Goodwood 74th Members' Meeting

The old adage of ‘it’s not like the old days’ is somewhat over used in my opinion. It seems that not a day goes by when I am not subjected to people stating how good things used to be; the roads, the railways, the politicians, the weather, the quality of the air I breathe and of course, the cars. Sure, the roads used to be great because people generally worked within walking distance of their house and so they were used for leisure purposes not the school run and a commute. The railways were used to ship our produce all around the place and therefore big business looked after them so that they could continue to make money.

Politicians? Well, I’ll leave that well alone. The weather, especially here in Britain, is a constant topic of conversation but that’s because if it snows heavily in New York, California can still bask in sunshine. If it snows in London, then people living one hundred miles away head to the weather forecast to see how many minutes it will be before they get it. This year, winter seems to have started in late October and we are scheduled to have a ‘few good days’ (summer) in May. The air quality is linked to the weather (according to the eco-specialists), so instead of looking forward to a warm lazy day, people are already heading to the pharmacy to stock up with pills and potions so that we can moan some more. Honestly, we are a pretty petty bunch over here.

But, at least we can take solace in the fact that no matter what the political or meteorological situation we find ourselves in, we do know how to put on an event. And this past weekend, it was the first major event of the year at the Goodwood Motor Circuit in Sussex. Having never really been a member of anything be it a fan club or a theatre group, I’ve viewed groups of get together types as a potential cult in the making, but when it comes to motorsport, I’m now a believer.

The Members Meeting this year was their 74th and I think that it’s fair to say that if this is what they do for ‘just another year’ what the hell are they going to provide us with for their 75th? 

This year, the highlights just kept coming so I’ll have to stick to pulling out three that blew me away. Firstly, the grid of pre-war, chain driven, massive aero-engined behemoths that took to the classic circuit for qualifying on Saturday was staggering. These things represent an era where you can walk around and see ideas evolving before you’re eyes. Got an old Zeppelin engine doing nothing? Stick it in a car and see what happens. Build a chassis to be strong but small and agile with a massive drive-shaft and forget to put seats in for the driver? Put a chicken fence over the shaft and clip a bit of leather to it for the driver. 

The chain drive, rear brake only (except one car with only front brakes) plus skinny tyres was real world whacky racers but out on track, on Sunday, the race provided more overtaking, driver skill and entertainment than any modern F1 race of the last decade. The crowd loved it, the commentators loved it and I had goosebumps watching it. 

The second thing is the Le Mans cars. Iconic shapes, so low to the ground, designed to just go quickly, these things are worth a fortune. Yet here they are, in the paddock for us all to walk around, look at, peer in, touch, be close to, millions of pounds worth of history up close and personal. And then then wheel them out, fire them up and head out for some display laps. Porsche chasing Ferrari, the classic colours in this setting? Peerless. 

But the highlight to me was something that really defines that ‘it’s not like the old days’ anymore. Ground Effect Formula One cars.

I’m sorry but the cars and technology used to produce these things was so good it was banned and yet here they are, firing up in my face, revving to warm the oil, spitting dirt and filth directly into my face - its my favourite way to get my dose of bad atmosphere - before heading out for some demonstration laps. While they’re going around, the commentator is casually talking with Graham Chapman from Lotus who explains the double chassis car that is going round and how at fifty miles per hour, the top chassis and aero kicks in which means the faster you go, the more it sticks to the road. Two tonnes of downforce at one hundred and sixty miles per hour. This is heavenly.

All good things must come to an end and the demonstration laps are over and silence on the track returns. Not for too long though because over the weekend we’ve been treated to everything from Mini’s through touring cars to pre-war to modern day. Celebrities milled about, personalities from motorsport, music, television, from all over the world, chatted with like minded people about cars, experiences and racing.

Trophies were won, new friendly rivalries were created but everyone was united by their passion for motorsport. 

My membership paperwork has already been submitted.