‘It’s alive the whole time – and you’ve got to be very careful with the throttle or it’ll bite you. And the torque is crazy… it’s a total beast, I love it! And the trick is not to slow the car too much. You have to carry so much speed, while being smooth on the turn-in and using all that torque.’
That’s how Nick Padmore describes the glorious and grunty Lola T70 Spyder owned by Phil Hall in which he set the fastest-ever race lap of Goodwood during his victorious performance in the McLaren Trophy at the 73rd Members’ Meeting in March.
And the ex-Surtees car, an example of the British-built, 5.9-litre Chevrolet V8-powered prototype that carried the former motorcycle and Formula 1 world champion to the inaugural Can-Am title in 1966, will be back at September’s Revival meeting to do battle among a grid-full of stonking machines in the event’s fastest race: the Whitsun Trophy.
Ranged against an expected entry of at least eight T70 Spyders will be period rival McLaren and the car its founder Bruce McLaren built to take on Lola, the M1B. The sights and sounds of these mid-60s monsters, which were faster than Grand Prix cars of the day, are worth the trip to West Sussex alone.
The quickest of the gaggle of M1Bs in the entry is the ex-Chris Amon car owned and pedalled by McLaren chief test driver Chris Goodwin. And it’s a double winner, thanks to Goodwin’s victories at the 72nd Members’ Meeting and Revival in 2014.
For Goodwin, this year’s Revival offers a chance to avenge defeat by Padmore in March, knowing that the lap-record holder’s card is marked.
‘It’s true,’ says Padmore. ‘People are preparing their cars to try to beat my record. There will be some very quick guys and cars out there, so we’ll have our work cut out. Great! Can’t wait!’
Having ridden shotgun with Goodwin on his victory lap after last year’s Whitsun win, I’ve experienced a bit of the Can-Am magic, albeit in slo-mo, and know what a tremendous battle is in store for the 18th edition in a few weeks.
As well as providing a ground-shaking contest, the Whitsun Trophy offers a must-attend history lesson. Canadian-American Challenge devotees are well aware that the series is always recalled affectionately by those who were part of it or witnessed it in period. Sportscars with unlimited engine size and very few technical regulations raced by aces of the day on classic North American circuits like St Jovite and Mosport in Canada and Bridgehampton, Laguna Seca, Riverside and Road America in the States: what was not to like?
It was a case of anything goes in the Group 7 formula, with every mechanical and aerodynamic innovation unleashed on the cars in a bid for supremacy. To have seen drivers like Surtees, McLaren and Amon dicing with Dan Gurney, Denny Hulme and Jackie Stewart in these massive powersleds must’ve been quite something.
Fifty years later, the chance to enjoy the efforts of some of historic racing’s fastest guys, trying to keep these bucking broncos under control around the 2.4-mile, superfast Goodwood lap, is guaranteed to be one of the Revival’s highlights.
Don’t miss the Whitsun Trophy if you fancy feeling just a little bit scared when the flag drops…