Rob Huff reflects: From batsman to Batman and a race win to marvel at
Goodwood is perennially glorious, but this year’s Goodwood Revival was something else, because, not only did I mark myself out as a very capable cricketer, but a spectacular race win was also complemented by another rather special award.
I arrived at Goodwood Motor Circuit on Thursday (8 September) for a private lunch with Lord March in Goodwood House, which preceded the start of the famous cricket match – a 19-year tradition that opens the weekend’s festivities.
I was nominated to join the team Captained by five-time Le Mans winner, three-time Daytona victor and two-time World Endurance Champion Derek Bell, but the line-ups included big names from motorsport’s past and present, such as Jackie Oliver, Doug Nigh, Matt Neal and Gordon Shedden.
My team fielded first and bowled the opposition out for 96 runs; the rules state that each cricketer is only allowed to bowl four overs and I managed that after taking two wickets, before going on to bat.
I was fifth in the batting order and I had a pretty good innings, as you’re able to score a maximum 25 runs and I notched up 29 by hitting a six on my last ball, which won the match!
It was my third time on the Goodwood cricket pitch and, as always, it was a wonderful lead into free practice and qualifying on Friday (9 September), beginning with the Kinrara Trophy in Richard Meins’ gorgeous Aston Martin Zagato.
The grid consists of road-going GT cars from the Sixties – Jaguar E-Types, Ferrari 250 GTOs and Aston Martins – and was the most expensive of the weekend.
We qualified respectably in 11th on the car’s Goodwood debut and followed that with a great race. Richard drove remarkably well and, despite dropping to 13th at the start, he climbed back up to tenth before I took over and pushed on to a fifth place finish.
However, I was less fortunate in the St Mary’s Trophy, as my little Austin A30 suffered a misfire. Mechanics worked tirelessly to repair the car and change its setup before the race and everything was going so well as I went from 27th to seventh during the first two laps, when the misfire returned with a vengeance.
It was a real shame, because we had a belting start and it’s a race I’ve won before, but I took some consolation from knowing that there were two other opportunities to spray the Champagne in the TT Celebration and Whitsun Trophy.
I was back behind the wheel of the iconic ‘CUT 7’ E-Type in the TT and we qualified higher than ever before in tenth – an engine specifically rebuilt for the Revival gave a lot more power and yielded a full second in lap time – in Friday qualifying.
However, we awoke to monsoon-like conditions on Saturday (10 September) and the Jaguar Lightweight Coupe really came into its own against the overpowered AC Cobras, going fourth fastest.
Qualifying for the Whitsun Trophy had been held in the dry on Friday and represented my first experience of the Lotus 19 – I didn’t even know what a Lotus 19 was before the weekend, but this 500kg, 300bhp racer faced a field of far more powerful cars with wide tyres and I thought it might be a bit of an uphill battle.
My mechanics said we would do well to qualify tenth, but we were pleasantly surprised when we went third and, while I didn’t get off to the best of starts, I drove around the outside of practically everybody to engage in a real ‘David and Goliath’ battle with the lead Lola T70.
Half the power and skinnier tyres meant my Lotus had different strengths to the bruising Lola and we traded fastest laps while gapping the rest of the field until the pressure told and my rival locked up and ran wide onto the saturated grass.
It was a hugely satisfying win in what was widely hailed as “the best race of the weekend.” Christopher Ross owns the car, Tolman Motorsport ran it and the build, which took somewhere between 3-400 hours was undertaken by a dedicated mechanic who has been seriously ill this year; as you can imagine, it was a very emotional victory for him and I’m honoured to have been involved.
From batsman to Batman, via a heroic win worthy of DC Comics, I spent Saturday night dressed as the Riddler with the lovely Catwoman, or Alexandra Legouix as she’s more commonly known – fun was had by all, although the TT Celebration was on Sunday (11 September) so drinking games were off limits!
The next day, Richard got a storming start in the TT but span twice and passed the gunmetal grey E-Type to me in 22nd. I did my best to salvage a respectable result and we survived to receive the chequered flag at the end of a very enjoyable race in ninth, but the highlight for me was the prize-giving.
I picked up the winner’s trophy for the Whitsun Trophy and we then got down to the ‘Driver of the Weekend’ award, which goes to the person who has contributed the most to the weekend.
Nobody knows who is going to win it and I played down suggestions that it might be me until Lord March delivered his speech, dropping in cricketing and racing highlights that related to me.
I was presented with a beautifully engraved Rolex Oyster timepiece and a double-magnum bottle of wine, but just to be recognised among great names like Jacky Ickx, John McGuiness and Tom Kristensen and for Lord March to see me as a worthy winner of such a special prize is incredible.
It’s something I will treasure forever. In fact, it’s overwhelming and one riddle that’ll take time to get my head around as I hop across the English Channel for the Spa Six Hours.