Of all the unforgettable sights at the Goodwood circuit since its reopening in 1998, surely few can match up to the phalanx of McLaren F1 GTRs that were assembled at the 73rd Members’ Meeting last month. Such was the overwhelming, fevered interest shown by so many racegoers, it occurred to us that if the circuit hadn’t have closed some would have stayed with them in Paddock One all night (including me, ed).
Of course, both long and standard-tailed varieties were here to take part in the high-speed demonstration, but which would we decide to make into a Goodwood Great? The answer was obvious really; we did both, starting with this EMI-liveried Longtail.
Originally finished in Fina livery, it raced as a GTC car in Japan until it was crashed heavily and sidelined. Once repaired, it was sold to Steve O’Rourke who had the car finished in the EMI livery you see here. He also famously managed Pink Floyd and became known as a very good gentleman racer. How good? Well, in 1997 along with Tim Sugden he claimed the British GT2 driver’s championship and then claimed the GT1 title in 1998. However, both his and his McLaren’s finest hours were yet to come.
At Le Mans in 1998 O-Rourke, partnered with Tim Sugden and Bill Auberlen brought the car home in an incredible fourth position. Ahead of them was a Nissan R390GT1 and a brace of Porsche 911 GT1-98s – all built from the ground-up as dedicated racing cars, unlike the F1 GTR which was adapted from a road car (and whose designer, Gordon Murray, wasn’t too keen on the idea.) In fact, you have to look down the finishing order to 11th place before you see the next road-based finisher.
The car competed again in the 1999 British GT Championship, where it came second in the hands of O’Rourke and Tim Sugden before being semi-retired to O’Rourke’s showroom. Since then it has visited the Festival of Speed and Silverstone Classic and is still wheeled out on occasion by current owner Paul Knapfield.
Photography by Antony Fraser