Thank Frankel It's Friday – battling a GTO at sunset

15th September 2016
andrew_frankel_headshot.jpg Andrew Frankel

An image for you. It is dusk, the sun is on the horizon, casting a glow over Goodwood – whose beauty no painting could capture. You hurtle out of Madgwick, your E-type Jaguar perfectly on track to use all the road at the exit but not an inch more. Your foot is hard down now and mentally you have already left the corner far behind. All your thoughts are of Fordwater. Tricky old Fordwater. Is there a corner in the country that’s struck more fear into more hearts than this?


The problem is that the part of your brain that deals with logic knows it’s flat out, even in a standard E-type like this. Just enter on the right line, steer gently into the apex to unsettle the car as little as possible and it will see you through, not with much space to spare mind, but space enough. But the other part of your brain, that responsible for keeping you alive, begs to differ. It can see how close lies the bank at the exit. It knows the curve progressively gains positive camber and that will try to pull the car onto the grass. Most of all, it knows there is no clear turn in point and if you get it wrong you’ll be lucky if the result is merely expensive rather than painful. It tells your right foot to lift, overriding the previous instruction to keep it nailed flat.

But then something unexpected. Behind you, a third party enters your calculations, and it needs evaluating fully before any decisions can be made. Its headlights are on, the Jag’s exterior mirrors are useless and the one inside the car vibrates so it’s hard to tell even what it is, let alone how fast it is moving. You are yourself doing well over 100mph, approaching one of the most difficult corners in racing and don’t really want to be focusing on something behind you. But you have no choice.


You glimpse a shape. It’s not much more than a curve, but it’s one you’ve known since you were able to stand. There’s no mistaking what this is. Three letters form instantly in your brain. G. T. O. Get this wrong and you’ll keep the headline writers happy for weeks. How fast is it moving? It’s gaining as you’d expect but moving aside is not the automatic choice. What if he’s already chosen to pass on exactly the same stretch of track into which you are about to move? At these speeds such cars can change direction once; they cannot do it twice. But you don’t want to hold him up or put him in a position where he’s tempted to pass on the outside of Goodwood’s fastest curve.

You judge that there is enough space and move to the left to let him through on the inside. He sweeps gratefully past, but can’t quite take the ideal line into Fordwater. At the apex the Ferrari starts to oversteer.

You lifted long ago but are now still fully committed to the corner yourself. One line, one trajectory. Whatever happens now is pre-ordained and unavoidable. You can see the GTO’s inside front wheel at the edge of the track, but the rear is peeling away more and more. You can see the opposite lock being applied, but can’t yet tell whether it’s a calculated and measured correction, or a panicked, instinctive reaction, a last ditch attempt to avert catastrophe.


But through a thick Arai helmet and balaclava and over the noise of the E-type’s engine, you hear the Ferrari V12 howling its inimitable song, constant and untroubled. You don’t know who’s driving the GTO, but know already he has this situation covered. So now you can relax and enjoy.

Which is how I came to watch the finest GT racing car ever made being balanced on the absolute edge of adhesion through the fastest corner of the greatest circuit this country has produced. In that moment the race was an irrelevance: all that mattered was that I had found myself in the best seat in the house in time to witness one of the finest spectacles anyone who loves cars could ever have hoped to see. Goodwood at dusk following a GTO on the limit. I’ve seen a lot of images in over 20 years of racing old cars. But that one’s staying with me.

Photography by Drew Gibson and Tom Shaxson

  • Revival

  • Revival 2016

  • Andrew Frankel

  • Jaguar

  • E-Type

  • Ferrari

  • GTO

  • 2016

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