MAR 22nd 2015

73MM Earl Howe Trophy – Visiting The Friendly Paddock

The Members’ Meeting is about far more than F1, sports and touring cars. For evidence you have only to follow your nose to the cloud of burning mineral oil and ethanol…

Welcome to the land of the grand prix giants, cars that ruled the motorsport world at a time when the land here at Goodwood wasn’t even an airfield let alone a racing circuit.

The big race on Sunday is the Earl Howe Trophy for pre-1935 Formula Libre cars, and ahead of that GRR dropped in on the prewar paddock to soak up the unique atmosphere. And we’re not just talking the Castrol R in the air, but also the relaxed informality, where the teams pride themselves on helping each other out.

‘We are a little less guarded then the others,’ says one of the favourites for today’s race, Julian Majub who raced in his 1927 Bugatti Type 35B.

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‘You can ask someone how much fuel they are using and they will tell you. For sure we all try to help each other.’

There’s plenty of improvisation on offer here as well, as Julian reveals: ‘We have just fixed the Bugatti’s radiator mascot on with some bathroom sealant… we will fix it properly when we get home.’

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Bugattis are legendary prewar grand machines but the T35, T35Bs, T51s and T59 were unlikely to have it all their own way in the race at MM today. There were also the Maseratis and the Alfa Romeos to consider – as well as the Frazer Nashes, Bentleys and Mercedes –the Earl Howe Trophy has plenty of all of them.

There’s also one car with more claim on the trophy than most. This is the MG K3 owned and raced by Earl Howe in 1933 and driven today by GRR’s own Andrew Frankel.

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‘I drove it yesterday in qualifying for the first time,’ he tells us. ‘It’s an incredibly important and historic car – K3 number one and Earl Howe’s own car, one of the team of three K3s that won their class at the Mille Miglia by miles.’

So how’s it going at the MM?

‘I thought I would be last in qualy, but will be starting the race about sixth from the back.

‘It is all a bit daunting with just a 1.1-litre engine up against 4.5-litre supercharged Bentleys and so on.’ The MG’s engine, a supercharged straight six, has about 125bhp says Andrew.

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‘What is more daunting is the car’s preselector gearbox,’ he adds. ‘You select the gear you will need next and then when you want to engage it you dip the clutch. If you don’t do all that you don’t change gear.

‘It’s a quick way to change gear if you get it right but what you gain in speed you may lose in reliability and weight – the gearbox weighs more than the engine.’

The K3 might have beaten the Maseratis in the Mille Miglia in 1933 but it’s Sean Danaher in the Maserati 8CM who took pole position for the big race.

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‘It’s the first time in my life I have ever been on pole position,’ an excited Sean tells GRR.

‘A high speed circuit like Goodwood with lap speeds of 85-90mph is where big grand prix machines like this come into their own.’

What’s the secret to driving a powerful 8CM at Goodwood?

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‘You have to keep calm. The car is on edge for most of the lap and there needs to be four or five steering corrections in every corner. It’s a very powerful car and yesterday we were pulling about 130mph down Lavant Straight, lapping around 1min 40secs.

‘A high speed circuit like Goodwood with lap speeds of 85-90mph is where big grand prix machines like this come into their own.’

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Over in the Alfa section of the paddock George Fowles was putting the final touches to Tony Smith’s Tipo B, a particularly historic example, that won three grands prix in 1934, and then, with a new owner, won at Donington in the grand prix as well.

‘It’s very quick in a straight line but it doesn’t go round corners and it hasn’t got many brakes so it’s quite a difficult car on this circuit. ‘It’s car for racing in an era before chicanes. It doesn’t slow down too well and not designed to accelerate out of slow corners.’

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Julian Majub’s 1927 Bugatti Type 35B had an ignition problem in qualifying so was due to start well back in the field.

Julian tells us: ‘We think we know what the problem is and if it’s zinging properly we should be up the front by about the third lap. It should just about keep up with Sean’s Danaher’s 8CM despite being a much earlier car.

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‘We have around 200bhp or something but there’s a lot of torque and on skinny tyres I will be able to make up in handling what the others lack. We should be up there at the sharp end at the end of the race. That’s the plan anyway.’

Along with the Castrol R vapours, shattering supercharged engine noises and friendliness, the prewar paddock has that indomitable spirit…

Race update: first place to Sean Danaher in the Maserati 8CM. ‘I have never won a race in England before and to win at Goodwood is special.’

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