Featured: Here’s What It’s Like To Race A Ford GT40 On The Limit

Here’s What It’s Like To Race A Ford GT40 On The Limit

By Jayson Fong
March 23, 2016

Photography by Jayson Fong

Over the last few weeks, you’ve had a close look at the Alan Mann Racing GT40 chassis 003’s journey to Goodwood. From final preparations to testing, and now here, lined up on the grid, the whole experience has been leading up to the action that will take place over the next 60 minutes in the Alan Mann Trophy.

It’s a difficult race: the Trophy is limited to Ford GT40s, making it a sort of spec series; well-prepared cars and fast drivers will do well, but it’s tough to build an advantage over other near-identical cars. For Craig, Henry, and the team, the last few months of work with the #7 GT40 has finally culminated here—though the day has been far from perfect.

With the action starting off earlier in the morning during timed practice, both drivers were hoping for a good opportunity to get a lot from the car and secure a strong position on the grid. It was not to be: only a few laps into the session, oil had managed to coat a large part of the circuit. In addition, both drivers were also faced with significant steering shudder from loose wheel weights and a problematic loose rear wheel bearing hindering the chance of a proper flying lap.

As a result, they placed just over mid way in the grid at 18th of 29 starters. Although not ecstatic about their grid position—Craig and Henry are quick to point out that the car definitely had plenty of pace left in it with many of their qualifying laps spent amongst the traffic.

Back on the grid, it is also lucky that Craig is extremely fond of race starts and being completely involved in the chaos. As the Goodwood Motor Circuit is filled with the sound of 29 angry V8s, he takes no time with getting on with the job by climbing three places before heading into St Mary’s corner. Dancing #7 through the corners, they climb to 11th before a spin at the chicane pushes them back to 16th with 50 minutes left on the clock. With plenty of time still left, and Craig with a renewed sense of urgency, he pulls together a string of 1:23 lap times to climb back up the grid.

With 25 minutes to go, now it’s Henry who catapults into the cockpit at the driver change, and I can’t help but notice the brakes still glowing red hot and streaks of red on the bodywork from grazes against the chicane walls—#7 is clearly being driven.

As the light begins to fade, Henry continues the fight up the grid, powering past others on Lavant Straight, past the crowds at the chicane, camera flashes going off all around, all while constantly correcting that the tail happy rear. Watching this spectacle of legendary machines from the sidelines is an exhilarating experience that is an all out assault on senses.

I’m a bit saddened that it’s all over when the chequered flag comes out, but after 38 laps of intensive wheel to wheel action, it’s great to watch Henry bring the #7 GT40 over the line for a well-deserved 6th place finish. There are smiles all around in Parc Ferme: with initial hopes to be near the top 10, the team is understandably delighted with the result.

From above, Alan Mann must have been looking down at that moment with a smile; a grid full of GT40s, one of his cars, his son, and a stunning race complete with a classic GT40 fightback ending, it was a perfect tribute.

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Gary Drew
Gary Drew
8 years ago

Fantastic insight – thanks!

Goodwood: by far the best cars, best drivers on the best circuit for classic machinery .. and it IS the best racing. Its impossibly good! Every year I’m astonished that classic racing machinery can be so fascinating to watch.

Who know how different E-Types and GT40’s, Cobras, 250GTs and Corvette Gran Sport’s handled until you see with your own eyes thru the 120mph off-camber Madgewick corner. Those classic engines under full load and drifting thru every section.

..and the most beautiful circuit in classic English countryside. But Im digressing

Brian Garrity
8 years ago

Absolutely amazing photos, Jayson. Phenomenally impressive work!

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