Writing about these sorts of events is never easy. Trying to put into words what something like this is all about is not a simple task (which is probably why it has taken me months to get this out). The photographs give you a feeling and a mood, and maybe a few highlights, but the truth is, you have to be there. It’s an event that must be witnessed first-hand, and that’s what drove me back to the Goodwood Members Meeting again this year. I knew had to see, smell, and taste the event in person once again.
Over the last year, since we brought you coverage of the 73rd Members Meeting, not a day has gone by in which I haven’t reminisced about the magic of Goodwood. Last year was a magical event, and for me it was some of my best work to date. I knew if the chance came up, I had to go back.
With a “family” trip organized, which just so happened to fall on the same week as the 74MM, I made the plans to once again shoot at Goodwood. I had bags packed, a cosy English cottage through airBnB sorted, and the wife and baby were ready to join in on all the fun. All that was left to do was board a flight and make sure we had some period attire sorted.
Half the fun of Goodwood is the people watching. The members meeting is by no means as strict of a dress code as the revival event; however, in true British style, people tend to make an effort. Lord March calls for “Country Chic,” so naturally I dressed like a wealthy farmer. Wearing a flat cap and a tailored wax jacket, I felt right at home; all I was missing was a Landrover Defender (maybe next year.)
Arriving at Goodwood is always a joy. The twisty country roads leading you away from the busy motorways around London are a joy to drive in any car. As you get closer to the track, special cars pop up on the streets all around. The parking lot alone at Goodwood rivals most car shows I have ever been to. Then, once inside, I remembered again why I keep coming back to this event!
The line up is just stunning. 30-something original Ford GT40s, 30-something high downforce era F1s (in every livery imaginable), Group 5 Le Mans cars, featuring about 8 Porsche 917s, a hand full of Ferrari 512s, one of which was owned by Nick Mason the other a “codo lunga” which translates to “long tail”. I had to google that one since it’s so bloody rare… Other groups included British Touring cars, Jaguar E-type endurance cars, formula cars, some crazy-arse Bugatti style hot rod racers and a ’70s style touring car race featuring a string of Minis and :otus Cortinas. I am sure I am missing a few things, but you get the picture. I kind of hate the word “epic,” but it’s the only word that comes to mind when trying to sum up the crazy amount of cars.
The highlight for me, of course, (take one look at my Instagram and you will learn everything you need to know about me) was the spec GT40 race. With Ford returning to LeMans 50 years after their iconic victory, there was a buzz in the air around this event, and an amazing line up of cars on display. The race started at dusk and went on as the sun set. It was a 2 hour race, with a driver change around the half way point. What a spectacle it was! With some seriously competitive drivers and some serious money in the cars, we saw balls-to-the-wall, wheel-to-wheel racing. I am not sure if a single car came back without a scratch. I can tell you there is nothing like standing in the pit lane when a GT40 comes towards you. The crazy door swings open and out pops a driver who when standing is almost double as tall as the car. He quickly hops out, in goes another and the door, almost chopping his head off, swings closed. The V8 bursts into action once more and drifts out of the pit lane, almost taking everyone with it. This is racing, not a parade, so every second counts. Just amazing to watch.
The second highlight for me, funny enough, was not watching the sea of Porsche 917s and Ferrari 512s (although that was truly special); instead, for me, I just loved watching the little Lotus Cortinas, Minis and Alfas battle it out. The excitement there starts in the paddock. There are no fancy pit crews and mechanics supported by plenty of money. Instead, there is a feeling of family. The wives or mums are busy preparing tea and biscuits, while the husbands and fathers work on the cars. There is a real sense of history — this sort of family mentality takes you way back… It’s a far cry from modern-day F1. When they head to the track, it’s like ballet or figure skating: they slide and glide through the corners, using all of the available track and all their might trying to out do each other. Lifting wheels and brushing fenders is a common sight. When it’s all over, you head back to the paddock and they are sharing wine and champagne together, with no hard feelings, which is a true joy to experience. Makes me seriously covet a Lotus Cortina.
Pictures certainly don’t do this event justice. The theatre, the line up, the celebrities, the smells, and sounds can not be replicated. You can’t capture all those Ford GTs in one frame. You can’t get all those Porsche 917s in one shot. You have to see it with your own eyes. I kept thinking, “man, these pictures are going to be shit” because I spent most the time with my jaw dropped just staring at the sights in front of me. I bumped into my good friend Peter Aylward while strolling the paddock. The Porsche 917 group was staging up just before their high speed demonstration. I found myself just starring at the sights in front of me, hardly raising my camera. I looked over at Peter, and he was doing the same. He looked up and said to me, “do you think we will ever see sights like this again?” I replied “probably not in my lifetime, but I can die a happy man now.”
We went on strolling the paddocks and staging areas just taking it all in, reliving history and imagining what it must of been like to be at Lemans, watching the Ford GT40s winning and the Porsche 917s dominating for so many years. Watching the little lotus Cortinas thrashing it through tight hairpins with people like Jim Clark at the wheel. I tell you what, I will take this type of racing over any modern day parade any day of the week. It’s intoxicating! Bravo Goodwood, when I thought you couldn’t top yourself after last year, you went ahead and proved me wrong… until we meet again.