As Revival races up on us again, more and more pro drivers are swapping downforce and slicks for a bit of ‘proper’ historic motorsport testing here at the circuit. We caught up with today’s crop of F1 and BTCC stars.
Unusually for a Formula One driver, Max Chilton’s career began in saloon cars. At 14, he raced in the T-car championship before making the move to single-seaters and ultimately F1.
None of that experience has been of any use for the 1965 Ford Mustang he will be driving at the Goodwood Revival. While it’s foolish to compare the Mustang and his Marussia in any meaningful way, apparently the Mustang’s stoppers bare even less comparison to the carbon brakes of a modern F1 car than Max might have hoped. ‘You could easily get into trouble with the braking,’ he says. ‘It feels its age!’
He also wasn’t too keen on the apparently errant gearlever either, which you can watch waggling about in Max’s on-board footage.
It’s still good fun, though. ‘It has great balance, it’s always moving about in the corners but you don’t get a spike in heart-rate like you do when a single-seater oversteers!’
Max still has plenty to learn about the Mustang, but he’s confident of being at the sharp end of the grid. ‘It’s a good car, and Richard knows it well.’ (Richard Dutton is the owner of Fortec Motorsport, who Max will be sharing the car with during the Shelby Cup.)
While it’s Max’s first time competing at Revival, he has been here as a spectator for several years. Goodwood is also the first circuit on which Max ever drove. ‘I drove a Mini here when I was 12 years old,’ he says. (We’re not quite sure how that was allowed to happen, but we won’t tell anyone if you don’t… Ed.)
Max isn’t the only famous driver at the circuit today. There are no fewer than three BTCC drivers testing here too – Matt Neal, Gordon Shedden and Sam Tordoff. Sam will be driving the Standard Pennant that our own Andrew Craig sampled briefly last week. In fact, having never been to Goodwood before, or driven the Pennant, Sam resorted to watching our video to learn the circuit!
Having stepped out of his 2014 BTCC MG only yesterday, the Pennant is a contrast. ‘I have never driven a racing car with an H-pattern gearshift,’ says Sam, ‘and I have flatshift in the MG.’ Even so, he says the Standard it feels like a race car, despite its advancing years. ‘I’ve never done any historic racing, but it feels well set up.’
The aim is to get the Pennant into the middle of the field, with room for further improvement next year. ‘I hope to be back again in 2015, but first and foremost I’ve got to do a good job this year.’
In a neat historical link, Sam’s grandfather established the car dealer that is now JCT600, and the first franchise he had was for Standard Triumph.
Elsewhere, the two Honda teammates Gordon Shedden and Matt Neal are out on track. Just as they are in the BTCC, they’re out in the same cars: this time, Austin A35s. Watching them three-wheel through the chicane is enough to build anticipation for an exciting St Mary’s Trophy. With more BTCC drivers than ever in this year’s event, it’s bound to be highly competitive.
Gordon drove in the St Mary’s trophy two years ago, but his Standard 10 (‘I didn’t even know what that was until I got here!’) wasn’t a front-runner. Despite a few teething problems, the A35 feels good. ‘It depends how they compare, though. Matt’s out in an A35, and Andrew Jordan is in his A40.’
For Matt Neal, this is his first taste of the Revival – he was due to drive a Sunbeam Tiger two years ago, but injuries from a motorcycle accident forced him to cancel. In today’s testing, he was driving not only the A35, but also the Sunbeam Tiger which he missed out on driving two years ago.
Photography: Tom Shaxson