|Goodwood Revival 17th September 2011|
The Earl of March Trophy invitation brought together a novel mix of cars, including just seven Coopers plus the Flash Special and several either making their race debut or close to. Expected star was Richard Bishop-Miller finally getting the Revis back on track. It may have taken a few years, but it must be remembered that the car was a complete wreck when received, and the Bishop-Millers have had to recreate much of the car, including that aero nose) from a limited selection of photos. The finished car is pretty and with a realistic (not concours) finish, and proved to have significant potential. Non-Cooper builders would be wise to beg drawings for the driver’s seat he has made, which was drawing a lot of praise for fit and comfort.
These would be matched by a brace of late-model Martins, Simon Frost’s car now sporting a Speedwell Blue paint job. The contingent of eighteen British non-Coopers was completed by a range of cars seen at least occasionally on course over the last couple of years, led by Darrell Woods’ Staride. Marek and Jules Reichman had completely refettled the Emeryson and were hoping the engine problems were cleared.
Roy Hunt was also resigned to scratching, and had even settled back with a cup of tea. But Nigel Challis most generously donated his spare Norton. Given that Nigel had the head off his own Norton, diagnosing fractured bolts, it was left to Equipe Smith to arrange an emergency dash from his Northampton workshop. More than this, Nigel also had to get involved in efforts to get reserve cars to fill the (potentially) two empty places. With help from Gordon and Vernon, great efforts were made to gain permission from the CoC and from Lord March – Martin Sheppard being very close by, and of course there were those cars in the GRRC marquee. Sadly, and after much waiting, permission was refused. Not for the want of trying, and Nigel deserves a lot of credit for all the work he did when quite frankly a;; he wanted to do was find those head bolts.
Someone always loses out on Goodwood starts, caught out of gear as the flag suddenly rises and falls, and this year it was Nigel Ashman, swamped and about 20th at Madgwick. Simon reacted quite well, but the Martin just had no grip in the odd conditions and he drooped to sixth. Sam, no doubt with a lecture about starting on Norton clutches still ringing in his ears, made the best start from the front row, reasonably cautious but still effective. But still he was blown away by Neil and Mike. Neil (no stranger to miserable starts at Goodwood) had a nose ahead on the inside into Madgwick. Mike ran around the outside where he found enough grip to move ahead on the run to Fordwater. Neil returned the favour and re-took the lead. But he was just too fast for St Mary’s and spun around. He had to wait for the pack to pass, but at least got going again in 22nd place.
So Mike led Lap 1, but not from Sam. Taking the time to settle, he had been passed by Gordon Russell and Peter Kumlin (back on his 2005 form), these four eking out a 3” gap from the chasers. Who, most impressively, were led by James Gray. – fourteenth on the grid, tenth into the first corner, he passed several bigger names for fifth. On his tail were Darrell, a recovering Nigel Ashman (a phenomenal second half of the lap), Simon, John Jones and again impressively, Richard in the Revis for tenth. In close formation were Nigel challis, Roy Hunt, John Chisholm, Shirley, Rodney and Richard Utley, Duncan hanging off, then a gap to Hakan, Marek, Per and Paul Hewes. Roy and Olle followed at some distance, but Olle spun round out of the Chicane, being passed by a recovering Neil and, just past the line, Gilbert Lenoir. The Whitfill was being driven cautiously, but pottered on.
We had already lost Vernon’s JP with magneto troubles. The McCandless (with such potential in the wet) seemed similarly afflicted, losing its spark just as the flag fell. It was pushed into pit exit where the spark plug was changed (partly in hope, partly as it was the only relevant spare in pocket). She fired and went away, but failed to complete the lap, the problem in fact being down to a the battery for the fuel pump.
Lap 2, and Sam moved ahead of Peter Kumlin, the former apparently following the same controlled approach as in practice and building his speed carefully. Third was soon second as Mike span out of the lead at St. Mary’s. Unlike Neil a lap earlier, Mike lost the engine and there was no chance of getting her going again on the wet grass.
Lap 3 was a lap for the Kiefts. Sam found a way past Gordon and opened up a 2-second lead. Peter Kumlin was a couple of lengths behind, but quickly under pressure from Nigel Ashman, who had passed the Comet, who had JB in his mirrors. Notably, these top five were covered by just six seconds. Darrell was sixth and now chased by John Chisholm, whilst further back Simon was under a lot of pressure from Nigel Challis.
