GRR

Is this the best-looking Cobra to race at Goodwood?

18th July 2022
Adam Wilkins

After around six years away from the Goodwood Revival, Bobby Verdon-Roe looked for ways to make an impact for his return. And what better way than coming into the RAC TT Celebration race with a Cobra finished in its dazzling and historically correct snakeskin colour scheme, complete with piercing yellow ‘eyes’?

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With a career that spans GT racing, BTCC, single-seaters and numerous historic formulae, Bobby had a clear view on what he wanted to race. “I decided to buy my own Cobra having always driven other people’s cars,” he says. He reached the decision despite having never raced a Cobra before. “What I liked about them, having raced against them, is that they’ve obviously got tonnes of grunt so power is never an issue whereas I’d say in an E-type it probably is and I’ve raced an E-type and the brakes are not great.”

Bobby’s instinct for the Cobra proved right: “It’s perfect. It has lots of power, I love powersliding and can use your right foot to steer a Cobra and it’s a real challenge to drive. It’s super-quick and you’re sliding through all the corners, which I love doing.” He found the car pictured here via Gregor Fisken, and was immediately drawn to it. “It has a very clean history, it was never crashed in period and there are no nasty stories about. Some of these other Cobras have got not such clean histories, which is a bit off-putting.”

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When Bobby bought the car, it was in road-going form but had been raced extensively in America in the 1960s. Most of its competition life was in 1965, when it was raced in Sports Car Club of America events. When Bobby found the car, it was finished in the traditional blue with Shelby stripes livery. “It was a very nice road car so it seemed a bit of a shame to strip it but it had been a race car in period,” says Bobby. Period photographs and newspaper clippings showed the car in its distinctive snakeskin livery. That’s the form it was returned to over the course of the last year.

“I got Simon Blake at Historic Automobiles to restore it and completely rebuild the whole thing. When I got the entry for Revival, the deadline was set and they accepted they had to get the car ready on time. I popped in once or twice a week during the build as I like to see what’s happening. I’m not a mechanic but it was just nice to see it all come together.”

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We spoke to Bobby mid-way through the Revival weekend, ahead of qualifying, when his most extensive experience of the car had been during pre-event testing. “It’s obviously early days as far as running it is concerned. We’ve done a test day here at Goodwood that didn’t go terribly well; we had a suspension problem. A leaf spring on the rear collapsed, which Martin described very accurately. That put an end to our testing at Goodwood. Then we went testing at Blyton and got a good day’s running, but I’m still not confident we got a good set-up there. The car was visually better and sounded better because it was squealing its tyres and rolling around. The mechanics knew it was better by the end of the day. I’m about to find out this afternoon where we are, we have a stiffer front bar to try today which should be a step in the right direction. I’m sure it’s there or there abouts. I don’t think we’re going to win it but I’d be very happy with a top six on Sunday.”

The Martin referred to above is Brundle, who Bobby shared the car with for the two-driver RAC TT Celebration race. “I haven’t driven with Martin Brundle before,” he says. “I was given a choice of about six or seven drivers and he was one of them. It was a no-brainer, he’s a safe pair of hands. He’s very experienced obviously and he’ll do a good job, and be quick and bring it back in one piece. That’s my main priority. When you’re an owner it does change your perspective.” As it transpired, they drove a clean race to finish a respectable fifth from eighth on the grid. It won’t be the last we see of the snakeskin Cobra.

Photography by James Lynch.

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