In the paddock: Kevin Turner
Goodwood’s Revival meeting is now 20 years old. Now seems like a good time to see how speeds have changed, and the numbers make for interesting reading
Development in historic racing sounds like an oxymoron, but has been part of the game for years. To a degree, you would expect that – some cars would be too unreliable without some application of current knowledge – but things are way past that. The 20th anniversary of the remarkable Goodwood Revival last weekend provided an ideal opportunity to see how some historic categories have moved on, based on fastest race laps.
Seven main classes can be directly compared. Only one – for the pre- and immediate post-second World War single-seaters of the Woodcote Cup (1998) and Goodwood Trophy (2018) – was slightly slower.
The improvement for the Richmond Trophy for 2.5-litre grand prix cars up to 1960 was 2.8 seconds. Given that the fastest 2018 lap was set by a Cooper T53, not the earlier T45/T51 as in 1998, some of that gain is to be expected. Rod Jolley, who set that ’98 benchmark and is a man committed to not unduly changing his ex-jack Brabham/bruce Mclaren machine, lapped 0.238s slower.
In other cases the improvements make some sense because of the better cars and/or drivers involved. Formula Junior has become very competitive in recent years, with lots of young chargers competing around the world, with a high level of preparation. That helps to explain the whopping 11.8s improvement since 1998, although a drum-braked Lola Mk3 (fastest in ’98) couldn’t match later disc-braked cars when new.
Similarly, you would expect the powerful Ferrari 1512 and game-changing monocoque Lotus 25 that battled for Glover Trophy supremacy last weekend to be faster than the Lotus-brm 24 that set FL in 1998, even if six seconds is a significant chunk.
Perhaps more telling are the Sussex Trophy for 1950s sportscars, the RAC Tourist Trophy GT event and the St Mary’s Trophy for ’60s tin-tops.
Phil Keen’s thrilling charge in Jon Minshaw’s Lister-jaguar resulted in a lap 4.1s faster than John Harper’s Cooper Monaco time of 1998. Sam Hancock lapped 3.8s quicker in the same Ferrari 246S Dino than Peter Hardman used to win the Lavant Cup in the opening event.
The improvement in the TT was 5.5s, significant given that from the first Revival this race attracted star names and leading historic drivers. It also had top cars, so the gain can’t be explained so easily.
In the St Mary’s Trophy, Ash Sutton’s best lap was not only 7.7s faster than Richard Dodkins’s 1998 mark, but also beat the time set by Nigel Corner’s Jaguar E-type on its way to winning the inaugural RAC TT Celebration! Sutton’s 1m30.574s lap also compares favourably to the great Jim Clark’s 1m35.8s Cortina time set in ’64.
Keeping in mind the fact that Dunlop works hard to keep the tyres as close to period spec as possible, within the constraints of what materials are available, where do these improvements come from?
One answer is power. The top Cortinas now produce around 185bhp, 40-45bhp more than Clark enjoyed. Improvements in metallurgy, CNC machining precision and lighter synthetic oils have all contributed to more grunt.
Suspension set-up is another factor. Combined with welded-in roll cages – a development nobody would argue against, particularly after Pete Chambers’s massive accident on Sunday (see page 74) – the cars are also stiffer and corner better. So what’s the problem? Is there one?
In terms of raw spectacle, no. The cars still move around, and look and sound fantastic. Allowing development means there is the chance for the order to be mixed up year on year.
The number of new-build cars, particularly Cortinas, also means the St Mary’s Trophy pack is more competitive than any period field.
But there are downsides. One is that spectators are not getting a real reflection of motorsport history. For example, Mini 1275 GTS did not challenge the big bangers in the 1970s, as they do now at the Goodwood Members’ meetings in the Gerry Marshall Trophy.
Perhaps that doesn’t matter. If the racing is good, a bit of poetic licence could be desirable, providing nobody argues that this is the way it was.
More problematic is that it can keep cars away. Owners who don’t wish to develop their genuine cars, or race faster facsimiles, are seeing their valuable machines get less and less competitive. There were no Ferraris in the RAC TT last weekend and the chances of a non-cobra/e-type winner seem remote. There hasn’t been one since 2013.
Whether it’s Formula 1 or historic racing, engineers won’t unlearn things. Cars will always get better. But when it comes to certain historic races, the line has to be drawn somewhere, before more people are priced out, or genuine cars are developed out, of one of the best branches of motorsport.