Racing at Revival
If you’re a member of the wider Sports Purpose community then it’s almost certain you attended or watched the live stream of this year’s Goodwood Revival. It’s always a spectacular event, but for obvious reasons 2021’s gathering felt extra special. A real high octane tonic after tough few years.
Of the weekend’s packed bill of races I was fortunate to be involved in two - the madcap Mini-only Whitmore Trophy and the ever-popular St Mary’s Trophy. Both were tremendous fun (we shall return to the topic of just how good a historic Mini Cooper S is to drive in a future column), but the St Mary’s is one that’s especially close to my heart.
The secret to this most ‘Goodwood’ of all the Revival races is rooted in its crowd-pleasing mix of machinery and the inspired two-part aggregate format in which the efforts of guest ‘pro’ drivers and owners (or their nominated deputy) are combined. It also alternates between pre-60 and pre-66 periods, this year being the turn of the Fifties tin tops to do battle.
The frankly bizarre blend of cars is something unique to the St Mary’s, with cars as disparate as a BMW 700 and Ford Thunderbird and with a diverse grid that also sees Mk1 and MkVII Jags slug it out with Austin A35s and 40s, Alfa Giuliettas plus the odd Zodiac, Volvo PV544 and Morris Minor. It’s shouldn’t work, but does so brilliantly.
The secret to its success are rules that have been refined over many years by the Historic Racing Drivers Club (HRDC). As you might imagine when you have a grid topped by a 7.0-litre 1700kg Thunderbird and tailed (at least in terms of mass cubic capacity) by the diminutive 700cc 600kg BMW it takes considerable skill and knowledge of each car’s strengths and weaknesses to effect rough equivalency.
Using what in modern parlance would be termed Balance of Performance, St Mary’s entrants are given scope for period tweaks and performance enhancements. For instance there are capacity breaks for the smaller-engined cars, while the really heavy metal - such as the Thunderbird - have been allowed the concession to run with disc brakes as opposed to the drums it would have used in period. The net result is a pair of humdinging races where, at the pointy end at least, the quickest cars are often separated by just tenths of a second.
Thanks to the generosity of its owner, Geoff Gordon, I’ve raced a rather wonderful ’59 Alfa Giulietta Ti in the last three pre-60s St Mary’s. Affectionately nicknamed the Red Rocket, this fabulous little car is far more fierce than its cuddly Pixar character looks suggest. Best of all, thanks to the pro-am pairings I get to call five-time Le Mans winner Emanuele Pirro my teammate.