The Sottozeros are not a pretty tyre and look like they would be better on a SUV than a GT, but what they lack in appearance they more than make up for in performance. Levels of grip are now staggering – wheel spin and under steer have been banished and stopping distances much reduced. And with winter mode engaged the car is even driveable on icy roads. In the last few days we have experienced heavy and destructive storms accompanied by a lot of flooding. The XKR took it all in its stride never losing grip even when other cars were aqua planning into roadside ditches. I can’t wait to see how the Sottozeros do in snow!

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Wild tread patterns make for fine grip.

I am now a winter tyre convert and will certainly think about getting a set for the X5. As they will cost up to £2000 (gulp) I will have to save up a bit first!

After leaving Spa I faced a brief drive over the border into Germany and then a long slog down to Stuttgart.  After sticking rigidly to the speed limits in France and Belgium I was looking forward to the unrestricted Autobahns where I would finally get to see how fast the Jag could go on a public road.  Unfortunately I ended up on some very congested and windy little Autobahns that made running fast difficult, and at times, dangerous. When the weather turned bad and visibility fell matters became even worse.  The Germans are obviously used to driving fast but I can’t believe travelling at 120 mph fifteen foot behind the car in front in the rain is safe or wise. Often I would be flashed to pull over by exotica such as MPVs and diesel Golfs. On one dry straight and empty stretch of autobahn I put my foot down and got the Jag up to 140 mph. Even in the Jag that felt fast –  that was until I was overtaken by a German plumber in a Transit van…

A few miles west of the Spa circuit is the picturesque village of La Gleize. In the tiny village square, by the church high up on a hill sits a striking piece of Porsche engineering. The 70 ton King Tiger tank rests in the village where it ground to a halt nearly 70 years ago. When Hitler launched his final offensive in the West, known to the Americans as the Battle of the Bulge, the Tiger formed part of an SS battle group under the command of Nazi poster boy Joachim Pieper. The offensive was a failure and La Gleize was as far West as Pieper got. His battle group ran out of petrol and had to abandon all their vehicles. After the war scrap men cleared them all away but the Tiger was saved by the village inn keeper in exchange for a case of wine.

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Two big cats in the Ardennes

The flotsam of war in a small Belgian village.

The flotsam of war in a small Belgian village. One of Porsche’s earlier products..

The same tank in December 1944?

The same tank in December 1944?

When I visited the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart it was astonishing that no where was the War, or indeed Nazi Germany,  mentioned. Whilst Ferdinand Porsche’s role in developing the Volkswagen Beetle and the Silver Arrows racing cars was highlighted nothing was said of the driving force behind those projects, Adolf Hitler himself. Similarly no mention was made of Porsche’s significant design work for the Nazi war machine. The King Tiger at La Gleize is as much a Porsche as the Beetle.

In addition to his design work for the military Ferdinand Porsche also managed the Wolfsburg Volkswagen plant that by then was producing military vehicles. Forced and slave labour were widely used, something that led to Porsche’s imprisonment as a war criminal by the French at the end of the War. Again there was no mention of this at the Porsche Museum.

Ferdinand Porsche, gifted engineer and war criminal?

Ferdinand Porsche, gifted engineer and war criminal?

Even after the War Porsche as a company made some questionable decisions. One was to employ Joachim Pieper in a sales capacity in 1957. This was particularly questionable given Pieper had just been released from prison having served 11 years of a life sentence (which itself was a commuted death sentence) for the murder by his men of 86 US prisoners of war at Malmedy during the Battle of the Bulge. This was not an isolated incident. He and his men had previously established a brutal reputation for taking no prisoners and massacring civilians in Russia and in Italy. In the Ardennes they were responsible for killing at least 100 POWs (including 17 African Americans tortured to death) and several hundred civilians in towns such as Stavelot.

At the time they chose to employ him Pieper was not an obscure low level Nazi, he was an infamous war criminal. Furthermore he was widely known in Germany as Himmler’s former adjutant, a Knights Cross holder and the youngest Colonel in the SS. This was a man who by his own admission had visited concentration camps and witnessed the execution of Jews and the disabled without any moral qualms. What were Porsche thinking?

