I find it incredibly difficult to grasp – as do all of us involved with Goodwood Historic events since the inaugural Festival of Speed in 1993 – that this coming weekend sees the 19th in our series of Goodwood Revival Meetings.
SEP 07th 2016
Doug Nye – Ready for a Ferrari v Jaguar v Aston Martin Revival battle?
Since the Goodwood Motor Circuit ran for only 18 years as a conventional frontline motor racing venue – from September 1948 to July 1966 – the Revival series September 1998 to September 2016 has now matched the course’s original career in simple longevity.
Coo-errr! – as they say…
Each year we have tried to ring the changes in the Revival Meeting programme, partly to refresh its annual appeal and partly – let’s be honest – to keep ourselves, and all matching-minded GRRC members, enthusiasts and tyro spectators alike, just truly interested.
For us this coming weekend’s most intriguing innovation will be the Kinrara Trophy race, to be run as an hour-long, evening-into-dusk, two-driver event open to pre-1963 Grand Touring cars.
That job description has opened the new race to the bulk of competitive cars seen in past years in our TT Celebration classic on the Sunday afternoon. But there are few things more evocative for the confirmed motor racing enthusiast than the sight of great classic Le Mans-type cars doing battle through sunset into the gathering gloom of dusk. Once their lights come on… whoa, it could be “ooh nurse” time again…
As the publicity blurb for this Cazenove Capital-sponsored race puts it “The world’s most glorious GTs will do battle, including Aston Martin DB4 GTs, steel-bodied Jaguar E-types, and Ferraris SWB and GTO...”
Quite some ingredients then for a spectacular starting grid and racing action to follow. Valuable Ferraris have been hard-pressed at Goodwood in recent years to compete seriously with infinitely more highly-developed aluminium-hulled Jaguar E-Type specials. The British cars have in fact proved difficult to regulate adequately. This is why the steel-bodied requirement has been applied to Coventry’s finest for the Kinrara Trophy, and it should provide a rather more level playing field where Maranello’s finest GTs are concerned.
In essence, cubic inches count for much.
In period back in the early 1960s the 3.8-litre E-Types might have been expected to out-muscle the smaller 3-litre Ferraris. But cubic inches are only part of the equation. Issues involving the Coventry cars’ production-derived in-line 6-cylinder twin-cam engine, versus the Italians’ racing-derived 60-degree V12-cylinder two-cam power unit leveled that particular battle, especially upon the kind of circuits widely used at that time – many of which allowed the Ferraris to exploit a top-end advantage which was not so apparent round Crystal Palace or Brands Hatch.
The rather tall, gawky-looking all-independently-suspended E-Types of the day also commonly displayed a handling disadvantage against the well-understood, long-developed if comparatively agriculturally-suspended Ferrari 250 GTs… and especially the GTOs.
In period the 1961 Oulton Park Spring Meeting was pretty unusual in that the 25-lap GT race there saw Ferrari’s established 250 GT Short-Wheelbase Berlinetta challengers roundly beaten by Graham Hill in Tommy Sopwith’s brand-new Jaguar E-Type upon the spectacular new model’s racing debut.
What’s more, Innes Ireland finished second there in chicken farmer John Ogier’s Aston Martin DB4 GT – and Roy Salvadori third in Jaguar dealer John Coombs’s sister new E-Type – before the first Ferrari trailed home: Jack Sears in the Sopwith/Colonel Ronnie Hoare-entered Maranello Concessionaires/Equipe Endeavour 250 GT SWB.
Many felt then – and still half-believe today – that this newsworthy result had been choreographed to give British industry’s glamorous new – yet affordable – Jaguar the best possible competition launch. Major entrants Sopwith and Coombs certainly shared Jaguar/Ferrari allegiances.
Over many years, most of the major players in that race have all assured me that this was not the case, it wasn’t ‘A Fix’, but did I detect a twinkle in each of those old rascals’ eyes…?
The truth is, in fact, twofold. First – I just don’t know whether that result was fixed, or not – and two, while Graham Hill in John Coombs’s E-Type beat Mike Parkes in the Colonel’s Ferrari SWB the E-Types didn’t beat the best Ferrari 250 GTs again at worthwhile level through the rest of 1961, and then through the whole of ’62 as well. In fact they wouldn’t beat Ferrari in a meaningful race until the small batch of aluminium ‘Lightweight’ E-Types emerged for 1963.
