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.

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