Rule-benders and Group A star in high-speed demonstrations

| 22 Mar 2017

A spectacular grid representing the late-’90s FIA GT Championship brought the sights and sounds of La Sarthe to light up a wintry weekend at the 75th Goodwood Members’ Meeting. Four-times IndyCar champ Dario Franchitti was chuffed to try the 1998 Le Mans-winning Porsche 911 GT1 (front left) that fellow Scot Allan McNish drove with Laurent Aïello and Stéphane Ortelli. 

The group also featured Mark Sumpter’s 911 GT1 (centre in top photo) and Ulrich Schumacher’s Ferrari F40 LM (second row). Sadly, the awesome Mercedes-Benz CLK GTR was a static display only – which might have been a good thing, given the blustery conditions.

Two fantastic sets of Group A saloons brought back the glory days of the BTCC, with a stunning pack of Sierra Cosworths – including the famous Eggenberger Texaco car – plus Rover SD1s and even a brace of Computervision MG Metros. 

“That took me back 30 years,” said tintop veteran Steve Soper, after putting a TWR Jaguar XJ-S through its paces. “It has a lovely engine but it’s heavy so it takes some stopping.”

Former F1 driver Gerhard Berger was reunited with the sublime 635CSi – sporting the signature Original BMW Teile livery – in which he won the ’85 Spa 24 Hours with Roberto Ravaglia and Marc Surer. “That was really something special for me,” enthused Berger. “The 635 was one of the nicest cars that I ever raced, and taught me so much for when I was in F1. This event is fantastic not just for the cars but because it brings people back together. I haven’t seen Roberto for so long.” Ravaglia, who won the first WTCC in an E30 M3 was back in a similar car. 

Sports-prototypes were out in force, too, with a sublime chorus of V8s and V12s from the legendary 3-litre era, including the sublime Gitanes Matra MS670 driven by Rob Hall and Andy Willis of race-prep gurus Hall & Hall. C&SC’s Alain de Cadenet sampled Marc Devis’ unique McLaren-Cosworth M8C (number 11, to right of photo), while mixing it with his former works mount, the Lola de Cadenet-Ford T380 – now owned by Henrik Lindberg.

“There are a number of unknowns here,” said current Porsche Cup GB scholar Charlie Eastwood, 22, on being entrusted with the fearsome 908-3 from the Stuttgart works museum. “I’ve never driven a car without a paddle shift; I’ve never been in this car; and I’ve never driven here. So I’ll just try to keep it on the black stuff.” Which he did, with verve, and was soon in the groove. 

See more of the 75th Members’ Meeting hightlights here

Photos: James Mann and Jeff Bloxham/LAT