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FEATURE BY MIKE LAWRENCE
13/03/2006

If you join the Goodwood Road Racing Club you receive certain privileges at the Festival of Speed and at the Revival Meeting. There are other events throughout the year exclusive to club members. All members receive a Yearbook, a slim, handsome, volume printed on good quality paper and it comes in a slipcase. I have just received a copy, but then I get mine first because I write half of it.

Each year I have written an account of the Festival and Doug Nye has covered the Revival Meeting, you will find our names in very small print at the back. The two tasks are entirely different; Doug records a series of races, each of which has a result. My job is to evoke a three day event in which very few people now compete. There was a time when McLaren and Williams went hammer and tongs for the course record and people like Mark Surer and Michele Moutton were hounding them all the way. These days, most people choose to 'demonstrate' their cars rather than go for a time.

A few years ago, Johnny Herbert arrived in his Jaguar F1 car. He must have recorded the slowest time ever up the hill, slower even than steam driven vehicles made during the reign of Queen Victoria. Johnny stopped his car at key points on the route and then performed doughnuts for the crowd who, naturally, cheered him to the echo. He then pointed his car in the right direction, built up the revs and executed a racing start with rubber burning.

Johnny perhaps recorded the slowest time ever and nobody cared. Everyone came away thinking what a great guy Johnny Herbert is. So they should have done, because Johnny is a genuine and a very likeable man.

Writing an evocation of the Festival can sometimes be a problem. It's one thing to experience it for the first or second time, it hits you between the eyes, but I have been to every one. Every year I have to try to find a new angle and it is not always easy. For the current GRRC Yearbook, an angle was presented.

Each year there is a theme to the Festival, Doug Nye usually comes up with that. In most cases, the theme has counted for very little, I am just about the only person, apart from the official artist who has to take note, but, in 2005, the theme stressed different national racing cultures and that is a subject which has my full attention.

The design of every car is influenced by politics, economy, geography, climate, loads of external factors. Japanese makers all create very small cars (K class) which are rarely seen outside of Japan. Most of the land of the islands which make up Japan is uninhabitable, If you wish to buy a car in, say, Tokyo, you first have to demonstrate that you have a parking space. That is when the K class cars kick in.

British cars used to have long stroke engines and that was mainly down to the formula the government used to tax cars. For the purposes of taxation, the Austin Seven was rated at seven horsepower, regardless of the actual bhp the engine produced. A 4.5 litre supercharged Bentley was rated at 18 hp, a 2.6 litre Ford V8 was rated at 30 hp, it was a ridiculous system which put an artificial skew into engine design up until 1945.

In the 1950s Jaguar offered the XK120 and XK140 as a standard product with a huge list of optional extras. One of those options was a 'performance' engine with a higher compression ratio and that was fairly standard practice. What most people do not know is that Jaguar also offered a 'bush' engine, with a lower than usual compression ratio for those customers who wanted the swish of the lines, but whose local petrol pump delivered an indifferent product.

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