That name says Chris Ward. You may know him from Silverstone (he was there for 20-years, as chief instructor and then circuit manager) or as chief pedaller for JD Classics – read more about them here. It was in that role he memorably shared the Rover SD1 at the 73rd Members’ Meeting earlier this year (video of that here).
Chris is officially workshop manager of JD Classics, one of the world’s foremost classic road and racecar specialists and this year a headline sponsor of the Goodwood Revival. Chris started in single seaters before progressing to modern sports and GT cars, but has been racing historics for JD’s owner Derek Hood for 15 or so years now. He can claim to have had his behind in an astonishing range of cars: from early Bugattis, to all kinds of Jaguar and Jaguar-powered classics, to that Rover SD1.
GRR’s recent visit to JD Classics’ Maldon base gave us the chance to find out a little more about Chris and his motor racing…
Historic or modern motor racing?
I am enjoying my historic racing more than ever. The cars might have similar power to a modern race car but they also have a third the tyre grip so the driver always plays much more of a role. I wouldn’t say you have to be more skilled but you do need an appreciation of what can happen.
How aware are you when racing of how valuable and precious the cars are?
I am very privileged and very lucky to be able to drive these cars, not just for what they are but because of the history behind them. It is something I am very aware of when racing. You don’t take quite the same risks as you would in a modern car.
What makes a successful historic racecar driver?
Mechanical sympathy is key. You have to respect the car, not just manage it from a damage point of view but also mechanically – historic cars won’t take a continual pounding so the driver must manage it so that it makes it to the end of the race. But of course you have to be quick as well. The best drivers drive them hard but always with a margin.
What do you like about racing at Goodwood?
The circuit brings the natural driver to the forefront because you have to have confidence in your ability. It’s a challenging circuit and because it’s pretty much the same as when it opened you don’t have the safety net of massive run-off areas, so the adrenaline is always running. I like that.
Are you a fan of the Revival?
I love the variety of cars there, the sounds they make and the fact that they are very physical cars that have to be driven. But at the end of the day motor sport is about the spectators, not just the people driving around. For them to be so close to the action and to interact with the drivers is very important. That’s where modern motor sport has lost out – spectators aren’t allowed to be part of the action any more as they are at Goodwood.
What’s in your garage at home?
You have raced many kinds of cars, is there one still on the wish list?
To drive an ‘80s Formula 1 car would be fantastic.
Where will historic racing be in 10 years’ time?
Bigger and better than where it is today I think. As a sport it’s still on the up. It needs to stay accessible, not just for drivers but most important for the spectators. The variety of cars will increase with more Group C cars and machines from the 1970s and ‘80s – the Goodwood Members’ Meeting has helped there with races for cars like the Capri (above) and Rover SD1.
What will be a classic historic race car of the future?
Got to be the McLaren F1 hasn’t it? It transformed modern GT racing and opened it up to the privateer.