Secrets of a Goodwood drive: PH Blog

I swore I'd never do it again. Sounds massively ungrateful given you're typically being offered the chance to drive something amazing, in front of an enthusiastic crowd, at one of the world's great motoring events. But the realities are slightly less glamorous.

Bear in mind you first have to navigate a car you've never driven before, likely with a snappy clutch and/or exotic transmission, through a crowd of pedestrians. Then you wait... and wait... and wait and hope said car fires up again when summoned. Then you wait some more at the bottom of the hill. Finally, you go, likely your only sight of the course being your first run in anger. When you reach the first corner - a fairly quick one - you have no idea of the line, how good the brakes are (or whether they work at all), whether the tyres have any heat or grip in them or any sense of the car's dynamic behaviour.

And if you successfully navigate that you have the looming terror of Molecomb, a corner that has been the public undoing of many a Goodwood hired hand. Looks nothing trackside. But if you can see the corner and haven't prepared for it, you're likely taking a trip into the bales. Then you've got the Flint Wall. And the tighter-than-it-looks right into the final run to the line. Lots of potential for making a tit of yourself in other words, potentially in some priceless museum piece you had no place sitting in, let alone driving.

Given all that, and the fact a single run can take up half a day, you'll perhaps understand my 'no drives' stance. Then I got offered a drive in an Alfa Romeo GTAm.

This was a year ago. 12 months later I have finally made it to the top of the hill in the same car! I'll spare you the long version but the GTAm and I had unfinished business. And this year was my chance.

To my mind if you're going to drive a car at Goodwood it should be like this one - beautiful to look at, fairly straightforward to drive, sounds like it's going faster than it is. This time nothing was going to stop me! What's that? Time to go? Oh, hang on, it's not firing up... Cue some frantic Italian arm waving, some fuel dribbled into the intake trumpets and - BA-BA-BA-BAAAAAAAM - yup we're up and running. God, it's noisy! 129db going by a spectator with a noise meter last year, that side exhaust blaring from under the driver's door, violent bangs and pops making onlookers wince.

My journey to the start line is not without... drama. There is another refusal to start. More frantic arm waving. Some - I'm guessing - fairly sturdy Italian language aimed under the GTAm's bonnet. A senior marshal says "Are you going or aren't you? You need to tell me in the next five seconds!" I haven't waited a year to be thwarted again. The Italians push me along the road, I drop the clutch, the engine splutters into life - it is on!

When it happens, the run is pretty sedate. The clutch slips up through the first three gears and I think a good proportion of my 200-odd horsepower has fled the stable; that or I've not got a full complement of cylinders firing. No matter. I make it around the first bend. Molecomb is successfully taken care of - slowly - in a theatrical double-declutched downshift. The flint wall remains unscuffed. And when I make it to the top the rest of the batch is waiting, arms folded, with a general air of 'what the hell took you so long?'

Most probably didn't realise it had been a whole year.






P.H. O'meter

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Comments (18) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Dafuq 02 Jul 2017

    What a lovely, lovely thing that Alfa is.

    Will we look back in forty odd years times at today's run arounds with such fondness, I very much doubt it.

    Cars of yester-year just seemed to have some much more individuality and character.

    You lucky boy Dan.

  • AC43 02 Jul 2017

    That is one of my all time favourite cars.

    I'd once met a guy who'd raced one at Kyalami.

    He kept hearing a metallic twang and wondered what it was.
    Turned out it was the rivets in the wings gradually firing off in the harder corners

  • 998420 02 Jul 2017

    My dad used to restore those Alfas, some of my fondest childhood memories were flying around stonewalled Derbyshire lanes in GTVs

  • sledge68 02 Jul 2017

    I heard that car in the pits on Friday, sounded viscious when it was firing on all cylinders.

  • edoverheels 02 Jul 2017

    Agree with Sledge. Also heard it on Friday in the pits, scary!

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