THIRD TIME LUCKY?
The Gerry Marshall Trophy will be a highlight of the Members’ Meeting. By Kevin Turner
The British Touring Car Championship has had many great eras. Some would point to the Super Touring days of the 1990s as its peak, while others could argue there have been few tin-top images more iconic than Jim Clark threewheeling a Lotus Cortina. But for others, the Ford Capri is evocative of a special period.
Group 1 (or 1.5 as the loosely regulated category was often dubbed) arrived in 1974. Once the big American V8s had been outlawed at the end of 1975, the Capri stepped up. Although an overall title would always elude its drivers – the championship’s multi-class structure saw to that – the three-litre V6 became the car to have for outright victories. Between the start of 1976 and the end of Group 1 in 1982, the fastback Ford racked up 56 wins, at a time when there were far fewer rounds than the 30 we have today.
It is unsurprising therefore that the Capri has been a popular choice in the Gerry Marshall Trophy since the Goodwood Members’ Meetings returned in 2014. More of a shock, perhaps, is that a Capri has yet to win the event.
The Ford of Emanuele Pirro and John Young was beaten by the Rover SD1 V8 of Chris Ward/andrew Smith in 2014, while last year the even bigger Chevrolet Camaro of Matt Neal/david Clark took the honours. In other words, the car that finished the Capri’s Group 1 reign and the car that delayed its rise. Both return in 2016, as does the Z28 Camaro in which Stuart Graham set the pace for much of last year’s edition.
The British and American V8 machines will undoubtedly be rapid again this weekend (Ward now shares the JD Classics Rover with reigning BTCC champion Gordon Shedden), but a strong Capri presence should be bolstered by the ex-gordon Spice Capri III of owner Mike Whitaker and the experienced Mike Jordan, BTCC race winner Adam Morgan (sharing Ric Wood’s example), and Goodwood favourite Frank Stippler (with Paul Pochciol).
Jordan believes the V6s still have a chance. “The Rovers have got a bit more power and Goodwood is a fast circuit, but a good handling car can still be competitive,” he says. “It’ll be tough for us because some of the other cars out there have done a lot of running and ours has only just been finished, but I’m sure it’ll be up there.”
Morgan, who is more used to racing a front-wheel-drive Mercedes in the BTCC, agrees a Ford can win. “Ric makes the cars to such an amazing standard so hopefully we’ll be fast,” says the 27-year-old, who has tested the Capri at Donington Park and Goodwood. “The car is great to drive and it’s nice to be back in RWD.
“Andrew Jordan will be quick in the Mini – lunging us into the corners – and we’ll be doing that to the V8s that can then power past on the straights. It’s a really good mix.”
Morgan is right to point out that the V8s won’t be the only problems for the Fords. Goodwood allows tweaks to cars like the Mini 1275 GTS, helping the entertaining Nick Swift and 2013 BTCC champion Jordan to finish third overall last year, ahead of all of the Capris. It’s perhaps not the most authentic thing about the race – Capri drivers rarely had to worry about the tiddlers back in the day – but it is popular and Swift/ Jordan will be factors again this weekend.
Jordan Jr tested the ex-spice Capri at Goodwood earlier this month, so is well placed to compare it to the FWD giant killer.
“The Mini gains with corner entry and minimum speed,” says Andy. “It’s so much lighter and more nimble. In the Capri you’d play to its strengths; give away a little minimum corner speed so you can get it straight and get on the power. The Mini is all about carrying the speed. If it’s wet, you’ll beat the Capris and Camaros.”
So, outgunned by the V8s and outhandled by the best of the small fry, will a well-driven Capri be able to make the most of sitting between the two extremes? It’s that sort of contest that makes the racing at Goodwood so enthralling. ■