Doug Nye: A magical step back in time... to pre-Revival Goodwood

09th November 2017
new-mustang-tease.jpg Doug Nye

One of the things that I do day to day is to run a motor racing photo archive – The GP Library. Over the long years we have accumulated something like 1.8-million images – negatives and colour transparencies – covering racing cars and motor races over one hundred years of competition, from 1902 to 2002 which we thought was a nice handy span to offer.


We have no staff, no help, we are hopelessly absorbed in the subject matter and we can usually find something of use – or offer our regrets that we simply have no coverage of something like the 1927 Icelandic Grand Prix – within minutes of being asked. 

However, it would help if one had an organised mind instead of the butterfly mind with which I was blessed at birth. From being tightly focused and fascinated by one thing I am very easily diverted onto another, and then – coo, I didn’t know that – and I’m off onto a third, then a fourth and so on. I have a grandson who is outstandingly tidy-minded. He’s cheerful and outgoing but he also spends hours lining up toy cars in a perfect row, shuffling school paperwork until it’s all in perfectly neat and sensible subject-related stacks, and even lining up knives and forks at the dinner table. He has what is described as a tidy mind – that which yours truly here most distinctly lacks. And if he ever needs a job in future I think he could be ideal to come and sort out my office, and my section of The GP Library photo archive. 

It’s because of this near-perpetual chaos that sometimes photos go missing. But there’s a mischievous little gremlin in this house who – I am convinced – physically removes prints from where I vividly remember last seeing them (anything up to ten years ago), and hiding them from me where the need comes to seek them out. After a couple of days of failed searches, that same little gremlin will creep in at dead of night, and replace the missing prints not too far from where my instincts told me they would be. 

Now in an earlier GRR blog I presented some wonderfully evocative photos which we had taken at the Goodwood Motor Circuit back in the early and mid-1990s, before the course was rebuilt and polished up in time for the inaugural Goodwood Revival meeting in September 1998.

View of the pits from close by the Control Tower - of the pit line only ‘Ted’s Shed’ survives (right - painted garden gate green) - the old pit lane is barrier protected - the paddock empty - airfield hangars beyond...
Pitlane exit and the old former race control and press office building - back in 1997 home to Mithril Racing - the resident racing drivers’ school…no penthouses, no towers…all development which quickly followed… And there in the foreground are Freddie March’s ‘Scalextric’ concrete crash barriers….
Pitlane and pit area looking back towards the chicane - former race control and press office building to the left - note the old barrier and that tree, still there...
The paddock area looking to the north with the Downs beyond, finishing straight and pits area to the right…
Spectator area between Madgwick and Fordwater - with the eroded old original earth stop bank and its scrap-tyre facing. With the spectator fence set back from the bank all onlookers could see over the barrier was the tops of the driver’s crash helmets going past… Today huge berms raise the viewpoint.
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9 - One of the most frightening features of the original Motor Circuit was this fall-off on the outside of the very fast Fordwater Corner - scene of several nasty accidents over the years. This are was filled to provide a more level verge with raised spectator berm on top of that… Trees show line of circuit.

Those shots had been taken from three or four colour films which I had taken, wandering around a full lap of the course before the earth movers and builders moved in. While the old race circuit would emerge untouched in its configuration, what had formerly been billiard-table flat spectator areas would have been built up immensely by massive earth berms to provide a proper vantage point – the old earth stop-bank – almost completely eroded away over the years – would have been replaced by tyre-faced new, and of course the pits and race control buildings would have been recreated in the form they have today, twenty years later…

This was a wonderful project with which to be so closely involved, having worked with Lord March and his Goodwood staff on Festival and planning applications and Revival since first dawnings in 1992.

And then, yesterday, I had a call from my colleague on the Goodwood Creative Committee, journalist/publisher Mark Walton, asking if we could lay our hands on “any shots of the Motor Circuit as it was before restoration?”.

So that sent old butterfly mind rummaging about – first on what passes for our computer ‘system’ – oh yes, terribly technical only mine’s a 22nd Century set-up being operated by a log burner. Could I find the scans of the old photos I knew we had? Absolutely not. Intensive searches threw up a blank. I don’t think this was all me. Having updated my AppleMac operating system recently – as advised by those nerdy intelligent people who really know about all this stuff – I have found that the latest El Capitan search facility is total rubbish compared to its predecessor.

Hurtling into the braking area for Woodcote Corner at the end of the Lavant Straight - the Shell Building an aiming point beyond…
Woodcote Corner entry - the tyre and earth bank barrier perhaps unconvincing - with the Shell Building amongst the shrubbery beyond there…
Chicane approach after Woodcote Corner with the old tyre chicane barrier arranged across the road and at the right-side apex ahead.  To the left stands the ‘jungle’ that existed in 1997 - it would have totally blocked spectators’ view today...

Key words like ‘Goodwood’, ‘Archive’, ‘Original’, ‘1990s’, ‘Pre-Restoration’, ‘Old’, ‘Woodcote’, ‘pit lane’… Nah. Nothing of use – not a single image from the set I was seeking, but plenty of others of really great and fascinating passing interest. So, old butterfly brain clicked into action again, and after an hour or two of happily semi-conscious diversion I had reminded myself of an awful of what just then was totally irrelevant stuff – but I still hadn’t found the Goodwood Motor Circuit photos I knew we were keeping somewhere.

And then I paused a moment – and slid open my desk draw, just right here by my left thigh. And there are three of those old traditional bright-blue, Konica negative and print wallets – and inside are the original colour negs, and the colour prints, from that day shooting at the Motor Circuit, just for the record.

And so Mark got his scans e-mailed over the interweb thingie and I ended-up scanning a number of those 20-year-old old prints probably for the second or third time, just to get a grip and park them properly this time, somewhere that I hope even AppleMac’s apparently useless search programme can rediscover them whenever they might again be required…

So I thought I would share some of these 20-year old shots with you right now, and I hope that those of you who recall the Goodwood Motor Circuit as it really was before Lord March went for it – and those who perhaps never knew it during its 30-year semi-hibernation period 1967-1997 – enjoy taking a shufti at the way it used to be…before tidy minds took it back in hand.

Photography courtesy of The GP Library

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