Behind these two was a nasty little incident. Roy was struggling with the Martin, and out of the Chicane it let go. A 270˚ left the car facing the infield and Roy booted it to get headed in the right direction. Poor old Rodney had chosen that side (and the racing line), factoring that the Martin would continue rolling backwards out of his way. The cars hit nose to nose, the Kieft taking the greater damage and jumping over the lower, pointier nose of the Martin. With the forward driver position of the Kieft, the fear was that Rodney may have been injured. He wasn’t but whilst the dent hadn’t quite encroached into the footwell it was preventing more than half an inch of clutch pedal travel. Rodney soldiered on without a clutch – not such a problem whilst racing, more so when trying to find neutral entering parc ferme at the end of the race…
Meanwhile, Neil Hodges was in (nearly) full flight. Like Shirley, he had some vague engine troubles not totally obvious in the strange conditions and only clear on viewing lap times. Stuck in no man’s land he could have cruised to the finish, until his “pit crew” (a fairly generous description) gave him a five-letter incentive: “MAREK”.
Nigel Ashman was gathering himself for a late push (no one had expected the track to be so much slower and plans were for 10-12 laps, not just nine that were completed in the allotted twenty minutes). He looked to have the measure of the maroon car and it would make a remarkable comeback if he could win after that start. But on the fifth time out the back at Levant he put a wheel on the grass and around went the white Kieft. He kept the engine running, but it seemed to take an age to get back on track. He completed the lap back down in sixth off the back of the lead group. JB was now coming into his own, passing James, who was starting to fade as the track dried, and monstering the Effyh.
At this stage, it looked to be settled. Sam now led Gordon by two seconds, JB was right on Peter’s tail and would probably find a way through. James had fallen back to five seconds behind these two and Nigel, whilst faster than James, looked unlikely to bridge that gap. Further back, Darrell had been passed by John Chisholm and didn’t look to have an answer, and a few more seconds behind, Nigel Challis had the measure of Simon Frost. The thick end of a minute behind were the walking wounded. Rodney led, but was losing time to Roy (still running at this stage) and the rest. Neil had now passed Richard Utley, but the weak engine meant Richard would repeatedly re-pass. Marek was about to depart, and Shirley was slowing. Duncan was somewhat on his own, but the Trimax had gone further than it has since it’s return and he was really enjoying himself. Häkan and Per were having their own private Swedish battle completing the cars on the lead lap. And the Whitfill and Gilbert’s Cooper Mk IV were in formation a lap down, the former ahead after another embarrassing moment for Gilbert.
There was still three laps to go, and much would change. For one, the track was finally drying, altering the balance again. For another, some who perhaps thought it was over hadn’t accounted for a driver behind with much more optimistic ambitions.
JB did quickly dispose of the Effyh which, like James, was struggling as more grip became available. Nigel Ashman really had the red misties, he cleared the Comet and passed the Effyh on lap 8. He started the final lap a second and a half behind the Cousy but a couple of seconds faster. In pursuit he would set the fastest lap and surged past along the Lavant Straight to take the final place on the podium. It was a superb chase back, but you had to feel for JB, who had again out-driven himself.
Fifth and sixth would be Peter and James, both having driven very well when conditions allowed them to punch above their weight. Another to benefit from the drying conditions was Darrell, who realised he could now match and then catch the Arnott of John Chisholm. It wasn’t an easy pass as they were setting very similar lap times, but he got back on the Arnott’s tail and passed him for seventh on Lap 8. But Darrell hadn’t spotted that their battling had allowed Nigel Challis to latch onto their tails and a great final lap had Nigel mugging both of them. Simon Frost completed the top ten, never finding the confidence in the car to show his proper form.
If the Revival races are supposed to be a show, the 500s certainly set the standard for the rest of the meeting. There was fine (and fair) battling through the field, with the lead six, the middle group, and the rest of the unlapped cars all creating great racing. Sam was a fair winner, but had been given a good run by the old guns. James Gray drove superbly, and JB was so unlucky not to grab a podium. Better yet, there was a camera on Gordon’s car, so perhaps we’ll get to see Hodges & Fowler spinning away the lead – a definite YouTube favourite.