The Whitsun Trophy proved the highlight of the first day's racing at the 2011 Goodwood Revival Meeting, overshadowing even an epic all-E-type Fordwater Trophy and part one of the always-frenetic tin-top derby, the St Mary's Trophy.
Despite half the race being run behind the safety car, the big-bangers still provided the most dramatic and closest racing of the day (barring the nip and tuck Formula Juniors).
Canadian Jay Esterer had a dream Goodwood debut in his 1966 Chinook-Chevy Mk2, holding off a raft of experienced Brits including pole-sitter Gary Pearson and a super-determined Paul Knapfield in Lola T70 Spyders.
Esterer nearly threw it away on the final lap in a heart-stopping moment when he almost collected fellow Chinook driver Ray Boissoneau while lapping him into the Chicane. The cool Canuck held a lurid slide, though, while Knapfield spun off into the bank, leaving Pearson - who by then had no brakes - to take second.
The drama had started early when four cars went off on the first lap, but one of the most impressive performances came from Roger Wills, who started his Ford GT40 24th on the grid and scythed his way through the field to finish sixth.
An overjoyed Esterer said: "We've owned the car for 30 years and it was once a road car before we restored it from a burnt-out wreck. I love driving it on these old tyres, it's like driving on a gravel road out there, but she's really well mannered."
Early wet weather produced a dramatic Goodwood Trophy opener with the fastest ERA voiturettes battling with Italian Grand Prix machinery around the very slippery track. Having only top gear didn't stop Julian Majzub battling for the lead with his magnificent Alfa Romeo 308C, powersliding the 1938 Grand Prix titan like a US sprint car to catch and pass leader Mac Hulbert in ERA R4D.
But a broken mirror forced Majzub to back off for safety and let Hulbert through to win. Audi ace Frank Stippler finished an impressive third in the ex-Lord Howe Maserati 8CM. Making its historic racing debut, the fabulous Bugatti Type 59/50B of restorer Tom Dark claimed 14th after working up through the field, in spite of the Bugatti still being run in.
In the Earl of March Trophy, Formula Junior stalwart Duncan Rabagliatti was jubilant just to have finished his first race in the unique Trimax-Jap, the monocoque Spike Rhiando-designed wonder last finishing an event in 1950. "Now we've got it sorted it feels more like a Formula Junior that a 500 – it's very well balanced," said Rabagliatti.
The fascinating 4WD McCandlass-Norton R2 from the Ulster Motor Museum was less lucky as a failed fuel pump forced retirement after just two laps, but all weekend the 1953 machine was the centre of attention in the paddock.
Surefire sign that, despite appearances, the track had dried came when Ford Galaxies dominated the first part of the star-studded St Mary's Trophy with Barrie Williams setting the pace from Kiwi Touring Car ace Paul Radisich, but the big red Yank tank's race ended on lap six with a broken propshaft.
After that Jackie Oliver pushed Radisich hard in the BMW 1800 TiSA in second hoping the Galaxie's brakes would fade but had to be content with second. Behind the leaders, all eyes were on the mighty battle for third with Dane Tom Kristensen's Lotus-Cortina getting the better of Darren Turner's Mini Cooper, and Anthony Reid's Jaguar Mk 2.
Because the race is decided on a two-day aggregate, that means that James Wood (who will drive the Radisich Galaxie) will take an almost four-second advantage into part two tomorrow.
In the all E-type Fordwater Trophy, Desiré Wilson had her second big E-type crash of the year when she exploded through the Chicane to add an unhappy postscript to her outing earlier in the year at the Silverstone Classic.
The thunderous train of Browns Lane metal was certainly a crowd-pleaser and favourites Adrian Newey and Gerhard Berger (below) led for most of the 45-minute, two-driver event, but Jon Minshaw and Martin Stretton ran the perfect tactical race to take a surprise victory.
Cooper-Ford T59 ace Sam Wilson found himself in a ding-dong battle with Pier Enrico Tonetti's Brabham-Ford BT6 and Jon Milicevic's T59 in the Chichester Cup with the lead changing hands virtually every lap before the trio crossed the line within half a second of each other. All three smashed the existing lap record for the Formula Juniors, with Milicevic setting a new best on the final lap.
A gripping day's racing ended with another classic, the Freddie March Memorial Trophy for cars in the spirit of the Goodwood Nine Hour races. The hard-fought race was blighted – and ultimately decided by – retirements as, first, early leader Nick Wigley suffered a big engine problem immediately after setting fastest lap and then pole-man James Cottingham pulled up in the freshly finished 1955 Ferrari 857S.
That left Tony Wood to take victory in the RGS-Atalanta Jaguar, but the emotional result was Nick Adams' second-place in the Lotus-Bristol MkX of his friend and racing partner, the recently-deceased Adrian Hall.
Patrick Watts came third in the mighty Allard J2 despite an early brush with the tyre-wall, overtaking Lukas Hüni – who had suffered an off-track excursion of his own in his Maserati A6GCS – at the death.
Photos of other highlights from today follow. Double click on the lead image to launch a slide show of all the images.