Story and photos by Jonathan Sharp
The shovels of the hard working Track Marshals are more used to spreading cement on deposited motor oil rather than shoveling up the deposited horse manure left by the mounts of the local Charlton Hunt as they run the hounds to open the 2017 Members’ Meeting at Goodwood on the Saturday morning of the event.
This kind of horse and car activity could only happen at Goodwood. The 75th Members’ Meeting is now in its fourth year of revival and is designed to recall the original members’ meetings held at the Goodwood circuit up till 1966. It does, but with a far higher quality of entrant now than was ever the case in period. To add spice to the mix every driver and spectator is allocated a ‘house’, all very English public (read private) school. The drivers then earn points for their house depending how well they do in their races. The spectators can also earn points for their house by taking part in the many off track sports and pastimes, things like duck herding, throwing a javelin, kicking a rugby ball, lacrosse, tug of war, darts and snooker, etc. Each year the house with the highest points total is awarded the prestigious house shield. Here were this year’s houses:
Nicolas Minassian – Aubigny House
Jochan Mass – Darnley House
Anthony Reid – Methuen House
Emanuele Pirro – Torbolton House
For the past three years the wining house has been ‘Methuen’ under the leadership of Anthony Reid. But this year the victors were Emanuele Pirro’s house, Torbolton. At the prize giving on the Sunday night in the Grand Hall (think Hogwarts school) he was so happy to receive the shield that you would have thought he had won the Le Mans 24 hour race and the F1 world championship on the same day.
The one small draw back with the Members’ Meeting is that it is held in the middle of March, which means that it is usually cold and windy. But Goodwood however has that covered. To keep you warm you could purchase a Members’ Meeting logo’d mini hot water bottle which you could get refilled throughout the weekend at the tea huts located around the circuit. Or, you could retreat into the large tepees which had been set up behind one of the grand stands and have a warm next to the fire pits. If you were lucky, you might enjoy a specially cooked, over-the-fire-pit snack courtesy of the estate. (The estate bacon was particularly good.) Lots of outdoor fire pits had also been set up at various spots around the paddock.
Once the track action had finished on the Saturday night it is time for the open-to-all party and the free fairground which is located just behind the paddock. One could enjoy various live bands in the circus tent, colorful street entertainers and taste the food from the vendors, with a fire work display to round it all off. But ultimately it is all about the cars and the racing; a full day of practice on Saturday, 12 races, 3 high speed demos on each day. It is always a quality entry with top class drivers and as the event has a strictly limited amount of entry tickets no crowding.
In addition to the 12 races the members meeting also includes 3 high speed demo runs. GT1 cars from the 1990s, Group A Touring cars from the 1980s, and three liter sports prototypes from the 1970s filled the bill. Unfortunately the two Ferrari 312PBs listed as part of the 3.0 liter demos were no shows. The Alfa Romeo T33 helped to ease my disappointment.