Last weekend Goodwood hosted the 72nd members meeting, the 71st was held nearly 48 years ago! This recreated the regularly held members meetings of the 50’s and 60’s. The idea was to use up the last two ‘noisy’ days that Goodwood was granted when the circuit reopened in 1998 (the other three are the Revival Meeting in September) and hold a ‘club’ meeting. As keen supporters of Goodwood and longterm members of the GRRC, we ordered tickets when the event was announced last September and had a lovely surprise, when a beautifully presented pack turned up in the post containing the ‘tickets’, fantastic enamel badges.
Taking a bit of a risk with the weather by organising an event in March, the Gods as usual, looked down favourably on Lord March and Saturday morning dawned with perfect Spring sunshine and over the weekend the temperature rose to nearly 20º – beautiful, as long as you kept out of the slightly chilly wind. We hardly needed the Tweed we had assembled in keeping with the smart country wear dress code!
Mario had been accepted to the Chicane Paddock, where nearly 200 cars were on display, members and guests were invited to vote for the ‘car who made them smile’. The winning car was a 1910 Rolls Royce. Mario came 7th a pretty good result and his friend ‘Luigi’ another Fiat 600d Multipla was 9th, if we could have added their scores together the ‘Multipla’ would have done very well. There was a good selection of cars, a cute pale blue Fiat 500 we parked next to, a great Commer camper van and a Citroen 2cv Dustbin with the rear filled with toy pigs! Our friend Richard brought his Ginetta down from Derbyshire but it’s so tiny he had to bring a second car to carry the picnic in!
Initially it felt very strange to be at Goodwood and not to be working – since 1999 we have been part of the period taxi fleet at the Revival and on Saturday morning it was like being a ‘spare part’, I’m sure Mario was eager to get going driving people around. we saw quite a few of our regular Revival passengers though who were all pleased to see Mario in attendance although sad that he couldn’t give them a lift.
Saturday morning was practice for the 12 races mixed in with demonstrations at ‘speed’ for group C Le Mans Cars, 80’s Turbo F1 and Group B rally cars competing in a timed sprint. In the Afternoon the first of the races were run, with the bulk of the racing taking part on Sunday. The joy of this meeting was the lack of crowding with plenty of room to move around and unrestricted views. The lack of corporate hospitality meant that many more areas were open for viewing including the Pit Balcony and the inside of the Chicane which gave a very different viewpoint on the racing. The track also looked different as 300,000 daffodil bulbs had been planted around the circuit giving a beautiful yellow hue behind the cars.
The first race was part one of the Gerry Marshall Trophy, named in honour of the much-missed saloon car racing legend. Saturday’s race was a 15 minute qualifier for the 1970s and early ’80s tin-tops to decide grid positions for Sunday’s two-driver race, when car owners were sharing with past masters or current professionals. Ford Capris, Rover SD1s, Chevrolet Camaros, Mazda RX-7s, Triumph Dolomites, Vauxhall Firenzas and Alfa Romeo GTVs all competed in period-specific liveries. Our house captain (Torbolton) Emanuelle Pirro was second on the grid but a problem had him starting from the pit lane which led to an extraordinary 15 minutes of action as he worked his way from last to second, another minute and he would have been first. Refreshment stops also had a new look with the Super Shell building (normally reserved for VIPs) having a ‘make over’ to a late 70’s working mans club. The attention to detail was amazing with darts, snooker, comfy chairs and old fashioned tv’s showing the racing. Sausage rolls were sold by the foot and the bar was graced by a photo of Maggie Thatcher! The only thing missing to be authentic was a haze of smoke! For a more natural feel the Daffodil Bar in a marquee was filled with bulbs and flowers in wooden boxes nestling on bales of straw, some bales forming sofas covered in tatty tweed and even a tractor. The centre of festivities was the Great Hall, a Hogwarts take on a grand school hall with long candelabra decked tables and huge house shields hanging from the ceiling. All members had been allocated houses, just like school and as well as the drivers getting points for the racing there were many activities going on where members could win points for their house. The unique thing about the Members Meeting was that everybody was invited to attend a ‘party’ in the evening. As the final race of the day drew to a close as the sun set, the area behind the Great Hall was opened up. A period funfair set the scene with illuminated parades and circus acts, a hanger had been converted into a nightclub with the brilliant ‘Old Dirty Brasstards’ playing some great tunes. The atmosphere was fantastic and rather surreal with Grannies riding giant shopping trolleys and Nuns playing pianos. Mechanical fire breathing dragons constructed from hubcaps joined fairy light lit drummers, as the enthusiastic crowds partied. Mario’s ‘Human’ was celebrating his 50th birthday a week early – why throw a party yourself when you know Goodwood will do it so well – and we meet up with a large group of friends at the event and had some wine and cake before the festivities got underway, the cake was supposed to depict the ‘Col du Turini’ on a Winter Rally, including a snowplough (an old joke) which the cars had overtaken. The evening finished with a sky filling fireworks display. Sunday morning was again bright although with a little more cloud cover then the previous day. The racing started in ernest. We watched the Sears Trophy for Saloons that raced between 1958 and 1963 from the pit balcony and stayed there to see the Low drag sports prototype demo roar past. These racers were from an era before they introduced chicanes at Le Mans to slow the cars down and although running behind a pace car at Goodwood and so relatively slow, you still had an indication of the speed as they accelerated along the start straight, James said the noise reminded him of being on the old pits at Le Mans in the 80’s .
A spectacular sight was a whole grid of Bugatti’s in the Grover-Williams Trophy. Celebrating the 90th anniversary of one of the most successful racing cars of all time, the Bugatti Type 35, this special one-make race featured a variety of pre-war models including variations on the T35 theme plus models such as the T51, T54 and T59.
The turbo-era F1 cars also did some demo laps. While racing originally ended at Goodwood in 1966, testing continued well into the 1980s, with Formula 1 teams sometimes using the venue to shakedown their machines. Iconic cars such as Senna’s JPS and Lauda’s championship winning McLaren driven by team reserve driver Stoffel Vandoorne, took to the track. The John Surtees Trophy for sports racing cars that competed between 1960-1966 saw such beasts as GT40’s, McLaren’s and Lolas take to the track with some unusual machines little known in the UK. Easily the fastest field of the day they looked fantastic in the late afternoon sun. The Last race of the meeting was the Salvadori Cup for sportscars 1955-1960, during this period Goodwood used to host rounds of the World Sports Car Championship so the field looked totally at home. Racing over it was time to go to the Great Hall for the prize giving. Fortified with glasses of Bullshot the crowd watched as Lord March and his daughter handed out medals and unique bottles of Goodwood beer topped with Theo Fennell designed silver bottle tops. The presentation really had the feel of school prize giving with heavy red curtains backing the stage and plain wooden chairs. Stirling Moss joined the Lord to present the awards for the ‘Moss Trophy’.
Finally the four house captains came on stage for the announcement that Methuen had won the battle and Mario’s old friend Jochem Mass was presented with the shield.
All in all it was a fantastic weekend and while I’m sure we won’t be waiting another 48 years for the 73rd Members Meeting it certainly won’t be the same as the 72nd. The success of this years meeting must mean that future years will be much more heavily subscribed and the chances of having another such glorious weekend weatherise in March must be slim. I’m sure in future years it will be a case of ‘were you at the 72nd’ – if not you really missed out.