Doug Nye began writing about racing cars at ‘Motor Racing’ magazine in 1963-64. Today he is a multiple award-winning motor sports journalist and author of over 50 years’ experience, with some 70 books to his name. He is Goodwood Motorsport’s founding Historian and consultant and fulfils similar roles for Bonhams Auctioneers and the Collier Collection/Revs Institute in Naples, FL, USA. He is a member of the National Motor Museum Advisory Council at Beaulieu, Hants, and is a regular columnist for ‘Motor Sport’ magazine, while contributing to many other specialist periodicals worldwide.
Were you there at the weekend? Goodwood’s 74th Members’ Meeting was run in thankfully dry weather conditions but under steadfastly grey skies. It was also cold, just like last year’s 73rd Meeting, especially on the Saturday, in conditions entirely typical of this part of the world around this part of the year.
This is one of the reasons why the big Revival Meeting itself was conceived instead to take place around what used to be TT time, maybe not in August because for us that was just too close to the mid-summer Festival of Speed, but certainly into September. That’s the period when the pastel skies and low diffuse sunshine of an Indian summer often typify our Autumn. All the leafy tree cloaks of approaching Autumn remain in place, the flower heads are at their fullest, just approaching their last luscious blooming, and the harvest stooks are ripe and rich.
In my experience this was pretty much the way it always had been around the area which I recall from childhood, and from my father’s before me – born in nearby Oving in 1902. So I guess between us here’s an experience or a passed-on memory which extends back around 114 years. Climate change? Yes – certainly a factor to be considered – but hey, don’t spoil my thread just now.
Having been chilled to the core yet at the same time bathed in crystal sunshine at Goodwood 73, I thought Goodwood 74 was not quite so cold, but pretty darned close. I did recall being rained upon, sleeted upon and even snowed upon at bygone Goodwood Easter Monday Meetings that I attended – or indeed reported upon for the contemporary specialist press – pre-1966.
Wandering about from one assignment to the next through 74’s paddock I bumped into an old friend, Peter Darley who back in the ’60s was a photographer attached to Team Lotus. I mentioned to him that at least it wasn’t snowing, and he reminded me of a photo he took there in that same paddock at Easter ’65… of the works Lotus-Ford 30 (Series 2) cloaked in what we both recalled snow – but which in fact was solid, packed, stinging, penetrative hail – fresh out of the clouds that same morning. We laughed at the memory, he walked on towards the pits and I set off for sponsor IWC’s base in the old race control building to meet their paddock tour party – about to endure my finger-pointing bletherings as guide. You know the kind of thing, “If you have any questions at all, don’t hesitate to ask – I’ll be happy to make up an answer…”.
Well just this morning as I write this stuff, Peter Darley has sent me his photograph of that Jim Clark Lotus sports car, which you see right here pictured in the Goodwood paddock wearing its hail.
As it happened, Team Lotus had brought this strengthened-chassis, updated Lotus 30 Series 2 prototype here fresh from its last outing at the Senior Service ‘200’ Silverstone meeting. Torrential, near-freezing rain had ruined that day. Only one race, a 10-lapper for Formula 3 cars, had been run to the scheduled distance, and as the circuit there flooded so the scheduled 25-lapper for sports car was flagged-off after only 18 laps with, in places, a full six-inches of standing water submerging the course.
Koni damper concessionaire Warwick Banks had won the F3 race in near impossible conditions. Then the ‘big banger’ sports cars went out – and Jim Clark plumed around in the Lotus 30, leaving John Surtees’s big Lola-Chevrolet T70, Bruce McLaren’s McLaren-Elva-Oldsmobile – in which he had broken the lap record during previous-week testing – and Denny Hulme in Syd Taylor’s 2-litre Brabham-Climax BT8 to struggle as best they could through the freezing grey spray clouds.
The list of spinners in that race exceeded the list of non-spinners. One water-filled ditch at Maggott’s Corner filled-up with crashed cars, each progressively submerging in sequence beneath the rising tide, as others piled in. Bruce McLaren had already given up with water in his Oldsmobile engine’s electrics.
Harry O’Brien from Liverpool in his elderly Lotus 19 was doing really well in third place overall behind Clark and Surtees when his luck finally ran out and he walloped the bank at Stowe Corner, reducing his 19 to rain-drenched rubble.
John Surtees spun his big Lola at the same place and narrowly missed collecting the Lotus wreckage. That was 40 minutes into the race, and the RAC Stewards and BRDC officials too the cue, and hung out the chequered flag early – coincidentally Surtees burbling past in on his way into the pits as he’d made his own decision to pull out.
And from the murk had emerged Clark the Master, skating his Lotus 30 home to win, with John in the Lola second.
And so to Goodwood, for Easter Monday. The ‘Motoring News’ race report begins: “Those of us who criticised winter racing recently had to eat their words at Goodwood on Easter Monday when the weather ranged from a violent hail storm which stopped the Formula 3 race to bright sunshine which allowed Jim Clark and Jackie Stewart to set a new lap record…”
Selecting other typical quotes from that report of the Meeting: “…a violent hail-storm half an hour before the race showed what sort of weather could be expected, and as the field went off on its first lap the storm returned and they completed a hairy tour to be greeted by a big black flag at the finish line…”The drivers were sent into the paddock, but almost immediately the strong wind blew away the clouds leaving a patch of blue sky. The grid was hastily reassembled, and once more they went off in a cloud of spray…”
The imperturbable American Roy Pike won that Formula 3 race in his white-and-black, Chequered Flag team Brabham. Later that day: “The rain returned with a vengeance for the saloon car race…in the pouring rain the works Lotus-Cortinas of Jim Clark and Jack Sears had no difficulty in disposing of the Mustangs and Galaxies”. Mr J Clark won again.
Just before the 42-lap Formula 1 feature race, “The rain abated once more…and the track was reasonably dry…” – and then finally, after Jim Clark (who else?) had won what would prove to be Goodwood’s final contemporary Formula 1 race… “The day concluded with the sports car race which should have been pretty exciting, but the bitter wind had numbed everyone into disinterest while the absence of John Surtees’s Lola-Chevrolet due to engine bothers also took away much interest. Jim Clark went into the lead with the works Lotus 30 and proceeded to romp away from the field with ease. Bruce McLaren held down second place all the race, having elected to use the rain tyres because of the overcast sky; naturally not a drop of rain fell!”.
And there’s the crux of the matter. On our little island, out here on the edge of the eastern Atlantic, the March/April weather will always be predictable – just a predictably unpredictable mixture. But just like Goodwood Members 73 and Goodwood Members 74, I certainly do recall that Easter Monday ’65 as having been – brrrrr – what Massy, a Japanese press colleague of mine, used to describe as “brrrrruddy col’…”. Don’t knock it. That’s exactly the full fat experience – delays and all – precisely racing the way it used to be…