The penultimate day of February was a fun (if cold) day. I was at the Goodwood Motor Circuit (home of the Revival meeting every September) to lend a hand to my favourite charity, Mission Motorsport. For the last 6 years, they have been assisting with the rehabilitation of Wounded, Injured and Sick British Armed Forces personnel, through the medium of motorsport. It might start with an invite to a trackday to get them out of the house and reconnecting with like-minded people. It leads on to training and involvement with fun motorsport activities of all kinds, including taking part in real races, rallies, and even offshore powerboats. The end game is to get their beneficiaries into rewarding careers in the automotive and related industries. So far, they’ve entertained/assisted/encouraged 1400 people, with 120 of them now in full time employment. All disabilities (visible and invisible) are catered for. It’s a very meaningful and rewarding way to spend time. They have counterparts across the Atlantic in the form of Operation Motorsport in the US and Canada, and other countries’ veterans groups are taking note.
To celebrate 6 years of operation, Mission Motorsport took over Goodwood, and invited beneficiaries and donors for a day of motoring fun and cake. 55 cars of all kinds, from a Triumph TR3 to a new Lamborghini Huracan Performante would be turning up to provide high-speed passenger runs around the famous circuit. In addition, the car control area would make use of Goodwood’s skid pan in conjunction with Mission Motorsport’s fleet of Mazda MX5s (one of which has a steering wheel on the left side and the pedals on the right side, which is fun).
Each of the 55 track drivers had their own allocated paddock garage, and it was going to be my team’s job to direct them in groups to the pits ready to take on board passengers. However, it didn’t quite work out, as the weather intervened. Freezing overnight temperatures and the arrival of snow took away the opportunity to use the circuit. Many beneficiaries and drivers couldn’t make it, or didn’t want to risk their health standing around in the cold.
For the people who did turn up, there was a great social atmosphere, and there were still lots of fun cars to look at and talk about. Just as things were calming down and some were starting to make their way home, a McLaren F1 appeared...
The owner (Francois) had brought along chassis number 69, one of the last F1s to be built in 1998. The colour is called carbon black, which is fairly appropriate for a carbon composite-bodied monocoque car. It is a truly magnificent machine, and Francois was kind enough to let everyone present have a very close look, up to and including climbing into the central driving seat (I managed to get in there, of course). The hatches over the engine bay were opened up, revealing the 24 carat gold heatshielding and a non-original exhaust system. It’s also possible to admire the special brake ducts which open up when the brakes are applied and the rear wing/’air brake’ lifts up. The pressure difference between the wheel arches and the air rushing over the upper bodywork acts to suck air through the disks and up over the rear wing. Clever stuff, but nothing unexpected from Gordon Murray.
The dihedral (‘butterfly’) doors open wide enough to grant access to the 3 seats inside, and it’s surprisingly easy to get into the driving seat (it’s all relative, but certainly easier for me than, say, a Lotus Elise S1 with it’s roof on). I tried the clutch pedal, and it has a very short action. Unsurprisingly, I understand it’s a difficult thing to master (although Francois certainly didn’t stall it). The gearchange to the right of the steering wheel is perfect. I’m not going to attempt a real review here, but if you moved it around I’m sure you’d come to the same conclusion.
In fact, everything about this car is perfect. It’s the best thing ever. I told you about that review thing, didn’t I? Francois even demonstrated the luggage hatch behind the door when he had to store his crash helmet and jacket. After some more discussion and admiration of the car, it was suggested that the skid pan would be made available to anyone who fancied having a go. This seemed like a fun idea, so the F1, Huracan Performante and Carrera GT formed a very unusual convoy to the far end of the paddock, accompanied by a 911 GT3, 911 Turbo and a BMW Z3M coupe, among others. There followed some of the most surreal things I’ve seen. With 2 beneficiaries at a time allowed to jump into the passenger seats, the F1 slid around at low speed, spinning it’s wheels (and body) as 627bhp found it’s way through that sharp clutch to the rear wheels. Bonkers.
The sprinklers came on occasionally, which added to the spectacle:
After a very dizzying display (for the occupants and spectators), it was time for a rest, and then some lunch. As far as weather-related washouts go, it was the finest ever. I’m very much looking forward to returning for the rescheduled track action. Maybe Francois will be kind enough to bring his other F1 along to that one. Yes, he has an F1 GTR as well. Because of course he does, wouldn’t you?