Minis capture the heart at Goodwood

No introduction required

The Goodwood Members’ Meeting is an event that requires little introduction. The deep exhaust notes buzzing around the aerodrome is one of the tell-tale signs that the racing season is drawing near. And while the temperatures around the estate remain cool, rest assured that the fluids and tires of the race cars making the rounds are all warmed up and the race stewards are ready.

These familiar sounds and scents of motor racing are simply irresistible – it’s what draws members and fellows to the big family reunion that is the Members’ Meeting. The new darling of the 77th edition though, is the Betty Richmond Trophy.

60 Minis. Two heats. One Grand Finale.

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No. 3 may be a Riley Elf, but it is all-Mini underneath.

Minis at Goodwood

Now an all-Mini event isn’t unique at Goodwood. On the occasion of the Mini’s 50th birthday in 2009, Minis took to the field at Revival for the St. Mary’s Trophy. They are also regular combatants in these parts – jousting with (often much larger) saloon cars in the Gerry Marshall Trophy. And this year marks another anniversary year for the make – it’s 60th – so a rather special way to commemorate it at Goodwood was to name the cup after Betty, the current Duke of Richmond’s grandmother. The connection? Her red Austin Mini was a familiar sight as she barnstormed around the grounds.

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No. 25 presents in a hue that can be described as “Members’ Meeting blue.”

With 60 entrants ample racing was guaranteed. Two heats were on the agenda for Saturday, with the top 15 from each lining up for the Sunday finale. Add the timed practice runs on Saturday and it felt like there were Minis everywhere. Lastly, have a star driver in the mix (Chris Harris in the No. 44) and that totals up to quite a show for the fans.

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Listen, Here’s how you fling it around. Keeping momentum up through the turns is vital as you only have 130bhp on tap.

And the crowd just loved the things. As a motorsports fan you’re truly spoiled for choice at any Goodwood weekend. There are so many rare and significant cars on the grid and on display, but there’s something about the Minis. Perhaps, as with the Duke of Richmond, many have a personal connection with them. Maybe a doting grandparent, aunt or uncle, or your dad’s best mate had one and took you on the occasional Sunday spin. It’s a cliché, but Mini Mania is the only way to describe it.

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Which one would you pick?

Let them loose

A sharper, buzzsaw note coming from the assembly area clues you in that the Mini heats are next. Up close we know they’re small but from up high in the stands the diminutive Minis looked even smaller, the track wider. There’s a different rhythm and art to slinging them around the track. Not so visible in a single-marque race, but really on display in the Gerry Marshall Trophy where they’re the minnows in the grid. Outgunned in the straights, they’re the surgeons of the late-braking, flat-out momentum cornering style. Now picture 30 of them in one heat and that’s a lot of jockeying for position. Every corner of every lap becomes a virtual Turn One with 3- or 4 wide going for the holeshot. Exciting stuff, lap after lap. A contest of bravery is what it is.

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The calm before the storm in the assembly area.
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The Kennel Master and his bulldogs.

Part of that secret to cornering speed comes down to car preparation. They may still look like any classic Mini you see in the city, but don’t underestimate them as these are fully developed race cars. Pouring resources into the chassis makes all the difference when the motors top out at 130bhp. The short wheelbase, quick steering and small tires demand the driver’s full attention. The throttle becomes a second steering wheel, but put a foot wrong and it’s straight to the grass. You may stop using the word ‘cute’ to describe them because when it’s at full boil it can bite hard.

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Go, go, GO!
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A corner-happy machine, these Minis are as (un)stable as billiard balls.
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Mini drivers are brave and chivalrous like the knights of old.

As with any race there is the inevitable sorting out; slower cars filter back and the top 5 or so rip at each other until the very end. Winners, positions and lap times are set in the record books for this inaugural run – and no doubt drivers and teams are charting their campaigns for the rest of the season or next year’s Members Meeting. But as the checkered flag dropped I smile and reflect at the true winners of the Betty Richmond Trophy: Sixty Minis came to race but ultimately they won thousands of hearts at Goodwood.

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For the trophy: The crowd cheers on Nick Swift’s No. 76 as it threads through the chicane for the last time.

Goodwood 77th Members’ Meeting, Chichester UK

Shot with: Hasselblad 500CM, Zeiss Planar 80mm f/2.8, Kodak Portra 400.

Develop and scan by NegativeLab, Los Angeles.

This article also appears on DriveTribe: Through The Lens

For more information on the estate: Goodwood – An English Estate like no other

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