It wasn’t hard to see who held what advantage where on the track: the Monarch was faster by far in a straight line, it was probably as quick in the slow corners but a little slower through Goodwood’s many quicker turns. But the Bentley had the clear edge under braking.
I quite like being in front in these situations, because while you are the hunted, so too, do you arrive at each challenge first and therefore get to set the agenda. And I knew that if I let Gareth past, his raw speed advantage would make the Monarch almost impossible to overtake because I’d never be close enough at the end of the straight to make the difference under braking. Once, I genuinely thought he’d got me, but I was just able to nip around the outside at Woodcote, but the strange thing is that the longer the battle went on, the less important its outcome seemed to be. Last year the Monarch got past and stayed there, this year it didn’t: so what? What I will remember far more is charging down the back straight with the Monarch thundering along beside me, exchanging thumbs up signals with its driver. That moment, to me at least, encapsulated all that racing at Goodwood should be.
This may have been a race of cars with an average age of over 100 years, but there were still lessons to be learned here, mainly about driving standards. I’ve spoken to so many people before and after the race who said we were all mad to be racing cars that look pretty lethal when parked, let alone when hurtling around Goodwood. But truly it was not as nuts as it probably looked, and for that, I must thank everyone with whom I shared track space. It doesn’t require much imagination to figure out what might happen to open wheel cars like these with such thin tyres and such high centres of gravity if they were to come into contact with each other so everyone drove respecting the fact: hard and fast, but utterly clean and respectful. They drove brilliantly and superb racing was the result.
In the end, I finished where I started in seventh place, having seen off the Monarch challenge but made no advance at all on the cars ahead. But if I’d had that much fun and come twenty-seventh and bog last, I’d scarcely have cared. Once more the S.F. Edge Trophy delighted the crowds and its drivers alike. And once more I left the track for the long journey home with but one thought in my head: might we be allowed to do it all over again in 2018?
Photography by Nick Dungan