Sadly, the enthusiastic owners of the amazing Works RSK Spyder that we have at the moment could not make it through covid restrictions to be present at this year’s Festival of Speed – they also missed last year’s track demonstration at the inaugural SpeedWeek but Robert Westerman drove it with huge gusto and aplomb during the recreation of the 1959 Tourist Trophy at the Revival Meeting in 2019.
The owners are a well-known family of Porsche drivers with a substantial collection of cars spanning 550 to 912 via 2.7RS, 2.0S etc. They race hard and they drive their various Porsche cars every day. We could not have been more upset that they missed the second opportunity in less than a year to compete in their beautiful car.
However, like all enthusiasts, they are generous in their approach to their cars and would rather the car be there than not at all. It took something less than a second for Robert to follow-up his conclusion that he could not make it with a request that we drive it for them.
Learned colleague Philip had two serious issues: 1 he had been invited to drive his own ex-Ben Pon Le Mans 904 and 2 he can’t fit his lanky legs in the RSK – result! Final piece of the jigsaw – our ace preparer Andy Prill was away on holiday and so I would have the car all to myself, just as I did at the SpeedWeek Le Mans demonstration.
I have been lucky enough to experience the hillclimb in various guises. We couldn’t make it to the first ever production in 1993 but the following year Dad, brother Charlie and I went and just marvelled at the brilliant audacity of it. We had a barbecue in the car park as the world went home and thought we had lived like kings. Goodwood, I think, always achieves this – it treats all its guests so generously.
In 2001, working in F1 team marketing, I was chaperone to young Formula 3 driver Takuma Sato, then in his second year of British Formula 3 and his first as BAR-Honda test driver. I drove Taku up the hill in a Honda Legend saloon early on the Friday and he went quieter and quieter. “Are you OK, Taku?” I asked. “Yes, James, thank you. But I have never driven a hillclimb before, I have never done a standing start in a Formula 1 car before and I have never driven a Formula 1 car in the wet before… I think it will be OK though.”
His first run, in the wet, he was full opposite lock through the first corner. On his second, his first run up the hill in the dry, he nudged 160mph past the House. So, that’s how to do it. The next day, he won the British F3 race at Brands Hatch, from pole position with fastest lap – and then rang me to see how the car had gone on the hill. An Anglophile and a gentleman, Taku is a special person.
My next run up the hill was in what I probably think is the most beautiful open sports racing car ever – the Aston Martin DBR1/2, the winner of the 1959 Le Mans. Driven by my close friend at the time, Peter Hardman, who had had huge success in the car in historic racing, on the media day, it was probably the perfect car to go up the hill in.