|Earl of March Trophy Goodwood 17th September 2005|
Oh, to be at
Goodwood for the Revival in September! Well perhaps not on Thursday, as the weather was
miserable. Fortunately the rain held off until lunchtime, by which time most cars had
found their allotted garage and our Scandinavian friends were hosting their traditional
welcome. The Aquavit certainly warmed the cockles, and the herring was
Everybody huddled beneath the awnings, and the craic was good as old and new friends
traded stories. Neil Hodges presented some newly discovered Pathe News footage of 500s in
action, including features on the Cooper Streamliner, the 1950 Ladies Race from Brands
Hatch and the 1954 Eifelrennen. The Monopoletta of Manfred Dieks was unable to attend.
After some hurried transatlantic calls,
was the Cooper Mk VIII of Karl-Heinz Meub. The rear of the chassis is modified to take the
BMW boxer twin and shaft-driven gearbox, which then runs a short chain to the final drive.
The low engine allows for a much lower, sleeker rear bodywork, with large waist ducts for
intake and cylinder cooling. The BMW engine was never as competitive in period as had been
expected, but Karl-Heinz would set some healthy times once he had the gearing sorted, and
the engine made a lovely crisp noise compared to the regular singles. A very welcome
addition was a team from the 500cc Club Of America. Skip Streets brought the Staride of
his fathers, which had previously appeared at the first Goodwood Revival Meeting in
1998. Run in period by Eric and John Fenning, this bare-metal, Norton-powered model was
tended by a full team of supporters who were ecstatic to be part of the 500 crowd. As Skip
himself put it I havent even seen thirty 500s in my whole life, never mind all
together. Final surprise was Mark Woodhouse, who had packed his green Martin Special
with his Junior, on the off chance that a space would open up. This 1953 model (a year
Friday dawned cold, but
significantly drier than the day before. Now all in period dress, Shirley looked
particularly glamorous in fur, and most of the other reprobates scrubbed up remarkably
well. No major problems occurred before a lunchtime practice session and 31 cars took to
the track in fine, breezy sunshine. The Moss-Kieft prototype suffered fuel feed problems
immediately and was unable to set a representative time, but John Turner, Neil Hodges and
Richard Utley were quickly on the pace. Third time around Mike Fowler put a wheel on the
grass on the exit of the chicane and spun wildly for some fifty yards, before exiting
backwards down the service road in the direction of the
Suddenly things got serious when Nigel Challis flipped his Cooper. Nigel has no recollection of the accident but it appears that one of the universal joints failed as he entered the corner. The flailing half shaft locked the rear totally, flinging the car into a wild slide. The wheel dug in, flipping the car into a triple roll in the air, before landing on its wheels. Nigel now sports a new, improved, nose, a broken thumb and sore shoulders but otherwise was in remarkably good shape. After a precautionary night in hospital he was back at the track in time for the race and seemingly more concerned with attending the Goodwood Ball or the wife will kill me than the previous days events.
Some twenty minutes
later, the session was restarted, though without the Alfa Dana which refused to restart as
the piston had impacted the spark plug electrode.
David Lecoq had sneaked
pole from John Turner by two tenths. A couple of seconds back were Richard Utley
(celebrating his 50th anniversary of racing at Goodwood),
was a little off this group, and behind him was another prospective battle, with
And finally the
Heywood Comet, having its first competitive run for fifteen years. The car was smoking
heavily due to over oiling, causing one wag in the commentary box to dub it Halleys
Comet, and was gradually losing its tailpipe and gears.
An absolutely perfect day for racing, clear blue skies, Spitfires and the return of Nigel Challis to cheer everyone all being keen to shake his damaged hand and pat him on his sore shoulder! All thirty cars were present and correct in the Assembly Area a beautiful sight six abreast and deafening sound. Whilst waiting for the track to be cleared, Murray Walker was a welcome guest chatting to several drivers.
Setting off on the warm
up lap, the Comet was still smoking noticeably, but everyone else seemed to be OK. The
start of the Earl Of March Trophy race favours the Norton engine (with the long drag up to
Madgwick) and the Revival regulars (who know that the flag may fall before the 5 second
board has been withdrawn), so it proved to be a complete reshuffle of the grid order.
David Lecoq made the best of pole position and led into Madgwick, followed by John Turner,
Richard Utley and Rodney Delves. Geoff Gartside (dodgy clutch or not) made a great start,
but was still passed by Mike Fowler. Similarly Shirley, Skip and Gordon Russell were fast
away, while Neil, Marek and David Stevenson dropped like stones down the order. The run
from Madgwick to St Marys was particularly exciting with several groups running
three abreast along the straight. At the back a couple of cars failed to get away cleanly.
The cars completed the
first lap still in one long chain, like a swarm of angry and confused hornets. David led
by a second from Richard, Rodney, then
Second time through, and
John Turner was into his stride, right on Davids tail. These two had pulled four
seconds on another tight battle between Richard and Rodney with Skip catching fast. Skip
was attacking the circuit, passing
A train of three cars comprising Mark Woodhouse (going very fast), Gordon Russell and Neil Hodges, maintained their momentum and streamed past both on the run through Fordwater and St Marys. Further back Tony Steele was getting into his stride and beginning to pick off backmarkers. Pekka Nystrom coasted into the pits to retire the Kiehn.
