Event Report: Goodwood and Silverstone 2012

The Goodwood Festival of Speed was a lot of fun — more than I expected for a drag race up a driveway! Although each run is very short (my best times were 53-54 seconds), the turns are challenging, it was raining off and on, speeds exceed 125 mph, and there’s even less room for error than at Monaco. I’m pleased to report that, at the end of the Festival of Speed, my car was still in one piece for the HFO support race at the British Grand Prix the next weekend!

The Lotus participants had a black tie dinner with Lord March in the Goodwood House on Thursday, in addition to the gala on Saturday night. Emerson Fittipaldi was seated at the table next to us and, in conversation before dinner, provided good advice: “The driveway does not have the safety features of a race track, so don’t try to break any records, just have fun.” I followed his advice and wound up 13th overall. I was quite happy with that result, all things considered.

Of course, for me the best thing about the Goodwood Festival of Speed this year was that Lotus was the featured marque. The sculpture on the front lawn, displaying actual Lotus F1 cars from different eras on an Escher-esque over and under configuration, was the best ever. Hazel Chapman had tears in her eyes when she arrived and saw it, and we were all appreciative and impressed. My Lotus 77 was displayed beneath the sculpture, along with other Lotus F1 cars from 1956 to the present, in between runs.

The following weekend was the Historic Formula One support race at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone. The tight schedule allowed us only one 30 minute practice on Friday, and it was in miserable conditions with wind, rain and – between fogged up visors and spray from the tires — very poor visibility. I’m not good in the rain to begin with, and not having driven at Silverstone since it was reconfigured, this did not provide an opportunity for me to learn my way around the circuit. I wound up qualifying near the back of the grid, well off the pace of the fastest cars.

Saturday was somewhat better, with rain off and on. Our race was scheduled for 5:30 in the afternoon, after F1 qualifying and the GP2 and GP3 races. However, F1 qualifying was suspended for 90 minutes due to rain. The upshot was that our race was pushed back to 6:30 on Saturday.

The race went quite well. Despite the late hour, there was still plenty of sunlight, and although it had continued to rain sporadically the racing line was mostly dry. I was on the wet side for the standing start but somehow got a good launch, picking up two positions and angling over to the dryer side. I then settled in to progressively learning my way around the circuit, identifying the wettest areas, and overtaking a few more cars as I developed more confidence.

During the second to last lap the rain started again. I was on slicks, as was everyone else, given the relatively dry racing line, but within half a lap there was no dry line. I backed off considerably and gingerly completed the last lap, maintaining my position and finishing tenth. It was great to see Mark Webber win the F1 race on Sunday – which happened to occur during the only real break in the weather all weekend! All in all, a fun weekend, despite the horrid weather and the limited track time for practice/qualifying.

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