Goodwood’s 74th Members Meeting
My trip to the 74th Members’ Meeting in Goodwood almost had a really bad start: I almost missed my plane. Good thing I always plan things wayyyy large. But once I landed in London-Gatwick, my heart was already beating to the sound of the race cars I would be hearing through the week-end. Excitement and adrenaline were through the roof. An hour of train later, a stunning silver 2007 Mercedes S-class (my favorite S-class model) would take me to my destination: the 74th Members’ Meeting. Good thing I played the game and followed the dress code: I dressed “smart” and even wore a tie (which is not something I usually do – can I get an A for effort?)! And though this was no Revival, people were still very well-dressed – way better than the french.
Once there, I met up with the lovely Katie who showed me around for a few hours. I’ve never met someone as cool and loveable as her! Within only 20 minutes of being there, she had already arranged for me to have a ride in the BMW i8 “demo car”, that drives around the track between each racing session. And boy, that was a cool experience! First time out on the mythical Goodwood race course – it’s something you don’t usually forget!
I also met the incredibly cool team of people in charge of all social-media-related-things for Goodwood, which was pretty cool! We did a bunch of nice things together like Facebook LIVES, despite the capricious WiFi which complicated everything lol! It also was a bit tricky to improvise and talk about the cars, but I think I managed haha. Needless to say, the day started really really well despite a very cold weather. But then again, who really cares about that kind of stuff when you’re surrounded by some of the most insane cars in the world?
Indeed, one of the main attractions for me (and for everyone else, really) was the mind-boggling “collection” of Porsche 917 and Ferrari 512 that showed-up for the event. There were 8 (EIGHT) Porsche 917 and 6 (six) Ferrari 512 (both S & M configurations). You read those numbers right. The main goal was to recreate the “battle” from the 70s between these two iconic race cars (forementioned battle pictured in the famous Steve McQueen movie “Le Mans”, by the way). As I kept saying during the whole week-end: seeing a Porsche 917 is pretty cool and rare. Seeing eight is slightly incredible and unusual. But seeing eight RACE on the track? Only at Goodwood, really.
There were three different kinds of GULF liveries for the Porsche 917 – I sincerely didn’t even know that were that many lol. I had already seen the “psychedelic” green & purple one (which apparently isn’t as “legit” as I thought it was – some say it’s a replica!) a few years ago, which also happens to be my favorite livery. But the big surprise for me probably was David Piper’s 917, finished in his notorious “David Piper green”: I wanted to see it for quite some time now after having seen a big part of the man’s green collection (250 LM, Ferrari “P4” etc etc). As far as the Ferrari 512 goes, it was a treat. Being a Ferrari guy deep down, I can’t help but enjoy this. I’ve once seen two racing. But there were SIX here (though 2 didn’t race). The 74th Members Meeting was no joke, believe me (nor was it in 2015 with 16 McLaren F1 GTRs !!!).
It’s always a strange feeling when you’re walking in the paddock area next to these icons of motorsport which eventually became million-dollar machines over the years. But when you actually get to see them racing…. that’s a whole other story. Though they obviously were being “gentle” and the drivers weren’t racing as if their life depended on it. They were merely recreating the battle from the old days. But it was still pretty damn impressive: the sound coming out of those engines doesn’t compare to modern cars. There’s a little something, maybe it’s class & beauty, the liveries, elegance or even what those cars represent that makes the whole difference.
Another big attraction was the incredible Ford GT40 line-up. Though I missed the Alan Mann Trophy qualifications that morning, I was lucky enough to witness the actual race that started around 5PM. More than 20 Ford GT40 (I don’t even know exactly how many to be honest) started to get ready on the assembly area for what would be the highlight of the day: the 1-hour long race.
It would last until dusk, and I would get this “24 Hours of Le Mans” feel when they started to turn on their lights as the sun was slowly but surely setting down. It all became part of the show, from the thunderous sound made by the herd in the straight line, the glowing brakes when leaving the chicane, to the actual backfires at the end of the straight line = beautiful. Also, the fact that it lasted for an hour also gave me the chance to walk around a bit and try to vary angles, which is not a luxury I usually have during a 15-minute race session.
The rest of the day was really cool and I had stars in my eyes the whole time. Walking around the paddocks and checking-out the cars, all sorts of brands (McLaren, Lotus, Aston Martin…), from all sorts of time periods (from the 100-year-old Edwardians which have plane engines to the more modern & really loud Nascar cars), taking pictures, meeting up with friends from the UK (like photographer Alex Penfold or Jason from Form&Function). Smelling the typical “car smells” (oils, fuel…), seeing the mechanics work like swiss clocks on the cars, dissassemble and reassemble them in a jiffy, start-up the engines and making sure everything was running smoothly. That was really cool. Also got to cross paths with a bunch of famous people from the automotive world like driving legend Derek Bell or F1 champion Mika Hakkinen, which was driving one of the Silver Arrows (BTW? That also was one of those “holy cow” cars).
After the last race of the day (which was the Alan Mann Trophy race – aka the Ford GT40 battle), I discovered a whole new side of Goodwood. The event didn’t end with that race, but they had actually all sorts of animations & attractions: it really became a place where families would chill for the night and spend a lovely evening. They had shows, a bunch of different bands playing music, ferris wheels. It almost looked like an amusement park! The pinnacle of the night were obviously the fireworks, which lasted for 15 minutes! Talk about a good way to end the night! After that, it was about time to go back to the hotel for a well-deserved rest (hey! bear in mind the massive 1-hour jet lag, OK?!).
Find out what happened on sunday in the next article ! 🙂