During the Goodwood Motor Circuit’s glorious first era, between 1948 and 1966, the circuit’s bread-and-butter events were the British Automobile Racing Club-organised Members’ meetings, 71 of which took place in period. They were modest club affairs in which enthusiastic hordes of mostly amateur racers could exercise a wide variety of steeds around one of Britain’s fastest venues.
Regular West Sussex worshippers will know that the concept was revised in March 2014 with the advent of the 72nd Members’ Meeting, to critical acclaim.
Adding a high-profile feel to Goodwood among those Members’ Meeting thrashes in period were a selection of international events, including non-championship Formula 1 races – for the Richmond, Goodwood and Glover Trophies, the Lavant Cup and the News of The World and Sunday Mirror Trophies – and sportscar enduros comprising seven RAC Tourist Trophies (two of which were World Sportscar Championship qualifiers) and three nine-hour races that ran from 3pm to midnight, with a Le Mans-style start in which drivers ran to their waiting cars.
And it’s thanks to the Revival’s wonderful retrospective-style races that so many memories from those period classics have been – and continue to be – evoked.
Recreating those moments of motorsport history is what the event does so well, with the nine-hour fixtures of 1952, ’53 and ’55 refashioned into a 90-minute, two-driver race under an early-evening sundown.
Now a traditional curtain-raiser on the Friday evening, the Freddie March Memorial Trophy attracts an astounding grid of 1950s sportscars, including famous two-seaters from Aston Martin, Cunningham, Frazer Nash, Jaguar and Maserati – many of them with original race provenance.
In their heyday, each of the nine-hour battles was won by Aston Martin, the British firm’s 3-litre, straight-six-engined DB3 scooping the prize in 1952, the lighter DB3S model cleaning up in ’53 and ’55.
That inaugural event, on August 16, 1952, featured three factory-entered DB3s, with Peter Collins and Pat Griffth taking victory in the #17 car over a brace of Ferrari 225S racers, by two and five laps respectively. It wasn’t all plain-sailing for Aston, though, as the two other cars hit trouble – the #16 George Abecassis/Dennis Poore machine suffering clutch failure and its #15 sister (Reg Parnell/Eric Thompson) engulfed in flames in the pits.
A year later David Brown’s squad, now armed with the S-model, upped its game and achieved a one-two finish, with the #4 Parnell/Thompson car seeing off the challenge of year-one winners Collins/Griffith in #6 and two very competitive Jaguar C-types entered by the factory. The third car, #5, again crewed by Dennis Poore but this time sharing with Roy Salvadori, was an early casualty.
For the final installment of Goodwood’s evening endeavour, in 1955, Aston was given a hard time by the Jaguar C-type’s replacement, the D-type, which had finished second on its competition debut at Le Mans a year earlier. The Big Cat, pedalled by Desmond Titterington and Ninian Sanderson, finished one lap adrift of a relieved Poore and his third team-mate in as many nine-hour races, former Jaguar Le Mans winner Peter Walker, in DB3S #3. Third place went to the #2 Aston of Collins and his future Formula 1 rival Tony Brooks, while the #1 machine of Parnell/Salvadori broke a wheel early on.
Interestingly, Aston Martin has won just one of the 17 Freddie March Memorial races in Revival history, thanks to the Frank Sytner/Willie Green DB3S vanquishing the opposition in 2002.
Look no further than the very car in which Collins and Griffith prevailed 63 years ago for an Aston with a chance at glory this time round. Appropriately, the car, now owned and raced by Martin Melling and shared by vastly experienced and super-quick driver Rob Hall, wears #17.
Wolfgang Friedrichs’ ex-Peter Whitehead DB3S, which he shares with preparation wizard and ultra-successful historic racer Simon Hadfield, will be another to watch out for.
All five Astons – there are two DB3s and three DB3Ss entered – will have their work cut out, as they did in period, by a decent line-up of Jaguar C-types. Six of the Coventry classics will appear, ensuring that the 2015 Freddie March Memorial Trophy will be as good as anything that unfolded six decades ago.