The Nine Hours offered sportscar racing fans something wholly different when Lord March’s grandfather, Freddie March, introduced it in 1952 as Britain’s first night race. It started at 15:00 and lasted until midnight, with the kerbs daubed with luminous paint to help the drivers pick out the corners.
AUG 02nd 2016
Revival Revealed: Freddie March Memorial Trophy
The challenge of racing as day turned into evening and then night and headlamps picked out their passage through the darkness had considerable appeal. Only the area around the pits was floodlit and the back part of the circuit was very dark indeed. The history books show that Aston Martin loved the Goodwood Nine Hours, as its cars won on each of the three occasions the race was held between 1952 and 1955, even though the works Jaguars had started as favourites on each occasion.
First it was the turn of Peter Collins and Pat Griffiths in a works DB3 in 1952, beating the works entries from Jaguar and Ferrari. Aston Martin won again in 1953, with Reg Parnell and Eric Thompson the triumphant pairing in a DB3S. The race wasn’t held in 1954, but Aston Martin won again next time out in 1955, with Peter Walker sharing with Dennis Poore.
Perhaps one of the most memorable moments in the race’s history came in that first year when Thompson’s DB3 burst into flames in the pits, fortunately without serious injury to its driver. This year, the Freddie March Memorial Trophy is run not for nine hours, but as a normal, single-driver sprint event.
Among the entry for 2016 will be an array of drum-braked Ferraris and Maseratis seeing if they can do what they couldn’t in period: better Aston Martin. Variety will come in the shape of British marques Austin Healey, Cooper, Frazer Nash, Jaguar and Lotus, plus continental challengers Alfa Romeo and Mercedes.
Photography by Jochen Van Cauwenberge