THIRD TIME LUCKY?

The Gerry Mar­shall Tro­phy will be a high­light of the Mem­bers’ Meet­ing. By Kevin Turner

Motor Sport News - - Capris At Goodwood -

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. ■

Capris will be well rep­re­sented on the Good­wood tin-top grid

Good­wood is fast and re­quires a well-bal­anced chas­sis AJ tested Mini along­side Ford

Ford’s fast­back was the car to have dur­ing Group 1 era

Capri ri­vals: cheeky Mini, rapid Rover, grunty Chevy

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