Even then it was only at supporting International level that Graham Hill – again – defeated the Ferraris in a Jaguar. Driving John Coombs’ prototype ‘Lightweight’ E-Type – ‘4 WPD’ – he beat Michael Parkes’s 250 GT SWB in the 15-lap Sussex Trophy here at Goodwood on Easter Monday ’63. Into July that year, Graham in ‘Noddy’ Coombs’s ‘4WPD’ then beat Jack Sears in the Colonel’s 250GTO in the Grovewood Trophy race at Mallory Park.
But meantime former RAF Valiant jet-bomber pilot Dick Protheroe really achieved the E-Types’ finest result against the Ferraris.
It came in a rather curious mixed sports-prototype/GT race which preceded the French Grand Prix at Reims. Protheroe’s gorgeous ‘Lightweight Low-Drag Coupe’ E-Type ‘CUT 7’ outran the GTOs to win the GT class and finish second overall, headed only by Carlo Mario Abate’s Scuderia Venezia-entered (and elderly) Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa sports-prototype.
However, in the present Historic era, Ferrari 250 GT and GTO owners have been very much constrained by retaining the largely as-original specification of their now enormously valuable cars – while in contrast many leading Jaguar owners have exhibited few such qualms and development has virtually run riot.
This led to a recent-years situation in which very few Ferrari owners remained willing to expose their cars to the probability of being demeaned on circuit by unmatchable hyper-developed E-Types whose specifications in truth far exceeded what was even remotely achieved by the Coventry cars in period.
One aspect of the Kinrara Trophy race is that it seeks to address this imbalance but – as I write - whether the contemporary racing balance of 1960-63 will be accurately reproduced we can only speculate.
In period Aston Martin’s DB4s performed against the Ferraris more or less upon a par with the E-Types, but proved to be handicapped on several levels – not least simple weight, and relatively more challenging handling.
Horsepower from their largely race-bred 3.7-litre 6-cylinder twin-cam engines was always sufficient. But few of the cars appeared in combat, most notably campaigned by John Ogier’s Essex Racing Stable team, and the DB4GT in the hands of Moss, or Innes Ireland, and the aggressively muscle-bound DB4GT Zagatos driven by Innes and most notably Jim Clark were very much isolated under-dogs amidst a Ferrari/Jaguar pack fight.
When the Aston Martin factory weighed-in seriously again against the GTOs and ‘Lightweight’ E-Types in 1963, their very special Project 212 and 214 Coupes proved much more of a serious threat to Ferrari – but failed on reliability if not outright performance – until Roy Salvadori toppled Michael Parkes’ works Ferrari upon the Italian’s most prized stage of all – the Monza Autodrome in the GT race supporting that year’s Italian Grand Prix. That was the occasion upon which much of the Milanese crowd thought that ‘Salvadori’ must be a hitherto unknown Italian star, and they ended-up cheering on the ‘new boy’ in the British car against that Inglese “Parkers” in the home-grown Ferrari… Lucien Binachi brought the second Project 212 home third just to rub salt into Ferrari’s wound… But, as I’ve said, the Project cars were very, very special Aston Martins indeed.
In the Goodwood TT that year they were in effect scrutineered out of a very real chance of winning when controversial RAC official Stuart Proctor ruled that they should run on wheel-rims too narrow for choice.
That day saw Innes and Bruce McLaren struggle in a race they could quite possibly have won – the absolutely enraged Innes, eyes standing out like organ stops, finishing a troubled 7th – after multiple spins and repeated spectacular recovery drives through the field – while Bruce had to retire. That was the day Innes described how he knew he had hung it out too far and “lost it when I felt the airstream blowing on my face through the hole in the side window”.
Then - and now – these early-’60s GTs from Ferrari, Jaguar, Aston Martin – and more – look (and genuinely are) a zillion-Dollars just sitting stationary. Put them out on track, full-chat, and they really are all-action, squatting, rolling, pitching in tune with their drivers’ inputs – and with headlights on running into the dark the Kinrara Trophy race should – as a spectacle - look simply, simply, wonderful…
Photography courtesy of The GP Library
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