By Shiva Khanna Yamamoto
This year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed marked the 25th anniversary of a show which has grown from a small gathering on Lord March’s front lawn to a massive celebration of significant cars and motorcycles, old and new. To celebrate 25 memorable years, the organizers invited a selection of the most popular cars from past Festivals of Speed to reenact the event’s greatest moments.
That the Festival of Speed is not only about the most significant cars in motor racing history, but also about the people behind them, is a poorly kept secret. Jackie Stewart, Richard Petty, and Tom Kristensen could all be seen casually strolling through the paddock. It was fitting, then, that this year’s theme also included a celebration of some of the greatest racers to have visited Goodwood, think John Surtees, Sir Stirling Moss, and Dan Gurney.
The two cars that the Revs Institute brought to the Festival this year certainly fit the theme. The first car, Dan Gurney’s own Gurney-Weslake Eagle Mk. 1, was easily one of the most popular cars of the weekend. Several passersby declared that the car was “the most beautiful Grand Prix car ever.”
“I was first in [at Goodwood] this morning, and it brought tears to my eyes,” said longtime Dan Gurney fan Mark Wilmot. “It encapsulates everything that I have ever loved about motor racing. It’s terrific that it’s been brought here.”
Gurney, “the archetypal cool driver” in the words of the Duke of Richmond, founder of the Festival of Speed, had a long history with the Goodwood estate. His first season racing in Europe concluded at the 1959 R.A.C. Tourist Trophy, hosted at the Goodwood Motor Circuit.
Perhaps more importantly, the European branch of Gurney’s All American Racers team, aptly named “Anglo American Racers,” was set up just a few miles away from the Goodwood Circuit. And when Gurney needed to test the legendary Gurney-Weslake three-liter V12 powered Eagle Mk. 1 in 1966, he chose Goodwood Motor Circuit as his venue.
“I remember the Eagle when it was here and Dan Gurney was driving at Goodwood, testing it,” said local artist Peter Hutton. “I worked in Chichester, and you could hear the cars on the circuit. There was a little group of us who were all self-employed, and we’d go up there for half an hour and see the guys testing, and all the pit wall wore Stetsons.”
Famed motoring journalist and co-founder of the Festival of Speed Doug Nye also remembered the days when Gurney tested his Formula 1 challenger at the Goodwood Motor Circuit. “I was a young racing reporter when Dan was testing the Eagle,” said Nye, speaking from a reporter’s perspective. “Dan was very quiet. He’d say hello, and he’d say goodbye, but he’d never tell you anything in case he was giving away information that might be useful.”
“He was very popular with the British fans. At Brands Hatch in 1967, where he had won his first Formula 1 race with the Eagle (the Race of Champions in chassis 102), they painted ‘Viva Gurney’ on the track in white paint. In 1997 at the Festival of Speed, on the anniversary of that 1967 win, we painted ‘Viva Gurney’ on the Goodwood track at the Molecomb corner. Dan went out for his first practice run and came back absolutely roaring with laughter.”
The Festival of Speed is all about demonstrating historic racing cars and putting history in motion. Appropriately, the popular Gurney Eagle was driven by a popular figure in modern motorsport, Formula 1 pundit and former driver Martin Brundle.
“I’ve wanted to drive the Gurney Eagle for ages,” said Brundle after an afternoon run up the famous Goodwood hill in the car. “I found out where it was, found out it was coming here, spoke to Scott [George, Vice President of the Revs Institute] like half the world wouldn’t like to drive it, and they said yes. I’ve had so many drivers come up to me and say ‘you lucky so and so driving that car!’ and ‘how did you get in that car?’ and I say that I asked to drive it! That was the secret.”
“Dan won at Belgium in it, the V12, it looks so beautiful, and of course he was a very popular racing driver. It’s got all the ingredients to be surely one of the most important American racing cars in history. I would’ve imagined that it’s one of the most important Formula 1 cars in history, and if it’s not the most beautiful racing car of all time then it’s one of the top three, in my view.”
The Miles Collier Collections’ second car at Goodwood, the Cooper T43 which Sir Stirling Moss drove to victory at the 1958 Argentine Grand Prix, was a favorite as well.
“I found the car in a suburban house garage in Sydney, Australia as a pile of junk, painted red and rusty, remembered Doug Nye. “I went to see it for Miles [Collier, founder of the Revs Institute]. It was restored by a specialist in England, and it really does look the way it did in Buenos Aires in 1958.”
“That win for Cooper rang in the changes between the traditional front-engined dinosaur Grand Prix cars and the rear-engined cars. And it just pointed the way ahead. It’s a hugely, hugely important car, a signpost car in Grand Prix racing history.”
For Martin Brundle, the Cooper was a reminder of a friend. “Stirling Moss was my teammate in 1981 when he came back to touring cars,” Brundle remembered. “Stirling and Susie are friends of ours to this day.”
“He’s not so well at the moment, but he made these little cars talk. I can just imagine Stirling with his very characteristic poise in the car, the way he held his head, his facial expressions, almost leaning the car into the corner.”
Like the Eagle, both the Cooper and Sir Stirling have a history with the Festival of Speed. Sir Stirling was a regular attendee of the Festival, having never missed an event since its inception in 1993. His retirement from public life earlier this year made this year’s Festival the first without his presence.
Furthermore, Sir Stirling had driven the Miles Collier Collections’ car at the Festival in the past. “It was restored in England, and it had just been finished when we agreed to bring it to Goodwood, where Stirling drove it around eight years ago” said Scott George. And many saw the Cooper as a celebration of the life and remarkable achievements of that legendary gentleman.
Miles Collier, Scott George, and the Revs Institute have been involved with the Festival of Speed since 1993, which made the Eagle Mk. 1 and Cooper T43’s presence even more special. In Scott George’s words, “It’s rewarding knowing that you’re a part of something that’s this big, that’s run this long, and is this special, and that the organization from Charles [the Duke of Richmond] all the way down to the general public appreciate the fact that you brought the cars all the way here.”