After 4 years living abroad in Europe, it’s safe to say I have seen my fair share of epic motor racing events. From the beautiful French town of Le Mans, the tree lined valleys of Spa, the grey, weathered grandstands of Hockenheim, to the deepest parts of the green hell they call Nürburgring. I have sampled some of the best classic and modern motor sports events Europe has to offer. So just when I thought my experiences thus far couldn’t be topped, I came across a blog post early last year that rocked my world. The blog post was simple and direct; just one single document. It was an entry list to an event that, frankly, I had never heard of: the 72nd Goodwood Members Meeting.
That list was, quite simply, monumental in terms in classic racing, with a line up that combined the finest from almost every event I have been, to and then some. At that point I sat down, made a pact with myself; a promise to ensure I would do all I could to photograph such an event. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out last year, but luckily, last years success ensured the event was back on the calendar for 2015. So with tickets purchased, flights booked, and a best mate on board to share the experience (these events are no fun alone, you have to share your overwhelming amazement with someone) we were on your way to the 73rd Members Meeting.
If you’re like me, and probably the boys at the helm of StanceWorks, you might have a bit of a soft spot for endurance racing. So, if you’re standing up, take a seat. McLaren built just 28 examples of its triumphant F1 GTR. Twenty Eight. That’s a very limited run, and 16 of them where on display and driving around the beautifully restored Goodwood circuit. If that’s not reason enough to get out of bed early, the line up of Group C endurance cars sure was. With 15 cars on the grid, the track was roaring with turbo spools and flaming exhausts. Everything from the beautiful Silk Cut Jaguars to the spaceship-like Peugeot. Derek Bell even got some seat time in his old Porsche 962.
There was a full grid of early 60’s endurance GT cars who raced towards the evening into the dusk, with a drivers change halfway through the hour long race, it was simply stunning to watch. Close racing with lots of fender rubbing and waving fists. The legendary Emmanuelle Pirro would take the win in a beautiful Shelby Cobra.
Other racing groups spanned from early formula cars all the way up to 70’s British touring cars. There was something for everyone at the 73MM. The icing on the cake, the main event, was the celebration of the 1960’s high air box Formula 1 cars. The Hunts and the Laudas, the Petersons and the Fittipaldis; almost every iconic racing drivers name from this time adorned the sides of these amazing cars. The late James Hunt’s, son Freddy was piloting one of his farther’s old Hesketh cars. Sitting there patiently waiting for his run in this historic car, he looked the spitting image of his father. The sound and proportions of these cars were mind blowing. It would send shivers down the spines of all those watching as they fired into motion.
What really sets this event apart from the rest is it’s extremely relaxed and laid back atmosphere. Everyone has a smile on their face. Everyone is there for one single purpose, and that’s to celebrate the best of best from yester year. The event has an all-access policy. As a member of the public, you can stand right behind the pit wall or browse the beautiful paddocks without anyone tapping you on the shoulder and asking you to “move along son.” It’s small and exclusive, packed full of style. Most importantly, there is something for everyone: children, significant others, and even the grandparents. Old-fashioned playgrounds for the kids, farmers markets and shopping for the ladies, and a magnificent party in the evening that hosts everything from live music to fire-breathing circus acts. You can sip on a lovely English beer while standing next to ex-Formula 1 driver Max Chilton. Or eat fish and chips next to endurance and touring car legend Steve Soper.
The attention to detail gives most obsessively-planned weddings a run for their money. The tickets, the programs, the paddocks, the pits, the party, the dining hall (which looked like a scene out of Harry potter) have been meticulously planned and designed, with a color scheme and look throughout.
It is a typically British affair from start to finish. I might be a bit bias with my next statement, since I was born on the British isles, but an event like this can not happen anywhere else in the world. It simply happens so naturally, it doesn’t feel planned, rehearsed or fake. It just simply feels like it has happened like this for the past 100 years. And every detail has just been improved over time.
Motor racing is embedded so deep in British culture; it flows through our veins, and that passion and commitment to the sport is idealized at the 73rd Goodwood Members Meeting. The racing groups highlight the best of the best, and most importantly, because of it’s very restricted number of the tickets, the spectators are on par too. They are the fans that will pay the extra few bucks, or wake up early to secure a ticket. Everyone is there to share in the passion that is beat of the best in the classic Motorsport world.
I often say at the end of my articles something along the lines of “if there is one event to see, this is the one” or “or you must do this before you die” so this time I am going to say it this way.
The Goodwood members meeting, in my opinion, is the best motor racing event in Europe. Hands down. Nothing else let’s you get this close, this excited, or most importantly, this mind blown.