This year being the 60th anniversary of its extraordinary debut at the 1961 Geneva Motor Show, you’re going to be reading a lot of words about the Jaguar E-type both here and elsewhere in the motoring press. And rightly so. In terms of global influence it is surely Britain’s most significant contribution to the sports car world and, to me, right up there with the Mini, Austin Seven and McLaren F1 among all cars this country has ever produced.
Even the slowest E‑type is amazing | Thank Frankel it’s Friday
So I thought that instead of trotting one of the more well-known tales, I’d tell you one no one knows at all, with no great drama and no discernible punchline. But please stay tuned because I think and hope it speaks a little of the kind of car it is and using it in a way that would have met with thorough approval of Jaguar’s founder, Sir William Lyons. And it is his grandson, Michael Quinn, to whom I will be forever in debt for my ability to tell it.
It was the summer of 2016 and, as ever, I was fretfully waiting for a telephone call to tell me some kindly patron had agreed to let me race their car at the Revival. But by now it didn’t seem likely: I always knew my luck would run out and this seemed to be the year.
But then Michael rang and asked if I’d care to share his E-type in the inaugural Kinrara Trophy race on the Friday evening. And then he added, almost apologetically, ‘I’m afraid it’s just a road car, we won’t be very competitive.’ I could tell from his voice he was prepared for me to turn him down flat on these grounds alone. He sounded like he was asking me to do him a favour. I took a different view. To me this was Christmas, birthday and probably Easter all at once. I paused only to ask who was preparing the car, because I’m a bit finicky about that sort of thing especially at places like Goodwood, and as soon as the words ‘Gary Pearson’ were out of his mouth, I accepted.
If you are lucky enough to get to race at the Revival to me there are two ways to do it. First, and probably ideally, is to do so in a super competitive car, be right up the front and get to kiss the girls, smoke a cigar and get a garland when it’s all over. And the year before I was doing exactly that in a Ferrari 750 Monza, lying second with five minutes to go, when the diff broke and that was that. But if you’re in a quick car, there is a certain pressure (be it self-imposed or otherwise) to do justice to the thing and I felt it horribly before that race.
The second way is to drive a car that’s not got one hope in a million of troubling the sharp end of the grid. Then, save bringing it back in the correct number of pieces, there’s no pressure at all. And while I like to do well when I race as much as anyone else, when you know that’s not a possibility and you’re at Goodwood of all places, you can enjoy yourself for an entirely different set of reasons.
And we did. The funny thing is I can’t remember a thing about where we qualified or finished. In a field comprising three Ferrari 250 GTOs, no fewer than nine 250 SWBs and five Aston Martin DB4 GTs, I’m guessing somewhere near the back. I can’t remember if I was quicker than Michael or he quicker than me, though I seem to recall there wasn’t much in it either way. None of that mattered. What I do remember vividly is guiding this beautiful car around that matchlessly beautiful circuit, feeling a sense of immense privilege every time a Ferrari came skittering past, balanced right on the edge, Colombo V12 howling away, and just loving the business of driving a slow but beautifully well balanced, utterly authentic old E-type.
And that is the unique thing about racing at Goodwood: if you do it the right way, with someone who has the right attitude, just making up the numbers is absolutely fine. The race, the cars around you and the entire event are so much more important than you, all you can do is feel privileged to have been part of it. And I did. It remains one of my happiest Goodwood memories. And best of all, at the party on Saturday night when all my friends with races still to do sipped nervously at their lime and sodas, I was able to raise a glass or ten with Michael and toast the glory of Goodwood.
You can watch the full 2016 Kinrara Trophy here.
Photography by Drew Gibson, Jayson Fong and Tom Shaxson.
The official Goodwood Revival Collection
Subscribe to Goodwood Motorsport news
Our email newsletters contains all the latest news, stories and event information about the Goodwood Estate.