Mallett’s mental meanderings
FOLLOWING A TRIP TO THE GOODWOOD REVIVAL MEETING TO WITNESS A MAGNIFICENT DRIVE BY SAM TORDOFF IN A 356, MALLETT REMINISCES ABOUT HIS LESS NOTEWORTHY RACING CAREER…
Ihave just returned from the good wood revival meeting where I witnessed some of themost exciting four-wheeledmotor racing on the planet since, well, last yearʼs Revival. (I say four-wheeled because there is absolutely no formofmotor sport that can hold a candle tomotogpfor thrills, spills and sheer jaw-dropping, heart thumping bravery and spectacle. If you donʼt yetwatch it then I suggest you start now.) But back to Goodwood. Hard to choose which of the weekendʼs dozen or so races was the most exciting but the closely-fought saloon car races just had the edge for me.
Whether it was a convoy of slippy-slidy drifting Cortinas or juggling Jaguars circulating with barely a bumperʼs width between them, it was nonstop thrills from flag to flag, and thoroughly gripping stuff.
However, displaying only a slight amount of bias, my candidate for driver of the weekend goes to Sam Tordoff, running his 1953 Porsche Pre-a Coupé in the Fordwater Trophy event for pre-1955 productionbased sports and GT cars. Having led the 2016 British Touring Car Championship for much of the season, Sam just missed winning the championship by two points. His class showed in the Fordwater Trophy at Goodwood by qualifying on pole followed by a stunning drive in the race.
After failing to get off the line at the start, he fought his way through from the very back of the field to finish second, setting the fastest lap of the race en route. Shades of Lewis Hamilton. If he hadnʼt fluffed the start one suspects that the race would have been far less exciting as his pace suggests that he would have run away from the field. It was a rare treat to see five Porsche 356s on the grid, including two Speedsters, both running with hardtops fitted.
It says much that the constant development of historic cars over the last half-century and more has led to a situation where a 356 can defy the laws of cubic capacity and outrun cars of over twice the cc and which, in period, produced three times the horsepower. Such was the limitation of the 356 engine in the early Fifties that Porsche designed the immortal four-cam Carrera engine to go racing.
On its introduction, the Carrera produced 110bhp, a substantial improvement over the 70bhp of the pushrod 1500S. Today a well-developed 356 race engine will be easily producing 150bhp, or more, with the added handling advantage provided by less weight aft of the transaxle.
Porsche 356s were a relatively rare sight on British circuits when new and if you were serious you had to be in a Carrera. The late Dickie Stoop, whose 904, ʻYOU 4ʼ, was running at Goodwood, campaigned a 356B Carrera in the early 1960s, a car that subsequently burned to the ground in a road accident when owned by Porsche racer Nick Faure.
When my own brief and completely undistinguished racing career commenced in the 1970s in the HSCC ʻRoadsportsʼ series, my right-hand drive 1957 Speedster was just as the factory built it, other than fitting a later Super 90 engine and a roll-over bar. Extra points were given for driving to the event and most competitors did just that. In the earliest races ʻtuningʼ consisted of little more than pumping up the tyres and fiddling, if you were so inclined, with the shock absorbers.
Running in the up-to-1600cc class, I inevitably found myself towards the back of the field and before the end of the race being lapped by the big boys in their Aston Martins and Austin Healeys. This led a few of us to form the Blue Flag Drivers Club, a very exclusive society, with membership by invitation only.
The badge for the BFDC featured a Helix Aspersa (garden snail) rampant brandishing said flag. Membership was restricted primarily to 356 pilots, but with an equally outclassed Jowett Jupiter driver also being a founder member.
Quite soon, and inevitably, as Porsche owners sought more speed, the cars began to be developed, becoming less ʻroadʼ and more ʻsportsʼ. The late Tony ʻDocʼ Standen, an ex-pat American, was only too aware that in the US the rules were much more liberal when it came to modifications and far from being ʻvintageʼ the 356 had continued to be developed as a competitive racer, and he started the long road of upgrades. Trumpets on the carburettors, an Isky cam and stiffer valve springs were the minimum upgrade, closely followed by Carillo rods and a lightened flywheel.
Eventually the finger of suspicion started to point at the faster cars, now arriving on trailers, having abandoned any pretext of being road cars, and tongues began to wag – were they running ʻbig-boreʼ cylinders? As far as I recall the handful of 356 boys regularly racing back then were far too gentlemanly to launch a formal protest and, as even with the enhanced performance they were still no threat to the bigger cars, the scrutineers were not too interested in a teardown. After a far too intimate caress with the Brands Hatch Armco, I retired my Speedster from competition before it, too, became unsuitable for the road.
The Goodwood cars are often criticised for the fact that they have been developed way beyond the capability of the day, distorting historical accuracy. Austin A35s dicing with Jaguars for instance is quite unrepresentative of the time period – but, what fun. And long may it continue. CP
“THE FINGER OF SUSPICION STARTED TO POINT…”