MAR 09th 2016

Doug Nye – The Greatest Test Of All?


Doug Nye

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.

Madgwick Corner, for our American audience ‘Turn 1’ on the Goodwood Motor Circuit, was always quite a special place. It’s a surprisingly long two-apex turn, climbing slightly uphill the further you get through it, and for most of its life it had a singularly unsettling lateral hump or brow just short of the middle, then another – less marked – near its exit.

Ferrari Targa Florio promo

Madgwick was another medium-fast corner, which has survived ’til today when it is regarded as being really quite quick. But that’s largely because average corner speeds possible on most modern circuits are so much slower than was once the case as most circuits were configured through the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s.

Modern courses tend to feature more acute stop, chuck and accelerate corners – or truly geometric curves tightly constrained by the expensive acreage they occupy. That wasn’t so in Goodwood’s case where, of course, the geometry of the aerodrome perimeter-track based race circuit was really decided by a Ministry of War draughtsman, beavering away at his drawing board, probably in Whitehall. World War 2 was raging furnace-hot when the perimeter track was finally constructed, and under the pressures of the period you can bet your life that the surfacing team just slapped down an approximation of what was drawn on their job plan. Again in keeping with the period it would probably have been a closer, more conscientious approximation than anything that under-pressure tarmac specialists would bother to do today, but bureaucratic inspection was still quite rigorously applied then, even if it wasn’t up to what had been Victorian-based peacetime standards.

In any case Madgwick Corner was created to challenge Goodwood drivers – and for one race meeting the motor-cycle riders too – from September 1948 into the mid-summer of 1966. The infield there became quite a magnet for capable (and bold) motor racing photographers.


My late mate Geoff Goddard was one of them, and over the years he certainly captured some great images by standing within a yard or two of the infield track-edge, usually about 20-30-feet after one or other of the twin apices, and carefully timing the click of his right index finger to fire his camera shutter.

One of his early classics there captured the British sensation of the 1952 racing season – Mike Hawthorn at the wheel of Bob Chase’s Formula 2 Cooper-Bristol, prepared by his father Leslie at their TT Garage business in Farnham. Part of their secret was that they ran their car’s highly-tuned Bristol 6-cylinder engine on what was, for the era, a most sophisticated fuel brew.

Leslie’s mechanics on the car at TT Garage were Brit Pearce and Joe Bickell. Joe’s brother had been Ben Bickell, a prominent pre-war racing motor-cyclist. The brothers had built the famous 1929 Chater-Lea Brooklands special motor-cycle ‘Copperknob’ which lapped the Weybridge track at over 112mph in 1932. Ben Bickell was killed riding an Ariel in the 1936 Ulster Grand Prix at Dundrod – but brother Joe accumulated tremendous motor-cycle tuning experience, some of it with that other Brooklands habitué, Leslie Hawthorn.


In particular they learned much about nitro-methane fuel additives – little used in road racing cars into the 1950s, and Brit Pearce told me how ‘…we got the stuff in drums and mixed it up in the Garage, and kept it quiet. I don’t think even Bob Chase – the owner – knew we were using it.’

In any case it made the Hawthorn Cooper-Bristol an immensely competitive Formula 2 car, and Mike displayed the driving skills to extract the utmost from it. I am told he looked visibly quicker than his peers through Madgwick, and he balanced slip angle against tyre scrub to great effect – skillfully drifting the car without losing momentum.

Five years later, another of Geoff’s assorted negs also captures another master at work through Madgwick – Australian speedway-bred Jack Brabham at his most elbows-out in 1957 – positively hurling his latest rear-engined Formula 2 Cooper-Climax through the curve, I bet with its brakes having hardly been troubled on the approach. Jack’s skills would be too often under-rated throughout much of his career – and since – but study that image above and tell me he didn’t know what he was doing? Yeah, right…

By Easter Monday, 1960, Chris Bristow (lead image) was a fast-rising new star. He was meteorically quick – tipped as the natural Cooper-born successor to the emergent Mike Hawthorn of 1952 vintage. There he is in his Yeoman Credit team Formula 1 Cooper – piling on the opposite lock because his lurid cornering had at that stage a rather less cultured air about it – but dazzlingly quick (and committed) regardless.

GPL 1960 T53 Schell YEOMAN CREDIT COOPER Goodwood Easter.jpeg09031605

Within months, tragically, his fearless commitment caused his demise during the 1960 Belgian Grand Prix at Spa. Madgwick might have been quite quick, but Spa’s downhill Burnenville Curve was twice as quick – and deadly. Chris Bristow dived in there in close contact with ‘Wild Willy’ Mairesse’s front-engined works team Ferrari Dino. They had been duelling for several laps, no quarter asked, none given. There was contact and the Englishman’s Cooper rolled through a roadside wire fence. The incident was unsurvivable. Another British driver was killed in that race – Team Lotus driver Alan Stacey, apparently struck in the face by a bird… It was a grim weekend indeed, both Stirling Moss and Mike Taylor having been severely injured in practice.

At Easter Goodwood that year the veteran, extrovert, Franco-American driver Harry Schell had been Chris Bristow’s senior team-mate in the Yeoman Credit Coopers. And Geoff caught him near the same spot, tail out plus a tiny touch of opposite-lock, better balanced than Bristow but plainly not quite as quick. Poor ‘Arree would lose his life during wet practice for that same year’s Silverstone May Meeting, when he clipped the inside retaining wall at Abbey Curve and the car flipped. Motor racing then posed truly lethal risks…

GPL 1960 BONNIER BRM TYPE 25 Goodwood Easter.jpeg09031603

And finally in this little selection of Geoff’s fine work, how’s about this shot of Joakim Bonnier pressing on – trying desperately to prove that the traditional front-engined Grand Prix car configuration of his works BRM Type 25 could still cut the mustard against these new little ‘blacksmith job’ rear-engined Coopers. Despite the stylish Swedish driver’s best efforts, the BRM Type 25 – which had abundantly proved itself to be one of the best of all classically-configured Grand Prix cars throughout the previous season – stood no chance. He finished sixth – disheartened and dispirited.

Race winner that day was Innes Ireland in the brand-new rear-engined Lotus-Climax 18, beating Moss’s Rob Walker-entered Cooper into second place, and persuading Stirling to badger Rob to buy a Lotus 18 for him. One was secured – thank you Colin Chapman for arming the enemy – and first time out with it Stirling would win that year’s Monaco Grand Prix. But that, of course, is another story…

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