on a memorable weekend with an old four-wheeled friend
Gordon celebrates five significant anniversaries at the Goodwood Festival of Speed – and looks forward to a milestone of his own later this year
For me, the Goodwood Festival of Speed is one of the two best classic car weekends in the world – the other one is the Goodwood Revival meeting. I had a spectacularly full weekend at this year’s Festival having being asked by Lord March to take part in three events. This year’s extravaganza celebrated several anniversaries, including Bernie Ecclestone’s five decades in F1. It kicked off with a dinner for him on Friday night hosted by Lord March in Goodwood House with many Brabham mechanics, drivers and associates among the guests – it was good to see so many old friends and to celebrate Bernie’s fantastic achievements. The finale saw us all on the balcony opposite the magnificent sculpture depicting his F1 decades while the man himself was interviewed by Mark Webber. In my view the Brabham years represented the best combination of fun and success and it was great to see so many of my early Brabham cars at Goodwood, including the BT52 and the ‘fan car’.
The second discipline I was invited to take part in was the Cartier Concours d’elégance where I was head judge in two classes – Cinquecento and Maserati. The original Fiat 500 is one of my all-time favourite classics, so I was in my element with so many interesting little cars on display. In the end it was a pretty close-run thing between a very original 1957 500, which was detailed right down to period luggage, and a late Fifties Steyr with a 500cc boxer-twin engine mated to a synchro gearbox. In the end the Austrian car came out on top.
Other anniversaries included 70 years of Ferrari, 40 years of Williams and 50 years of the Cosworth DFV grand prix engine. Keith Duckworth’s powerplant is dear to my heart because it powered so many of my Brabham F1 cars, winning my first grand prix in 1974 and my first World Championship in 1981. Probably more significantly, the first DFV to finish Le Mans was in the 1972 Duckhams Ford prototype I designed for Alain de Cadenet.
My most poignant anniversary this year is my own, with 2017 notching up 50 years of designing cars. At the last count that’s around 70 designs and 55 actual cars. With a lot of help from Bernie and Mclaren I’m planning my own celebration in November with a collection of more than 40 of my cars which I am told is unique in automotive history. To ensure the collection starts with T1 – my first racing car, which I campaigned for two seasons in South Africa – the prototype guys here at Gordon Murray Design have built a faithful replica using my original drawings (and photos). I called the original car – now long gone – the IGM-FORD and designed it to Class A national sports car regulations, allowing engines up to 1100cc.
The chaps in the prototype shop have only one standard, so chassis No2 is a much better build quality than chassis No1! I had run the replica briefly at Dunsfold in a straight line but had no idea how it was going to handle when I arrived at the first right-hander on the Goodwood hill climb. Fortunately, the balance was very good and by the fourth run on Saturday I was pretty much on the limit. All in all, a classic car weekend to remember.
Gordon blazes up the Goodwood hill in his IGM-FORD replica