All pictures © Rémi Dargegen Photography
Last June we were told by some good friends that we were invited to Goodwood for a private day and Rémi and I were gonna be part of it ! A test day at Goodwood, it sounds pretty good and knowing about the host, his cars and friends that were invited, well, I thought, it doesn’t get better than that !
And off I was from Geneva on Wednesday morning, 6:13 was my TGV train to reach Paris and meet with Rémi. Arriving there early, it was good to be back home and have a coffee here with a croissant and tartines as well ! My tummy said yummy ! All that was actually to wait for “late Rémi” as I like to call him, he had to go and visit Nikon so we would meet there. What else can a photographer do apart from taking care of his tools ?! Whatever, I was left sitting and waiting with sunshine while watching the usual morning crowd and birds from a terrasse walking their way to work. Then came Rémi, we went to collect our hire car and stopped for sushi before heading to Calais and the tunnel…
And here we were, at Goodwood and yes, we stopped for our selfie in front of the track main entrance, yeah, we had to ! And we headed to Lavant and the first part of our trip, the welcome dinner at the Royal Oak pub. A nice place with proper ale, yes I only do ale as well as proper pub food. The choice of the day was the “Proper Job” ale and here we were sitting and waiting for the other people invited. While having a fag’ outside the pub, I started hearing a noise, a proper engine and here it was, Andrew, one of the friend invited for the day had come over with his Ferrari 308 Group 4 Michelotto, a proper rally car, on the road loaded with all the gears, that’s how I like it and remember, car are meant to be driven. As Andrew arrived, David as well and Nigel as well as Miles, yeah the proper gang of petrolheads around the pub. The ale was good, the food as well and discussions were about cars obviously, a proper dinner it was with great people but after a day which had started at 5:00 in the morning, it was time to sleep so the batteries would be fully loaded for a fantastic day at sunny Goodwood !
Up at 7:00, we joined the boys again for a breakfast and discussions again, 8:00, was time to go and off I was sitting in Andrew’s Ferrari 308, a nice and great ride to the circuit and there we were ! Oh god, a GT40, Shelby Cobra 289, Lister Jaguar “Knobbly”, Ford Cortina Lotus, Volvo 240T Grp. A, TVR Griffith aka “The Mexican Hornet” and the 308 Grp. 4 were all sitting there. Nigel and all the team had been there early in the morning to unload all cars and prepare for the day, guys I can’t tell you how great it looked, the selection was perfect. Then we were off to the Driver’s Briefing with the Goodwood circuit staff, all important point about the circuit, curves, safety information were given, armbands were on and off we were, on track ! First invitation was to sit in Andrew’s Cobra and I have to say that I love the sound of a Cobra in the morning, getting out of the pits, the noise is just great, Andrew was not pushing and just doing installation laps but the noise and torque of the car was just insane. Sitting there and getting around the circuit in the car, it looked difficult, the circuit is very fast and all about carrying that speed around the long and fast curves and getting that car around, I thought it must no be easy when thrashing it around. It’s tight, fast and I believe, fearsome at some point but what can you expect ? That’s just a proper circuit, isn’t it ?!
Getting back to the pits, Rémi was to be the second in the car and that was actually a very good thing, I had told him about cars but he always prefered the older ones, more fifties’ than sixties’ as he would say but well, a Cobra is special, it’s something like a proper and well sorted hot rod, best of Britain with the chassis and best of America put together, it looks fast, sounds like a proper car and just behaves like a hot rod, as I like to say, it’s wild ! And off he was, getting thrashed like a potato bag with Andrew. In the end, getting out of the car, he had understood all I was sayin’ about that car, it’s special and now he could see what I was talkin’ about, yeah he was now a snake charmer ! The day didn’t stop there, as our host had arrived while I was in the car and getting to see him and thank him for the invitation and the selection of cars he and his mates had brought, he offered to drive the Cortina ! The car was brand new, out of restoration and actually there to be tested by David Richard in preparation for the Revival. When I heard that, I was like, seriously ?! You wanna let me drive that car, the ex Bob Jane Cortina from Australia ?! And yes he was, serious and Nigel, his team manager and chief mechanic as well. I just grabbed a helmet and went to sit in the car, got strapped and well, it just felt like home. Yeah, I did drive a Cortina in the past and this one just felt better, neat and clean and as I tryed my hand on the left-handed gear lever, I just realised how better that car was compared to the one I drove. So off I was for my first ever laps around Goodwood !
