How many window winders should an Austin A40 have? How much should a Studebaker Golden Hawk weigh? What size are the tyres on a Maserati 250F? It sounds like the ultimate motoring pub quiz…
In fact it’s all in a day’s work for the team of eligibility scrutineers working away behind the scenes – actually they are in the hangar below the Goodwood Road & Racing office – to ensure all the cars are actually what they appear to be. Down to the very last detail.
You might imagine the person in charge of all this to be the world’s greatest motoring mastermind, but as chief eligibility consultant Keith Marchment admits, he’s far more engineer than car nut.
‘I don’t know everything about old cars by any means,’Keith told us, casting an eye over a Maserati 8CM when we popped downstairs for a look at the whole scrutineering process.
‘It is possible to know too much in this job. What we need to know we find out.
‘The Maserati is a beautiful car but give me a hangar full of old Fordson tractors and I’d be just as happy. What I am most passionate about is engineering.’
Tractors in fact feature highly in Keith’s life – as a trained engineer he not only works for John Deere but is passionate about old tractors.
When we called in Keith and scrutinising consultant Phillip Venables were finishing checking the last of the day’s cars from the St Mary’s Trophy.
What are they looking out for?
Says Keith: ‘For cars in the St Mary’s Trophy we are looking for original manufacturer’s spec, so for example the cars must have passenger seat, door trim, window winders and be correct in every detail.’
How do they know the original spec? Phillip Venables admits: ‘One of the most useful sources for cars in the St Mary’s Trophy cars is the 1960 Observer’s Book of Cars because it lists all the original specs.’Lots of other sources are used as well to ensure the cars meet the strict racing criteria for their class.
Keith adds: ‘These can be grey areas. The idea is to make a level playing field for everyone. But it is a game, and one where we always try to stay one step ahead. The bottom line is that I don’t want to see any cars left in the garage – we all want to see them out on the circuit.
There’s sometimes not time to check every car. Instead cars are chosen at random before the races, and then the top three in any race always go into scrutineering for checking and weighing, plus three more chosen at random.
Keith and his crew of seven more eligibility scrutineers had their busiest day on Friday, with more than 40 cars passing through the scrutineering area.
What sorts of things do they find? ‘Mostly minor things – anything major and we will put a report in and maybe that’s a car that won’t get invited back next year.’
You have been warned!