When you’ve got a couple of hundred classic cars, many of which are historically significant, some of which are utterly priceless, you have to be careful. As we all note every time we read the reverse of our ticket, “Motorsport Can Be Dangerous”. Bad things can happen on even the best, tamest or driest racing surfaces. Add standing water to your blacktop, and you’re gonna have a bad time.
The Goodwood Hillclimb is performed on a narrow ribbon of concrete, lined with harder-than-you-think straw bales and, towards the top, a solid flint wall.
So, rain stops play at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, right?
The hell it does.
Click images to enlarge. Those sitting in the first eight rows may get wet.
Last couple of times I’ve been here it’s been in the dry. OK, maybe a light shower. Today’s weather is real wrath of God stuff. It changed, as is the habit of Southern England, in an instant, like elastic snapping. I was patently ill-prepared to deal with it in my loafers and wildly optimistic light cotton shirt, so all I could do for a few hours was take shelter.
Neither the drivers nor the owners of the cars here at Goodwood are under any obligation to drive them if they don’t want to . Of course, it’s desirable if they do, it’s kind of the whole point of the event. But if you don’t like the look of the weather or the road, you can keep your car in the paddock.
Try telling that to these guys. Full throttle was still very much on the menu. Balls of steel, the lot of them.
But then, the Ford Galaxie above was driven by Bill Shepherd, one of the UK’s leading Mustang importers, so he knows his way around American iron in the wet. There’s also a Holman-Moody Ford Galaxie around here, but that’s being driven by Lee Holman, and let’s face it, he can do just whatever he likes.
This Alfa 308G, irreplaceable and 78 years old, with tyres scarcely wider than my mountain bike, was producing rooster-tails that a jetski would be proud of, yet did its driver rumble serenely up the track? Take a guess.
On the other hand, this guy probably should have done just that. The shallow pond that the hillclimb course had become proved too much for the scant contact patches of this Blitzen Benz. But somehow the hero behind the wheel grabbed several successive armfuls of opposite lock and managed to wrestle the 100-year old, 21.5-litre leviathan away from the hay bales.
Goodwood is not just about the cars. It’s about cojones.
(All images copyright Chris Haining / Hooniverse 2016)