Lap 3, and John made his
move for the lead. He passed David out at the back of the circuit, only for the engine to
let go on the Lavant Straight. The exhaust valve had stuck partially open, and John
reported some worrying noises from the bottom end. David came through some eight seconds
ahead of the Richard and Rodney. Skip appeared a second behind, with a suspicious dent in
the bulbous nose of the Staride. An optimistic run at the Chicane had him punting Rodney
on the rear tyre.
Richard, Rodney and Skip now ran as one. Neil had a hairy moment as Gordon tried to close the door at Lavant, but was past and after Peter. David Stevenson and Per Hageman were locked in battle. Having been alongside several times, Geoff finally got a run on Mike along Lavant Straight, and went for committed run into Woodcote, refusing to be shut out. Finally through, he then faced the problem of the second part of the corner, just about catching a tank-slapper on the exit. Having sorted that problem, he then found himself heading for the Chicane barrier rather too fast. Somehow he sorted that and scrabbled through the Chicane. As if the gods had it in for him, all this throwing the car around had upset the float bowls, and the engine began to stutter! Fearing Mike would nip back past along the pit straight, Geoff lifted slightly and prayed. Fortunately the engine coughed clear, and Geoff was off after Per, red mist well and truly descended.
Mike had been
off his usual form all weekend (no real excuse, perhaps I just havent have the
knack of the circuit), and was now in the sights of James Holland and Marek. Roy
Wright had passed Shirley who was now racing the brakeless
Lap 5 saw three retirements. Jason Wright and Shirley both retired near the Chicane. Bill had fitted a newly rebuilt magneto to the Mk IV for Goodwood and frustratingly the screws holding the cap had all come loose. Sparkless, the car coasted to a halt, and Shirley was disappointed to post her first Revival DNF. Paul had felt his engine tightening at St Marys, and coasted looking for a safe place to pull off that would minimise yellow flag time. With no engine tensioning, the primary chain decided to jump off and he dived for the grass.
At the front,
Skip managed to pass Rodney for third place. Ten seconds back, Neil found his way past
Peter for fifth place. Gordon was five seconds off Peter and four seconds ahead of David
Stevenson. Per Hageman was close behind, but being chased down by Geoff who was closing
down the large gap. James Holland had found a way past Mike, and as they passed the pits,
Marek also looked to make his move. Roy Wright was some way back but closing. Tony Steele
was on his own, then Olle Linde and
Lap 6, and the Staride dived for the pits, the magneto failing suddenly. Rodney once again set about attacking Richard. Otherwise, positions were unchanged, though Marek was closer to James for what was now tenth place. And through lap 7, most time gaps were stable or slowly extending. Neil Hodges was flying, and certainly ruing his poor start. He set a 151 personal best, another three seconds faster than in practice and right on the pace of the cars ahead. This was particularly impressive as he had other things on his mind. A small fuel leak had got much worse, soaking his legs in methanol, and raising concerns that he might run out of fuel. Wisely, he had stashed his drinks bottle in the car, and splashed his legs with water. He then decided to ditch the empty bottle but, concentrating on throwing it far enough off track he somewhat forgot that there was a corner approaching and got distinctly loose through St Marys!
And so on the final lap
David put in a fast one to win comfortably. Richard Utley came in second, just holding off
Rodney Delves. Neil Hodges,
With no duties to perform on the final day, drivers were free to enjoy Lord Marchs Goodwood Ball, which this year was celebrating the 200th anniversary of Nelsons victory at Trafalgar. Several drivers were keen to match, with champagne, what their mounts consume in methanol. Consequently there were some very subdued faces creeping into the Paddock through the morning.
As through the rest of
the meeting, interest in the 500s was strong with many visitors to our corner of the
Paddock, and not just en route to the Spitfires.
interesting visitor was Gordon Murray, former Grand Prix car designer for Brabham and
McLaren, and the brains behind three great road cars the McLaren F1, Light Car
Company Rocket, and McLaren-Mercedes SLR. In a brief but fascinating discussion he
explained that the idea for the Rocket, an ultra-low weight, superbike-engined sports car,
had in fact come from the Kiefts and other 500s that his father had raced in
To sign off a
wonderful weekend, light drinks were served at lunchtime, kindly provided by Equipe Lecoq.
Various toasts were made to and from our Scandinavian and American guests. A special
Gentleman Drivers Award was supplied by Neil Hodges in the shape of a
bottle of champagne. A complicated handicap system to reward the gentleman who drives more
for enjoyment than position fittingly was won by
2005 was an important year for the 500s. After two years away from the Revival it was important that we put on a good show, and we achieved that both on and off-track. Reliability was improved and there was great competition right through the field. Almost every driver found themselves in a battle with someone at some point. The racing was at least as good as any other race on the card, and spectator feedback was excellent. Last, but most definitely not least, the social side. From the Thursday lunch session through to the Sunday reception, the 500 Paddock was the friendliest around.
All in, your reporter believes we made a good impression, and a strong case on all fronts for a return invitation to the Revival Meeting. Our most sincere thanks go to Lord March and his team at Goodwood, to the marshals and staff of the BARC, to the Scandinavian crew for their delightful lunch and to Equipe Lecoq for their hospitality.