Before this weekend, I had zero interest in Mini racing.
Now? I’m hooked. Sign me up. Classic Mini racing is probably one of the most exciting niches I’ve discovered so far.
Undoubtedly the classic Mini is an incredibly amicable car, and I’ve been around enough to know what I like and what I don’t, but on the whole they’ve never really grabbed my attention. Let’s just say the Mini has never been a car that I’ve wanted to own.
That in itself is a bold statement, as my ‘list of cars that I want to own’ grows worryingly by the day.
But after seeing 30+ Minis at a time, hurtling around Goodwood Motor Circuit this past weekend, I fully understand why so many people are obsessed by them. I guess it’s a similar mentality to driving an underpowered car on the road – it’s often far more fun and rewarding to drive a slower car fast than a fast car, fast.
Forget the gorgeous McLaren F1 on track, or the Senna GTR that was blasting around during the 77th Members’ Meeting. Never mind the Group One touring cars thundering around the circuit, the gaggle of Porsche 917s gingerly lapping, or David Coulthard skillfully sliding a priceless Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing through the final chicane, we’ll cover all of that in our main gallery, to follow.
Those with the biggest smiles on their faces were undoubtedly the ones crammed into the tiny cockpits of pre-1966 Minis during the 77MM Betty Richmond Trophy.
Mini racing is insane. And I never expected to enjoy watching it so much. Why would you want more when you can have this much fun with just 125hp?
When it comes to racing a car like the Mini, at a fast circuit like Goodwood momentum is everything. Carrying speed through terrifyingly fast corners, with little to no run-off and on relatively narrow rubber relies on both the driver’s nerve, and their ability to make the car dance through the turns.
With several fairly long and fast straights, corner exit speed was clearly the best way to climb positions when the Minis took to the circuit. It was thrilling to watch as one car just managed to edge past another before the next apex, sometimes making it through with inches to spare, and at other times over-cooking it and taking too much apex on the way out, conceding the position immediately.
I’m no stranger to seeing a skilled driver pitch a car into a corner with weight transfer, inciting oversteer in order to help turn-in, but seeing a packed grid of Minis – sometimes three or four abreast – coming into Woodcote corner, all of them four-wheel sliding towards the apex yet at absolute full throttle was truly mind-blowing.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that, at an event like Members’ Meeting where almost every car on the grid was restored to such a high standard, the racing would be more of a procession than a competition. But you couldn’t be more wrong. The competition here is fierce.
Right from the get-go there was one pairing that everyone was watching – racing driver and Mini tuning guru Nick Swift facing off against his namesake, Nick Padmore, as they swapped lead position lap upon lap, much to the pleasure of the crowd. These were proper goosebumps moments.
Without doubt, this was some of the closest and most exciting racing that I’ve witnessed live. Every single driver out there looked to be giving it 110%, and in any one given race throughout the weekend we saw cars trading paint, pieces of trim going flying, one high speed very close-call with a near rollover, and multiple overtakes and battles for the lead.
With this year marking the 60th anniversary of the great Mini, a roster of 60 race-tuned pre-’66 specimens of the petit classic took over at this years Goodwood Members’ Meeting – a fitting tribute I think.
The Betty Richmond Trophy, named after the current Duke of Richmond’s grandmother due to her love of the automotive cult classic, would see all 60 entrants dual it out over two qualifying sessions, followed by two heats and then a final.
Ultimately, Swift went on to take the victory in Sunday’s final in a dramatic last-corner overtake of Padmore after the two once again swapped places multiple times throughout the race.
No words that I can write will do justice to the incredible action we saw on track, so sit back and enjoy Goodwood’s excellent coverage of the action.