Often when we move on from one stage to the next in our lives, a part of us clings on to the past and all great things and moments that came with it. This even happens despite knowing we’re heading to a better place.
You can use that premise to look at the motor industry today. Right now, the automotive and motorsport sectors are changing radically thanks to the influx of a whole set of new technologies. Electric motors and batteries will be taking over our vehicles as the technology is perfected, driving aids may be slowly removing the human being from the driver’s seat, and even the current concept of ownership of our vehicles may fade away as time goes on into the second quarter of the 21st century.
Almost in parallel to that revolution, recent years have seen a spike in an interest for classic cars. It’s no surprise. The petrol engine has brought us some of the most beautiful and fast machines in history. Go back to the 50s, 60s, and 70s and names like Ferrari, Ford, Lotus, Cosworth, Matra, etc., shine even brighter than they do today. Come closer to the 90s and you may recall Tiff Needell’s review of the McLaren F1 where he delighted us by giving the car what we had all been waiting for, “some stick”.
So, we cling on to those golden days of the motor industry when engines were loud, cars were simple, elegant, powerful, and it took for brave individuals to master these machines during a time when death was so close in a race, it’s breath would leave a trace of steam after the pass of each car.
As an individual working to move the motor industry into its next evolutionary stage, I too cling on to that past of the automotive and motorsport industries in the face of its imminent death.
Few events around the world can bring individuals like myself as close to those golden days as the ones held at Goodwood. In 2016 I had the chance to attend the Festival of Speed (You can read about it here). This year 2019, I’ve had the pleasure of visiting those grounds again for an event I hope will continue running for decades to come. The Members Meeting, in its 77th year to be more precise.
The charm of this event lies on it’s nature for displaying the cars. The machines showcased are beautiful and worthy of museum exhibitions. However, where a museum fails to fully portray the greatness of the cars by displaying them as static sculptures, Goodwood exploits it to the maximum by putting them in their natural environment, the road.
Several races are held throughout the weekend that bring the public as close as they can possibly be to the cars (unless you’re a driver). The paddocks are open to the crowd and allow people to fully appreciate the specimens from up close. Events throughout the day are organised by decades. By the end of the weekend, racing history has been explored from the pre-war all the way to the 70s and 80s.
The drivers don’t hold back as they throw some of the most expensive cars in the world around the track. The crowd is in awe as swarms of Minis bring battles that can only be seen in the most aggressive touring car races. A roaring 1964 Ferrari 250 GTO honours its name by flying through the corners at the rhythm of its 12-cylinder engine. Ford GT40s and Porsche 910s deafening backfires vibrate ribcages as they downshift into the chicane. All this makes for a unique and spectacular occasion that brings some of the greatest names in motorsport to take part in the event. Derek Bell, David Coulthard, Mark Webber, and personalities such as Tiff Needell and Chris Harris take their place at the wheel of these machines.
Aston Martin DB3S (left) Ferrari 250 GTO (right)
My visit to the Goodwood estate that Saturday meant I’d be watching mostly the practice and qualifying sessions instead of the races which happened on Sunday.
The racing attractions started with a McLaren parade which featured the iconic F1 together with the Senna, Senna GTR, P1, and P1 GTR.
After that, the practice sessions went on for the whole day with occasional pauses to allow for some of the demonstrations to happen. Although not at racing pace, these were quite exciting to watch. The most stellar of them came from the Porsche 917s. Several of these from different years paraded around the track compiling some of Porsche’s most successful racing history. The BMW M1 Procars were also ones to watch. The grand finale came from several LeMans prototypes, LMP1s, LMP2s and GT1s alike which drove into dusk leaving some very fast trails of light behind them.
Ford GT40 (Left) and Porsche 406 (Right)
Amongst the demonstrations was also NASCAR. Not every day you see these going around a circuit which is not an oval in the US, least of all a circuit in the south of England.
Although the day was mostly practice sessions, the afternoon brought the first races of the Members Meeting with two sessions for the Mini cars. Thirty Minis at a time crowded the track with what was some of the fiercest racing you could watch.
A race for 70s and 80s cars followed with a dangerous battle throughout most of the race between two Mustang Boss and a Ford Escort. The battle ended with one of the Mustangs abandoning the race after a crash damaged its radiator.
To name some of the other cars on the day which would race on Sunday, there were the D-Type Jags, E-type Lightweights, 1964 Ferrari 250 GTO, Bizzarrini, Ferrari Tour De France, Ferrari 275 GTB, Porsche 904, Porsche 910, Porsche 356 and 356 Speedsters, Some remarkable pre-war machinery like the Bentley Blowers, the Riley Brooklands, several Bugatti, Ford GT40s, Mercedes-Benz 300 SL, etc. The list goes on but I’m afraid I’m not documented enough to detail the names of every car that participated in the event.
Before leaving that Saturday evening I decided to tour through some of the festivities. These were full of lights, a fair like environment with games, a Merry-go-round, street performances and massive tents with live music. To wrap up the whole “for the sake of old times” atmosphere around the event, one of the main halls where people went to dine, a large Jazz Band was playing some hits from the time when Mr. Howard Hughes was kicking around.
Riley Brookland (Left) and Bugatti Type 35A
The whole day felt like a door to the past with shades of the present.
Machines have been designed by humanity to perform a function. The entertainment coming from motorsport has led to advances in the whole of the motoring industry. After decades of refinement, we find ourselves close to that shifting point that will completely transform transportation as we know it.
The Goodwood Members Meeting allows us to look back into our history and feel proud of it. We must never forget our history, as it has taken us to where we are now. With that in mind, I celebrate the opportunity to see the work of pioneers who developed the machines raced at the MM. Although nostalgic about a past that’s not coming back, I look forward to an exciting future.
We have a whole new level to navigate in our motoring history and we’re only getting started.