Going racing is one thing, it’s a hobby. Being invited to race at Goodwood is another level. Being asked if I would share my car with 4 time BTCC Colin Turkington was amazing!
I had written to GRRC and asked if I could enter the Jim Clark Trophy to help celebrate 60 years of the Lotus Cortina back in January. I was of course too late and told the grid was full. No surprise. I was surprised however to receive a phone call from a very nice man called Craig at the end of March telling me someone had dropped out and could I make it? I said ‘Yes’ more than once and put the phone down. Panic set in. How on earth can I make this happen with three weeks to go? Being a Lotus meant that the car was in pieces. I had driven the circuit once before but how can I make this happen? I need a team which I don’t have and I usually run the car for a day out with a couple of mates. This was serious and I was on the back foot. Oh yes and I was driving with Colin who I hadn’t met and he had never even sat in the car.
Fast forward three weeks where nothing else mattered but the car, Goodwood and Colin. You have to understand I’m an armature driver and just do my own thing. Colin is a Pro and he does this for a living 24/7. An expert. What would he think of my car? What would he think of my driving? What would he think of me! Colin, I have to say, is a lovely bloke. His knowledge is of course amazing and great behind the wheel. I met him and the whole family on arrival, they were all lovely and form the very strong ‘Team Turkington’ It’s an impressive thing.
I arrived on the Friday with my family towing the car. We had arranged to stay on what was left of the campsite after the rain had turned the field into ‘Tractors Only’. The briefing was an hour of Lord March showing you who was banned last year and never to return. It’s all about safety and driving standards. Incredible to be in the Great Room with the best drivers in the UK, Europe and the rest of the World, and me.
The weather was on our side for the whole weekend My first time racing at Goodwood so the nerves were on show and nothing I could do about it. The car had misbehaved during the brief testing session I was given two weeks ago and now it was all or nothing. Qualifying went well. We were three seconds of the front row and twenty cars separated us from them. The car behaved itself which meant everything frankly. I looked at the Classification list of drivers. Steve Soper, Matt Neal, Alex Brundle, Justin Law, Dario Franchetti, Mark Blundell and of course Colin.
Race day was mega. the atmosphere absolutely amazing. we had to decide who drove first. I wanted Colin to go first. He has so much experience off the line and I knew the first few laps were going to be carnage. I knew he could battle it out and start making some ground. Team talk. Everyone else suggested I should go first. If there is an accident there is no point in wasting Colins valuable time in the car behind the Safety Car. A fair point. I was outvoted and decided to go with the experience I had around me. Sitting on the start finish straight was incredible. So much going on cameras going off everywhere, we were n TV. Warm up Lap. Ready. Go!
It was a crazy start, I lost a lot of places as the other drivers bounced their cars of each other. Wing mirrors and body parts flying everywhere. I settled down and started to play catch up. I had four Cortinas in front of me. I was much quicker but over taking isn’t easy. I needed more patience than I was capable of. I picked off the first two. Tiff Needell was in front and I was gaining on him at speed. We approached St Mary’s. I was quick enough to go around the outside of Tiff. He saw me coming and drove across in front of me nudging me onto the grass. At 100 MPH hitting the grass accelerates you to 110 instantly. I was in the middle of the airfield and had damaged the steering arms. I was desperate to get back on but the Marshalls were waving at me. Game over. Absolutely gutted. Embarrassed. You name it. So much effort had gone into this and it was over before it began. Colin didn’t even get a look in.
Overall it was an amazing experience and I only hope to have a second shot at crossing the line. Great to be in there mixing with the greatest drivers and teams. Here’s to next year.