Getting under the skin of Goodwood while others just clink champagne flutes

| 21 Mar 2013

One of the many perks of working on Classic & Sports Car is an invite to the Goodwood Press day every March.

Most public events can only dream of the turnout for this launch event, which excelled for this anniversary year.

GT40s were commonplace with five lining up for demonstrations while Juan Manuel Fangio’s 1957 German GP-winning Maserati 250F and the newly sold Rob Walker team TT-winning Ferrari 250GT SWB vied for attention.

Inside the stately home, the press room was transformed into a train robber’s hideaway – eerily on the very day of Bruce Reynolds' funeral – with the floor covered with notes as police acted out enquiries. Such is his Lordship’s attention to detail, no anniversary gets missed at Goodwood. 

As at the Festival and Revival, the press day consistently continues the tradition of reuniting great drivers with key historic cars from their career.

Sir John Whitmore took little persuasion to have another run in his old Lotus Cortina.

“This car is very important to me and brings back good memories of the last race in Budapest where I took the championship,” he recalled. “It was the first international event behind the Iron Curtain, and the street circuit was very challenging.

"The Cortina was fun but testing to drive. It would lift wheels, so required lots of experimentation to get the best out of its handling. Alan Mann did a wonderful job of preparation. His cars were always better than the works efforts."

Whitmore also chatted about his race comeback in a CanAm McLaren M8 for the Supersports series. As a driver who always loved big cars with lots of horsepower, the McLaren proved a challenge: "It really made me question my return and at the last race my eight-year-old son left a note in the cockpit which read ‘believe in yourself.’ I’ve never forgotten that.”

It’s always great to see people from the modern car world getting a real buzz from classics, and few enjoy it more than Jason Stanley. 

During the week Stanley manages Toyota’s marketing affairs, but he looked the happiest man at Goodwood with his newly reshelled Mini Cooper 'S' race car and matching Surf Blue J40 pedal car. 

“Nothing compares to the Revival meeting, particularly because I get to share the car with Rauno Aaltonen. Getting the Mini set up in a four-wheel drift around Madgwick is really rewarding,” enthused Stanley who insisted the original interior trim was retained when the new six-point roll-cage was welded in.

Oldest car at the press day was the Mercedes 60hp of Ben Collings, which business partner and Bentley boy Gareth Graham was looking after for the day.

“It’s always fun showing passengers how fast these Edwardian chain-drive cars perform. At 70mph it’s doing just 1500rpm,” said Graham.

After Goodwood, the chain-drive supercar is heading to the South of France at Easter for a celebration of Count Eliot Zborowski.

"He was a great Mercedes enthusiast and this year is the 110th anniversary of his death in a crash on La Turbie Hillclimb," said Graham. "We’re planning a small reunion of cars as a tribute. We’ll make a few runs up La Turbie and drink some great champagne."

Not to be upstaged by the racing machinery, the press day enjoyed a rare outing for one of the three sensational Bugatti Atlantics which will be a star attraction in the Cartier Style et Luxe together with another Deco beauty, the Hispano Xenia from the Mullin Collection in California.

Finished a subtle grey, this Bugatti T57S, chassis ‘57473,’  was reborn from the tragic wreck after a train collision on a unguarded French railway crossing in 1955, and is undoubtedly a hot tip for best of show. The Style et Luxe will mark the Paul Russell-restored Atlantic’s debut in the UK.

Reviewing the 100-plus car and motorcycle turnout for the 21st press day, it’s always fun to ask which car fellow journalists and owners would most like to take home.

Few had to think twice about the sensational Mercedes-Benz 300SLR ‘Uhlenhaut’ Coupé.

Jochen Mass was the lucky man gunning it up Lord March’s drive, but just imagine the sound from that deafening desmodromic, fuel-injected straight-eight if you pinched the keys for a drive back to London.

Your route, however, would be instantly revealed as Mercedes Classic has electronic tags on all its cars that show exactly where they are.