I know that motor racing circuits around the UK are renowned for being cold places, and that’s because many of them were built around airfields following World War II. So, open and flat places they tend to be, and this of course offers zero protection from the elements. Activities surrounding this last weekend’s 76th Members’ Meeting at the Goodwood Motor Circuit certainly lived up to that open and exposed reputation, as the ‘Mini Beast from the East’ descended on the UK once again.
The Members’ Meeting has now become a favourite on the annual historic motorsport calendar, because this offers racing enthusiasts the opportunity to get up close and personal with some iconic race cars, drivers and other well-known personalities. Although there were many, varied and different race cars present over the weekend, we have, for obvious reasons, focussed our report around Porsche cars only.
Arriving at the circuit on Friday, you could have been forgiven for questioning the weather forecasters who told us that both Saturday and Sunday would bring snow. Friday afternoon was nippy (it is March after all) but clear with blue skies. That afternoon, the teams and drivers spent their time setting up their cars and laying out tool boxes and gear, and being a Friday, there weren’t that many spectators milling about.
A very pleasant surprise though, was witnessing the one and only street-legal 935 being discharged from its transporter, this being (originally) built for Mansour Ojjeh in 1983, whose company Techniques d’Avant Garde (TAG), had entered into partnership with McLaren to develop a Formula 1 engine. This led Ojjeh to Porsche’s front door, and they were only too happy to make a one-off, street-legal 935 for this important customer. On Friday, this car was unloaded in the Goodwood paddock to serve as the course car to lead the Group 5 race cars out onto the track over the weekend.
Race 1 – Ronnie Hoare Trophy
Practice for the Ronnie Hoare Trophy commenced at 09h00 on Saturday morning, the first real action of the day. Running in this event were no fewer than fourteen Porsches, consisting of: a single 901, five 911s and eight 904s.
When the Porsche 904 (or Carrera GTS as it was officially known) was first produced in 1964, it was intended that the car would be powered by the all-new 2-litre, 6-cylinder engine that was fitted to the 911. However, the new production 6-cylinder engine was not yet ready for serious competition, and so an uprated version of the 4-cam, 4-cylinder Carrera engine (Type 587) was installed in the 904. In fact, in its lifetime, the 904 would be powered by three different engines, the 4-cylinder Carrera engine, the 2-litre 6-cylinder unit from the 911, and an 8-cylinder 2-litre engine as well. The 904 Carrera GTS would serve the company and its many customer teams very well, during the 1964 and 1965 seasons.
This 20-minute race catered for Sports and GT cars that raced internationally between 1963 and 1966, and for purposes of this event, were mostly around 2-litre capacity. The winning car in Race 1 was the #98 Porsche 904 driven by James Cottingham, although the spectators were just drinking in all the action, from the front to the back of the field.
Race 8 – Moss Trophy
Race 8, the Moss Trophy, was the next race to feature any Porsches. The Moss Trophy was a 45-minute 2-driver race for GT cars of a type that raced at Goodwood between 1960-1962. This class offered the spectators a rich variety of race cars from an Aston Martin DB4GT, Ferrari 250 SWB ‘Breadvan’, E-type Jaguar, AC Cobra, to the iconic Porsche 356. There were two 356s in this race, the first a 1953 model in white with a green nose, which is seen quite frequently in historic races in the UK. The other car was a 1960 356 Super 90 model, well turned out in silver. Both cars put in an excellent performance.
The speed differential between the front and the rear of the grid was quite substantial, and in the damp and cold conditions, the going was quite exciting. Most of the competitors in this race were driving front-engined, rear-wheel drive cars, which made for a lot of tail twitching as the cars exited corners and put the power down.
Race 11 – Gurney Cup
The next race featuring Porsche cars, was Race 11, the Gurney Cup. This was a 20-minute race for sports racing prototypes that raced between 1960 and 1966. Remembering the late great Dan Gurney, the class featured cars of the type in which he competed back in the day and included several Ford GT40s, Lotus-Fords, McLarens and many more.
Of interest to Porsche Road & Race was of course the contingent of Porsche prototypes which included three 906s and two 910s. The 906 and 910 were very similar in appearance and construction, and both were powered by a race-tuned version of the production 2-litre 6-cylinder engine that was fitted to the roadgoing 911 of the day. A 2.2-litre 8-cylinder engine was used in the 910 in certain events, but for endurance road racing, it was the 2-litre 6-cylinder engine that was mainly used.
