The Rake Visits the 81st Goodwood Members' Meeting

Uncrowded, intimate and access-all-areas, the Goodwood Members’ Meeting is a thrilling weekend of epic motor racing, exclusively open to members of the Goodwood Road Racing Club community. THE RAKE was front row for the 81st Edition.

The Rake Visits the 81st Goodwood Members' Meeting

The lack of noise in modern Formula One is often lamented. The current generation hybrid 1.6-litre turbocharged V6 engines standardised across the sport are incredibly efficient and powerful. But when it comes to excitement, they pale in comparison to F1 cars of old. A Saturday afternoon at Goodwood demonstrates this in full effect. It’s the 81st Goodwood Members' Meeting, and thousands of spectators wait in anticipation as Gerhard Berger climbs into his 1989 Ferrari 640.

The scarlet red car is classic late ‘80s, early ‘90s Ferrari, with its sharp nose, black wings and ‘coke bottle’ silhouette, which from above resembles the iconic beverage. But it’s the noise that gets you. Powering the rear wheels is a naturally aspirated 3.5-litre V12, thanks to turbos being banned the year prior. It sounds like a Formula One car should, with screaming high revs that build dramatically to a mechanical crescendo. It was a car built on the cusp of change, as Formula One entered the technological era. The 640 was the first Grand Prix car to have a semi-automatic, paddle shift gearbox, setting the new standard for the sport and, a decade or later, road cars. During the ’89 season, it was prone to failure, and while Berger and his teammate Nigel Mansell won three races between them, reliability was poor.

Fans flock to the grandstands at the 81st Goodwood Members' Meeting.
Racing action at the 81st Members' Meeting.
Gerhard Berger, Ferrari 640.

The car’s looks, which today are among the best and most definitive of all F1 cars, weren’t well received by some. John Barnard, the car’s designer, told Motor Sport magazine that Ferrari founder Enzo, who died shortly after being presented with the car, ‘shook his head’ upon seeing the 640 for the first time. The engine surely pleased the great man, however, who was known to love 12 cylinders. At this year’s Member’s Meeting, its symphony filled the entire airfield in which Goodwood Circuit resides. An early motorsport memory of mine includes my dad taking my brother and me to the San Marino Grand Prix in 2000. The V10 engines of that era could be heard way before they were seen, building anticipation before they came screaming past. The Ferrari 640 has this same effect, filling the entire track with high revs, snappy gear shifts and induction roar.

The McLaren MP42B in the Niki Lauda Celebration at the 81st Members' Meeting.
The McLaren MP42B in the Niki Lauda Celebration at the 81st Members' Meeting.

It was far from the only highlight of the weekend. The Gordon Murray presentation could be seen as another, more modern ode to the V12. Murray, former F1 designer for Brabham and McLaren, as well as creator of the iconic McLaren F1 production car, showcased a range of his own Gordon Murray Automotive cars. This included a global debut of the T.50s track-only model, which was shown on the move for the first time. Driven by four-time IndyCar Champion Dario Franchitti, the car’s wailing V12 revs up to 12,000 rpm, sounding closer to an old F1 car than a modern hypercar. Also on track was its sibling, the T.33, a more sensible road car that prioritises comfort as much as performance. Its own Cosworth V12 has been detuned slightly, but sounded spectacular, its manual gearbox adding a satisfying delay between shifts.

Gordon Murray Automtoive T.50s at the 81st Members' Meeting.
House Captain, Dario Franchitti at the 81st Members' Meeting.
Can-Am grid walk at the 81st Members' Meeting.
Can-Am demonstration at the 81st Members' Meeting.

Elsewhere, the Can-Am celebration couldn’t be missed. Both because of its spectacle but also because of the thunderous noise of the big block V8s that lined the grid. One of the most spectacular series that raced in the ‘60s and ‘70s, Can-Am had virtually no engine or design restrictions, meaning the likes of McLaren, Lotus, Porsche, and Shadow invented their own silhouettes, wings and aero solutions. One car, the Shadow Mk1, featured wind deflectors that popped up under braking to better slow the car down. The front panels had dollar signs that were thought to encourage sponsors back in the day.

S.F. Edge Trophy at the 81st Members' Meeting.

Going back further, the pre-war cars provided their own entertainment, with the drivers exposed to the elements as they wrestled them around the winding track. The Fiat S76, nicknamed the ‘Beast of Turin’, has a 28-litre in-line four engine that came from an aeroplane. With no exhaust, it spits flames directly from the engine block. The best thing about the Members' Meeting is walking around the paddocks, though. Mechanics work tirelessly, and drivers relax after their hard graft on track. There are no barriers or restrictions for ticket holders, meaning you can get up close and personal with some of the world’s greatest race cars and the people who keep them going. That, coupled with the on-track action, makes it one of the more spectacular events on the motorsport calendar.

Assembly Area at the 81st Members' Meeting.
Fireworks from the paddocks at the 81st Members' Meeting.

Photo Courtesy of Goodwood Members' Meeting.