Goodwood Nostalgic Trip Down Memory Lane By Dick Suter
Dick Suter wrote an article for Turbo Magazine in Belgium September 2001 that was published in the March 2002 edition. He had gone back to the Goodwood Revival for the first time since being a regular at the circuit since he was 15 years old.
I knew that returning to Goodwood would be exhilarating. I had first gone there when I was 15 years old. It was a Saturday in August during school holidays and the family was on holiday at the seaside at East Wittering. Since hearing race commentary on radio some years earlier and hearing the names Ferrari and Maserati I had been 'hooked' on motorsport. I persuaded my father, who loved cricket and rugby but not car racing to deliver me to the circuit and collect me many hours later. It was the Goodwood Nine-hours sports car race, the only one run partly in the dark in England then. What excitement. The red of Ferrari the blue of Gordini silver of Porsche, dark green of Jaguar and light green of Aston Martin noise action and the smell of Castrol.
From 1954 until 1963 I was a regular attender of Goodwood's many race meetings. Then in 1964 I went to Italy and whilst there enjoying Monza, Mugello, Monaco and Vallelunga this friendliest of circuits was closed to racing. Although it was re-opened in 1998 for the one Revival Meeting of the year, this year marked the first time that there was no clashing Procar or Belcar event to attend I was determined to return to a favourite place.
What had changed from 38 years ago? Not much. The original and rather basic buildings had been re-painted in their original colours and the pits are as they were in those heady days of the '50s or '60s. Of course the fact that spectators are requested to wear clothes of the '50s or '60s and photographers, journalists and other lucky enough to gain access to the paddock must wear period clothing adds to the nostalgia. Silly? Not at all, as it adds to the ambiance. It didn't put off spectators either. This year, there were some 71,000 of them over the three days. That's more than there were in the '60s.
Goodwood back in in the '50s and '60s had a 'garden party' atmosphere, much as you would find at the annual Henley Regatta or lawn tennis championships at Wimbledon. Other circuits like Silverstone, Brands Hatch and Malory Park had their own charm but the fast Goodwood circuit, with its welcoming atmosphere and the picturesque villages and countryside was always my favourite. Today's 'garden party' atmosphere is further enhanced by the increased number of hospitality areas, champagne tents and a profusion of bars that were not there originally.
But what is important is that the circuit itself which has retained its original character. For spectators, it was always one of the 'best' with its well-sited grassy banks which afford super views of the action. The grandstands are in their original positions.
One of the changes since the 'old times' was that now there is racing on Sundays in Britain. What's strange about this you might 'ask'. Simple. Up until the early '70s over-zealous religious bodies, such as the Lords Day Observance Society, had great influence over the government and authorities. Sunday, such groups claimed, was the day of rest. A day of worship, not a day when sports where practised certainly not a day when anything but 'amateur' events could be held. Consequently, no professional football, tennis or motorsport. The British Grand Prix, for instance, was held on a Saturday and two of Goodwood's best attended meetings were held on Easter Monday and Whit Monday (Pentecôte). Practise for these events was on the Saturday.
What makes the Revival meeting so authentic is that only cars that were built and raced in the original Goodwood days are allowed to compete. And many of the drivers were those who had race them all those years ago. Another thrill is to watch cars of yesteryear being raced as hard as they had been when new. In fact, many of the cars of the '50s now have greater power. In the 'fifties, the fuel was 83-octane but today's engines, rebuilt to modern tolerances, run on 98-octane. And although these classics run on the 'skinny' tyres of the period, advances in rubber technology mean higher performance. And buzz.
Take, for example, the Sussex Trophy for sports cars that raced between 19955-60. If you like your excitement in large doses, this was as good as it gets. Stars of the show were journalist Tony Dron at the wheel of a 1960 2394cc Dino Ferrari, Barrie 'Whizzo' Williams in a 1959 3781cc Tojeiro-Jaguar, Tiff Needell in a 1958 3781cc Lister Jaguar in Belgian racing yellow and Peter Hardman driving a 1957 299cc Aston Martin DBRI, like Tony Brooks drove when he won that year's sports car classics at Spa-Francorchamps and the Nürburgring.
The Ferrari was the best handling of the quartet and soon p-assed the Lister-Jag but Hardman had the Aston sideways through the corners as he tried to hold onto the more powerful Lister and repel the Tojeiro. Whizzo finally passed the Aston whilst they were lapping slower cars but it was definitely only for the brave and skilful.
The yellow Lister-Jaguar had been sold to Equipe Nationale Belge for the '58 season and ran in that year's Le Mans 24-hours in 3.litre configuration as the CSI (then motorsport's governing body) had decided that larger engined cars were too dangerous. Later, the Lister's engine was changed to a 3.8 litre unit and has raced ever since in that configuration.
Every race sparkled but none more so than the One-hour 'TT Celebration' for GT cars that raced between 1960-64. There was a fabulous battle between Jaguar 'lightweight' E type drivers Whizzo Williams and Emanuele Pirro, which included Jean-Pierre Jarier/Jean-Claude Andruet (AC Cobra), Will Hoy (Aston Martin P214), Tony Dron, Peter Hardman and Steve Soper in Ferraris and Hubert Fabri (Alfa Romeo TZI).
Pirro, who had neither raced the Jaguar before nor seen the circuit demonstrated his class to win on what he described as "one of the most beautiful tracks in the world" Jarier said it was the "most fun-weekend of any" and "local" boy Derek Bell, who doesn't normally drive in historic races, said "Goodwood was too much to resist" That says it all.
left - Stirling Moss celebrates his 80th birthday in 2010
Dick sent a copy of the Turbo magazine with the article and it was sent to Janet Bradley at Goodwood Road Racing Co Ltd on the 29th March 2002
©Dick Suter - March 2002 | Photographs this feature ©jml Images
Dick Suter was an editor of the magazine and contributor and Ginny Suter was a regular contributor in the late 1990's and 2000's - The magazine had a circulation of 10,000
Source of images, unless otherwise stated - Suter family archives