Pieper’s time with Porsche was brief. Unbelievably they had put him in charge of sales to America. When veterans organisations found out there was a public outcry and sales in the US suffered. Pieper was quietly sacked, but with compensation, in 1960.

It is inevitable that companies such as Porsche would have become involved in the dark side of German life under the Nazis. What is unforgivable is the denial demonstrated by Porsche at its Museum and generally. By contrast Mercedes Benz at their Museum (also in Stuttgart) pull no punches when describing their role under the Nazis. Their shame and embarrassment when talking about their use of slave labour and their role in equipping Hitler’s war machine, seem genuine. Porsche could learn something from them.

Nestled amongst pine clad hills, Spa is one of the oldest and most legendary of the Formula 1 circuits. They started racing here 100 years ago as a novel alternative to the then popular city to city races. The current circuit is often mentioned by Formula 1 drivers as their favourite and the plunge downhill to Eau Rouge before the climb up to Les Combes is regarded as one of the most perfect racing corners in the world. I have never driven the current circuit but doing so is certainly on my bucket list.

I was last at Spa for the Belgian GP in 1998. The weather was unusually fine but the race was dull. Schumacher and Ferrari were in their pomp and pretty soon the race began to resemble the sort of dull processions that did so much to turn off fans in the Schumacher era. Even sitting at the bottom of Eau Rouge could not make things more interesting and that race was the last F1 race I went to for 12 years.

The Spa circuit we see today is only a fraction of the Spa circuit that was in use from 1902 until 1978. That circuit was much much longer at 15km in length and had a reputation for appalling weather and danger as notorious as that of its near neighbour across the German border, the Nurburgring.

The typically wet weather, the lack of run off and the brooding trees claimed many lives, even before the War. Dick Seaman was killed here in his works Mercedes on 1939. Throughout the fifties and sixties lap times shortened as cars got quicker. Inevitably the danger increased. For example the 1960 GP claimed two British drivers, Chris Bristow and Alan Stacey. Stirling Moss was also injured.

The weather for the 1966 race was awful and Jackie Stewart had a serious accident he was lucky to survive. Having crashed on a remote part of the track he had to rely on fellow competitor Graham Hill to pull him from his car. Jackie has often said that it was this accident that started his campaign for better safety in Formula 1.

Those running Spa made little effort to make the circuit safer and F1 ceased to race on the old circuit in 1970. Sports car racing continued, lap times got quicker still and the death toll mounted. Three drivers died in the 1973 Spa 1000km race. The lap record (that still stands) was set in that era by Pedro Rodriguez in a Porsche 917 at an incredible average speed of over 150 mph.

Finally, in 1978 the old circuit was closed and reconfigured. It was reopened in the shorter form we see today and GP racing returned in 1983. The public roads that bore the old circuit reverted to full time public highways and can be driven today.

You join the old circuit at Les Combes and meander slowly down hill through the village of Burneville. It’s pretty straight and an F1 car would be going very fast as you enter the long right hander at the bottom of the hill. Houses and junctions keep your speed down and it is hard to believe you are on such a notorious circuit.

The long straight between Malmedy and Stavelot is interrupted by the infamous Masta Kink. It’s been tightened in modern times but its old configuration can be seen in the lay – by that sits where the wicked left / right must have terrified drivers in the past. Motorsport’s famous correspondent Dennis Jenkinson used to sit above the Kink and watch and listen to the passing racers to see who could take the Kink flat out and who would lift off. To him it was the ultimate test of a driver.

Just before Stavelot a cambered right hander takes the old circuit back towards Blanchimont and the new circuit. The crumbling Tarmac and flaking Armco at the beginning of this stretch are from the original circuit. Finally, with little traffic and few houses, it is possible to open up the throttle a bit. The road is very straight and its easy to see why the old circuit was so fast. Pretty soon you arrive at some huge gates that mark the point the old circuit joins the new, but for at least a few seconds its possible to imagine how Fangio, Moss, Stewart and Rodriguez must have felt all those years ago.

Below: Masta Kink isn’t what it used to be; Blanchimont gates; Rodriguez’s Porsche 917

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