OCT 27th 2015

Doug Nye ‑ Hill, Clark, Brabham, Moss and Goodwood's Greatest Days

Goodwood Stirling Moss F3 500

Some of the happiest times I ever spent at the Motor Circuit back in its heyday were on or around the starting grid and in the assembly area. Both were always bursting with activity and the atmosphere was terrific, always a heady mixture of anticipation, excitement, palpable tension and – on one or two occasions (especially under grey skies with the threat of rain – or hail – or snow!) ­– a sense of foreboding.

Jim Clark Rally Promo

Flipping today through the photo archive files makes much of the same emotions and responses flood back. After the frenetic 500cc Formula 3 race at the last Revival Meeting, it’s interesting to study the record of 500s at Goodwood in period.

At the top of the page you’ll see 500cc Formula 3’s best-ever ‘find’, Stirling Moss himself, ready to do battle at the September, 1952 meeting. The lengthy shadows, deserted grandstands and otherwise empty assembly area suggest that this is an early-morning shot. Stirling is seated in his absolutely gleaming Cooper-Norton, with constructor John Cooper himself standing to the left, looking round at photographer Fred Taylor. The Moss-Cooper combination would win, but in keeping with practice at the time the 500 race for ‘the demented woodpeckers’ was over only five laps…

It’s interesting now to see the tuffets-studded, gravel-strewn surface in the assembly area, and to note the exhortation on the sign beside the track entrance (top, right). It reads baldly:

‘BARC OVERTAKING RULE

KEEP RIGHT

OVERTAKE ON LEFT’

Clear? Yes, Sarn’t-Major…

And the truck on the left, just the other side of the chestnut paling fence? It’s the Paddock Bar, from the Friary Brewery in Guildford. The basic necessities of life, ’50s-style, were not ignored at any motor racing circuit of the time. I vividly recall one veteran driver who would always require ‘A nice drop of the Red Infuriator’ before he would ever deign to go out and do battle. Today it would attract an instant ban, if not – in extremis – a period of profound reflection in jail…

GPL Stirling Moss Goodwood F3 500

Up at the other end of the paddock, the return gate was another favourite spot for the GP Library’s veteran photographer Fred Taylor. Here’s one of Fred’s shots of Stirling wheeling back into the paddock in another gleamingly immaculate Cooper, this time over Easter ’53. He finished third that Monday, beaten by Alan Brown’s Cooper-Norton and Reg Bicknell’s Erskine Staride-Norton.

GPL Goodwood streamliner

The massive Goodwood crowd had come out – and the sun had gone in – by the time of yet another Fred Taylor 500cc Formula 3 shot at the return gate, this time capturing a very different car and driver. This four-wheel-drive streamliner is the Ulster motor-cycle racing specialist Rex McCandless’s notion of Formula 3’s future. He and his brother Cromie McCandless came from Hillsborough in County Down and during wartime he had developed a good-handling lightweight motorcycle frame and suspension, which became the prototype of the super-successful ‘Featherbed’ Norton. The shamrock-helmeted driver does not look very happy, and the complex, hefty, though streamlined McCandless-Norton, could finish only eighth…

GPL Goodwood Scarab Lavant Cup

In later years, on the starting grid, here’s Chuck Daigh’s visiting American front-engined Scarab poised to take off in the 1961 Easter Monday InterContinental Formula (up-to-3-litre) Lavant Cup race. Chuck was both a very capable driver and a talented engineer, and his hangdog expression here suggests he’d assessed the Scarab’s chances against the latest rear-engined opposition pretty realistically. He finished seventh.

In this photo, extreme right, we can just see BRM chief engineer Peter Berthon in conversation with team manager Warren Olson of Reventlow Automobiles Inc, the California-based Scarab constructors. On the extreme left in trench coat and cravat stands the imposing figure of Louis Stanley, married to Jean (nee Owen) co-owner of BRM, while awaiting his cue from the BBC producer is the unmistakably deer-stalkered John Vary Bolster, the former racing driver who became ‘Autosport’ magazine’s founding Technical Editor, and who acted as BBC TV’s roving pit reporter for their motor racing coverage. Do you remember his sharp-pitched Queen’s English band-saw voice? The first time I recall hearing him was from a 500cc F3 race at Silverstone around 1953-54, when, with his inability to pronounce the letter ‘R’, he reported ear-splittingly ‘Oh what tewwibly bad luck – Wedge Bicknell’s chain’s bwoken!’. Come back JVB – all is forgiven…

Tony Brooks BRM P48

Perhaps above all it’s the attire of the day which characterises most of these ageing photographs. Here’s that great racing driver Tony Brooks, seated in his works BRM P48 in fourth spot on the outside of the front grid row for that same Lavant Cup InterContinental Formula race on Easter Monday ’61. It was plainly not too warm a day, chief engineer Peter Berthon rugged-up in his hefty duffle coat sharing a cheery word with his team’s new driver, while a mixture of waterproofs, overalls, cheese-cutter caps and a very sharp blazer complete the picture.

Goodwood Jack Brabham Brabham-Climax

Another typical Goodwood grid scene captures Jack Brabham being push-started in his works Brabham-Climax BT7 by mechanics Tim Wall (left) and Roy Billington (right). He was about to take his place on pole position for the 1964 Easter Monday ‘News of the World’ Trophy race for Formula 1 cars – and that’s second-fastest qualifier Jimmy Clark gazing penetratingly across at him from the works Lotus-Climax 25 in which he would win – not just this year, but again on Easter Monday ’65… Another good crowd in that day, too.

Goodwood Stirling Moss Graham Hill

And so we drift back into the assembly area where we started upon this reverie, with Stirling Moss at the other end of his career. Here he is, in his pomp as absolutely the standard-setter of his era, ‘Mr Motor Racing’ no less, unusually sharing a pre-race laugh with Graham Hill, who was normally too tense for any such levity. In more thoughtful mood just behind Graham stands the often-studious Tony Rudd, new chief engineer of BRM and the man just charged with winning something of real merit this 1962 season, or the owning Owen Organisation would close-down the entire project.

In fact – within the next 90 minutes or so – Graham is going to score his first outright Formula 1 race win in that 1962 Easter Monday Goodwood International ‘100’ for the Glover Trophy, driving the latest BRM P578 V8, with its ‘stackpipe’ exhausts. But also within the next hour, while Stirling in his Lotus-Climax V8 prototype was trying to unlap himself by re-passing Graham after a series of pit stops, he would career off course just before St Mary’s and suffer the brutal, near-fatal, accident which rang down the curtain on his brilliant frontline career.

Motor racing has been described as ‘this majestic, magnificent, compelling yet cruel sport’. In hindsight, it has most certainly been all those things…

Photography courtesy of The GP Library

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