Following in the footsteps of the 904, these race cars formed the vanguard of what are referred to as the ‘plastic’ Porsches (I hate that term), but they laid the foundation for the 907, 908 and 917 which followed. In excess of 100 of the 904s were produced, and a total of around 107 of the 906 and 910 models were built. The 906 and 910 prototypes were raced extensively around the world (along with the 904) and due to their widespread success, these race cars went a long way to raising the company’s international profile in competition.
Group 5 ‘Special Production’
It goes without saying that many spectators had come to see the Group 5 racers. Called Group 5 ‘Special Production’, these cars formed back in the mid-70s, what was also known as the ‘silhouette class’ in that they were supposed to resemble the production cars that they were based on. There was, however, very little in common between these potent all-out racers and their roadgoing siblings. Sprouting seriously wide front and rear fenders to accommodate ultra-large rubber, these cars were also fitted with an extravagant rear wing and front air dam to help keep the car on the road. The cars were also lowered by around 120mm, as every external facet of the bodywork was geared towards maximum aerodynamic efficiency.
All-in-all, there were nine Porsche 935s at Goodwood for the 76th Members’ Meeting, including four 935 K3s, two 935/77As, two ‘standard’ 935s and of course the 935/78, or Moby Dick as it is known. In addition to this, the Porsche Museum had sent one of the 1980 924 GTPs to do duty on the weekend. These cars all participated in the Group 5 high-speed demonstration run, which was nothing short of awesome. Due to the number of Group 5 cars assembled, they had to be split into two 10-minute heats on Saturday, and two again on the Sunday.
Most of the 935s ran with taped up front radiators, and this was to try to get some heat into the engine which would otherwise have been difficult for three reasons: firstly, because of the slower speeds the cars were being driven at; secondly, because of the very low temperatures; and thirdly, simply because the cars only had ten minutes of track time on each run.
Even though it was not a race as such, but rather a high-speed demonstration run, there were nevertheless some for whom a bit of competition was the order of the day, but as one driver put it, “It was very slippery out there.” Several factors combined to make it slippery, the first being that the track surface wasn’t too grippy by the time the Group 5 cars were let out in the late afternoon, what with the snow and sleet that had been blowing over it all day. Secondly, with the track surface being so cold and the cars also not getting up to top speed, the tyres never had a chance of getting properly warm, and so traction was elusive. Thirdly, with the tremendous power generated by some of the cars, it was all-too-easy to spin the wheels and end up in the long grass, which could have proved embarrassing. The 935/78 Moby Dick for instance, puts out in the order of 850bhp, and so all that power combined with a slippery track don’t make for a happy relationship. So, the Group 5 cars had to tread very carefully around the track, but the spectacle of seeing them circulating at any speed was a real privilege.
On the Saturday Jochen Mass drove the 935/78 (Moby Dick), while Dan Harper (winner of the two-year Porsche Carrera Cup GB Scholarship for 2018/2019) was behind the wheel of the 924 GTP. On Sunday, Richard Attwood drove the 924 GTP, although the fuel pump brought his run to a premature end unfortunately. In the 935/78, Jochen Mass took the first run, then the car pitted to allow Dan Harper a chance to fulfil any Porsche enthusiast’s boyhood dream, to drive Moby Dick. In spite of the Group 5 cars being split into two groups, Moby Dick was allowed to run in both in order to give the hardy spectators, who had braved the elements, the chance to see this iconic race car for a bit longer.
A look back at the weekend
The weather on the Saturday could best be described as perishingly cold with the strong east wind driving the snow horizontally into your face most of the day. With the temperature fixed on zero the whole day, the wind chill certainly dropped that by a further five or six degrees Celsius. Sunday on the other had was quite different, as the wind was not nearly as strong, and with the snow fall overnight, the paddock and cars were covered with a layer of the white stuff. It snowed on and off through the morning, which prompted a question which I put to one of the marshals, “How do you prepare the track for these conditions?” “It is quite simple really,” came the reply, “the track is swept first by the sweeper lorry, and then salt is spread over the track. This differs from normal road grit, which is a 50/50 combination of salt and grit, and so it is just salt that is spread on the track.”
Full marks must go to His Grace, Duke of Richmond, Lennox and Gordon and the event organisers, because there are few such race meetings around the world that can boast such a turn-out of race cars of this calibre, and in such numbers. A big thumbs-up must also go to the spectators and enthusiasts who braved the adverse weather conditions, and who were determined to see the quality cars competing. Bring on the 77th Members’ Meeting!
Written by: Glen Smale
Images by: Virtual Motorpix/Glen Smale