Saturday, 1 October 2011

Goodwood Day 4

Sunday started early, with the communion service held in the open air, and a small brass ensemble playing the hymns. The morning air was fresh and the hymns sounded beautiful in the place that had been so noisy earlier, and would be noisy again. Prayers were offered up in honour of pilots who died in the Battle of Britain.

A lot of people were there, including a green-painted, bulbous-headed Martian, with "Down with Dan Dare - The Mekon" scrawled on his back. Lining up for communion, just ahead of Lord March and Sarah, Duchess of Richmond, he made an interesting sight. Shirley was still dusted with gold powder from the previous night's party which was themed "Barbarella". "How on earth does one dress for that theme?" she said. "I'll go as Barbarella's grandmother. I haven't even seen the movie." She'd had a fabulous time in the end. She said there were acrobatic girls wearing practically nothing, hanging from the ceiling.

Most ladies on Sunday rebelled against the previous day's discomfort, and had more sensibly-styled heels and warmer clothes. I opted for a suit. 
Sunday was also the day I decided that I loved to watch racing. 

I'd spent most of my time in the Paddock (love that term, imagining nose-bags and oats and so on) with the cars and racers and mechanics and hugely proud of my "Team" arm-band (which I shall frame. Yes I shall). The cameraderie is something wonderful. So I'd not seen much in the way of shops, such as What Katie Did lingerie (well I don't spend much on what one can't see, anyway!) or Vivian of Holloway (I was actually keeping a tally of V of H dress sightings). So I made a move to go and do a little browsing, but Shirley said "You CAN'T miss the St. Mary's Trophy race!" So that was that. 

Aunty Shirley in front of a DeHavilland Leopard Moth
We were so early at the Richmond Pavilion that we saw the motorcycle race too. And what do you know, there was Jim Redman, my friendly companion at Thursday's cricket game (see part one). On his priceless Honda, going round the track with former rival Giacomo Agostini, just the two of them, while the commentators paid them credit for their accomplishments and the crowd gave them an ovation. Then the Barry Sheene memorial race started. One driver skidded off the (very wet) track, right in front of our stand. A gasp went up. Really to see this close-to is quite horrifying. The bike: is it going to go over him? it's heavy and it's machinery and it's going very, very fast. Everything it completely out of control and it's real. The possibilities are suddenly a matter of pure, obvious and brutal reality. 

After the motorcycle race was over Martin (Vulcan pilot, DFC) leaned toward me and said "The St. Mary's trophy is racing as I remember it as a boy. Any kind of car, any kind of engine. It's much funner than modern racing. You'll see." 

The cars were of all shapes and sizes, and all from the early sixties. Looked like a brightly-coloured traffic jam from an early episode of Columbo, but they rumbled and snarled and went shooting off. Right from the start, there were three jostling for it at the front. They were a MBW 1800 TiSA, a Morris Mini Cooper and a Ford Galaxie 500. The BMW and the Ford roared their bulk about while that Mini went crazy buzzing around like a wasp on cocaine. It quickly wedged itself between the two massive boats, all of them going like a big hurtling metal sandwich. The crowd screamed with delight, standing, sitting, pounding the air with their fists. The angles were completely mad, the cars going like rockets. We could watch those three on TV screens that hung from the eaves in front of us, or we could take a look at the speeding parade of different cars going by as well. There were Alfa Romeos, Fiats, Jaguars, Renaults, Austin Minis, Ford Lotus, a Saab (bless it, came in last), and an Isuzu Bellett. Do not ask me particulars. No. 70, The Alfa Romeo 2600(!!!!) Sprint was the size of two cars put side by side, and roared like the inside of a snoring dragon as big as a mountain. No, that does not do it justice. It vibrated the stand so much that you could feel it coming before you saw it. And as for its noise! It came in 20th but I cheered it out of sheer awe. 

Well the BMW won. One of its laps was 93mph. The Ford Galaxie came in second, always getting ahead of the mini on the stretches, with the engine on it. "whoosh". 

But we adored that mini. Racing like this is as good as a Warner Bros. cartoon. These cars have personalities. I feel happy every time I think of this race. 

Outside, wives continued to vie with the cars for their husbands' attention, and we were all praying for the rain to stop so that we could all look up at the moment when 10 Spitfires sailed up into the sky together. Suddenly at 1:30, there was a little bowl of blue above the Goodwood estate, and surrounded by grey heavy stormclouds, one by one the Merlin engines started up. A man next to me gave a roar of pure pleasure to each.


He was voicing what everyone felt. 

I wore an Edinburgh Woollen Mill green tweed suit, altered by a seamstress according to a picture of a 1930s fashion plate I showed her. "Like this." Many people thought it was the real thing. the Spitfires did several circuits together, in what Bill told me was "Missing Man" formation. 

Then I changed back into my spy outfit of Friday, grabbed some business cards and made to go and do some real networking. After all I have a launch of four tracks coming up, and they are as authentically vintage as modern performances get. 

The weather had other ideas. The Spitfires had had their moment, and the clouds would have theirs. Buckets were dumped on us. Torrents, floods. We all huddled with the cars. I changed back into my Miss Marple tweed suit right then and there, a skill one picks up when one has to change for concerts in cathedrals. 

The man who runs the Rolex Drivers' Club
I helped tidy things away, carried bags out to the Alpine Sunbeam, got nauseated at the sound of the Butlins girls doing their rehearsed schtick through the public underpass, and bought some mugs and saw Jackie Stewart come in to one of the stalls to buy a t-shirt and form an immediate crowd. He was like a Pied Piper. They frolicked toward him and surrounded him completely. 

The sun was low in the sky and the Spitfires went off home, one by one. An old Spitfire pilot was by one of them, looking into the cockpit, and then standing by it with his cane as it taxied off. And I can say that my hat was blown off my head by the slipstream from two Spitfires. 

The last Spit to go from Goodwood made a swoop into the sky, from take-off to vertical, and did a victory roll as he went. What graceful, graceful creatures. 

And then Shirley led me to the track and showed me what it looked like, standing at her particular starting position. I could see it all: the deafening din of those 500cc engines, ahead of her and behind her, and the track ahead. I said that whenever I think I'm nervous before a concert I'll remember that nothing I'll ever do will be like this!! 

Soon the track was filled with journalists and racers and team members and friends. The band was playing Tijuana Brass numbers, and Lord March stood on the roof to present the prizes, which he did with great style, fluency and an obvious and deep love for the sport. The men (and women) who had been inside these machines came up and collected their prizes, and were kissed by Lord March's beautiful daughter. These drivers were of all ages and sizes, some quite elderly. All seemed extremely gracious, sweet, modest and completely without airs. Veuve Clicquot and fruit cake were distributed among the crowd. The little 500s team were the most vocal and demonstrative for their winners. A very sweet group, a real family. The sunset looked like a 1930s motoring poster, all fluffy clouds and gold.

Shirley took the Sunbeam out of the field - practically a lake - for the last time. One more photo of it here. Its restoration a testament to Bill's craftsmanship, as was Shirley's Cooper Mk4, which finished very respectably, and also never broke down once. 

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