Mystery Monday – How To Race A Mini At Goodwood

03rd April 2016

I have been lucky enough to race at circuits across Europe, from the undulating challenges of Spa, and the wide open spaces of Silverstone, to the tight confines of Pau’s street circuit. But Goodwood is the one place guaranteed to crank up the apprehension, adrenaline and anticipation to another level. It’s the history of the place, and the fact that this is home to the best historic racing in the world today, that means to be part of any race here is a real privilege.


But I think it is the sustained speed and commitment required to be competitive that create the extra buzz, and the fact that the track is exactly as it was in 1966 - with limited run off – so respect is required.  Even in an FIA historic Mini, racing in the Whitmore Cup at the 74th Members Meeting last month, my average speed on a quick lap (1:33) was 91mph when I was on the pace, and that includes a second-gear chicane. 

In my Cooper S, it’s all about keeping momentum. I take a deep breath before going into Madgwick in 4th and again just before turning in for the first part of St Mary's: this is the fastest bit of the track in a Mini and you approach it at 120mph and over 8,000 revs.

At this year’s Members' Meeting the pre-66 saloon race was for under 2-litre cars: Lotus Cortinas, Alfa GTAs, BMWs and 10 other Cooper Ss. With all the cars running on Dunlop historic rubber the attitude of all the cars is just fantastic: four-wheel drifting, sliding at over 100mph. In qualifying I had to catch myself and concentrate on getting a good lap time rather than just enjoying the action from the best spot at the circuit.

Competitors included Nick Swift, Nick Padmore, the current Goodwood lap record holder, WTCC Champion Rob Huff (and that’s just the Minis) and perhaps the best touring car driver in history, Steve Soper, in the quickest Cortina out there – the one Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden came second in at the Revival last September.

When you enter the collecting area the heart rate goes up a level. 'Drivers in cars please', ramps it up another notch, belts on, foot tapping on the bulkhead, engine on. I qualify as the second Mini, and eighth overall, so on the warm-up I can see the front two Cortinas power slide around the first corners to get some heat into the tyres.

The starter drops the Union Flag and we are racing. I have too many revs on and light up the front tyres; Nick Swift and Rob Huff make better starts. But for the next seven laps I’m part of a great seven-car battle. I get past Huff coming out of the chicane but going into Madgwick a BMW and I get stuck behind a slower Cortina, so I lose momentum. Even with a Swiftune engine, I can’t pick up speed like the BMW. 

I get overtaken by Nick Padmore but on the next lap I get back past and we go side-by-side through St Mary's at over 100mph. But he’s got the inside line and bounces over the kerb on two wheels and goes ahead.

Before I know it, the chequered flag is out. I cross the line eighth – 0.4 seconds behind Padmore’s Cooper S. Lotus Cortinas locked out the podium; the best Mini belonged to Nick Swift in fifth.

The adrenaline is still pumping on the slowing down lap and for a few days later… then you start to think about next time.

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