Went out, waited for the green lap and off I was for my installation lap. Back to the pits, gauges were good, engine was reving properly and the car felt easy. All checks done, I was out again and actually I thought it was just too good, the circuit and the car altogether, it was just awesome and I could just understand why everyone wishes to race there, it suits the car perfectly, it’s part of those circuits where it’s all about cornering speed and not about braking or accelerating in and out of twisty corners, no, Goodwood is a fast circuit, it’s all in 3rd or 4th gear with a touch of oversteer and of course a little chicane to put 2nd in. About the car, well I was being very careful, not mine, first time around the circuit and of course, meant to be tested and sorted by the proper drivers. Hustlin’ the car around, it got better and better and I was quite surprised by the handling of the car, mine had no proper front end and getting in corners was always about a tiny balance between understeer and oversteer but this one was much better, steering was good and hard, it was another deal. The back was very neutral although the suspension seemed to be at the limit when braking but well, I wasn’t pushing, just enjoying my time and oh, it was good. I finally got back to the pits after, let’s say, 25 laps and I couldn’t get down…… It was good, good as fuck ! Then Rémi had its go in the car as well and surely he was surprised, the noise, the car, everything. He never had driven such a car and well he could only be surprised by the way it went around and how it handled but it pretty much made our day !
Back to the pits and surounded by all sorts of cars, Andrew took me out in the Volvo 240T Grp. A car. Believe it or not, the “flyin’ brick” is something very much special, it doesn’t look good or fast when you see it sitting around, it’s square and the design is pretty much very eighties but once you’re in and the car launches itself from the pits, it’s unbelivable ! It flies off the ground and when the turbo gets in, well it’s like a proper kick in the ass. The big difference, I had never sat in a car of this period, are the slicks and drivetrain. Apart from the engine which is powerfull, what surprises you is how the car gets into the corner, the slicks surely help with the grip but braking is a whole diferent business compared to a Cortina. It’s hard and you can take it right to the apex, it just stays straight and stable. Driving those car doesn’t look easier though, there is more speed to carry around and the turbo lag is there so it’s a matter of putting the car in the right place, in the right gear and keeping the momentum so when you press the throttle, that lag is short enough to kick you out of the corner. It doesn’t look sexy or great but it’s a fantastic piece of kit when you see how it’s build and the speed it’s up to.
And it didn’t stop, Andrew then proposed to go for a series of laps in his Ferrari 308 Grp. 4, a proper Michelotto car built for rallying and seen previously on the Tour Auto. I’m no big fan of Ferrari but still, I wanted to understand the car so off we were once again. As a rally car, it’s about torque and it actually gets out of corner very well, gearing is short as you would probably think but it handles very well, it’s light and as some says, “light is right”. Impressive thing about the car is the gearbox, going up the gears, there is no need to use the clutch, Andrew simply lifted the throttle just enough and the gears would go straight in, a dog box and certainly a fantastic piece of kit but even more impressive as a passenger was to watch him going down the gears. It was all about a tiny balance between braking and double clutching, matching the revs properly to get the gears down and when not done properly, you would hear the “crack” of the gearbox. What came to mind was actually how difficult it would be to drive on a special stage during a rally, getting the gears up sounds easy but getting them down is a proper job so carrying the speed, listening to the notes and getting the whole process needed to get down the gears is a matter of talent or concentration I guess but once out of the car I could only say one thing, the car is now on my list and out of the car I was.
Wondering around, it was great to see all the people in the cars and well, then I was asked if I would drive the Lister..! Well, I first said no, I had never driven such things and you know, a “knobbly” doesn’t look easy or simple, it’s impressive, wild and quite the sort of car I like to define as fearsome but after a bit of thinking and a chat with Nigel about it, he just said, go and sit in the car, see if you feel comfortable and if you want to go, just do, drive it like a road car..! Didn’t feel very sure but I tryed, grabbed a helmet and went to sit in the car. It’s a proper fifties race machine, sitting in it, it feels raw and brutal with that big steering wheel in front of you, your left hand arm sitting on the propshaft and the right one on the rear wheel, it’s tight but it feels good. It’s pure and a proper racing car built for speed but what looks interesting is the front view, all you can see are the front wheel arches and the top of the bonnet where the engine sits but anyway, getting into the car was alright, it looked easy and so I decided to have a go and turned the key, simple advice from Nigel, be smooth and don’t forget to heel and toe for down shifts and off I was, first ever time driving a sportscar with a straight six ! Off the pits was easy, getting through the gear was no problem and actually was pretty much easy as the gear lever is very precise, the engine ran smoothly and as for the Cortina, I took it easy, but very very easy I should say, just cruising with it and god it was good ! Engine was fantastic and the position in the car makes you feel everything as well as the front wheel arches, you know where you are and where you are going. After five laps, I was done. Went back to the pits, parked the car and it just felt so good, I was on top of the mountain at that point I think..!
The day then ended and it was time to pack and head back to France and Switzerland, pretty much, it was one of the best day of my life thanks to all the people who made it possible as well as Rémi, the cars were great, the track as well, weather fantastic and moreover, it was nice to see all the friends. As it only started to rain once we were finished well, what can you say apart from a big THANK YOU GUYS ! We hope that we’ll be back there next year and maybe we’ll try to bring a car out to try the circuit properly.. A Cortina maybe !
All pictures © Rémi Dargegen Photography