Goodwood Members Meeting; 15th – 16th April

THRELFALL CUP 2023

The European FJ season opened with a fantastic invitation race at the 80th Goodwood Members meeting, this year for Front-engined FJ cars. It was named after Elva driver Chris Threlfall, as in 2014 and 2018, who sadly lost his life at Aix-les-Bains in 1960 when a wooden pedestrian bridge crossing the circuit suddenly collapsed and Chris ploughed into the debris.

There was an excellent and very varied entry including a great turn-out of eight Fiat engined machines. Qualifying was postponed for some three hours when a long red flag in a previous session put the schedule behind and live TV coverage of two early afternoon races dictated that someone had to suffer the consequences!

In dry and pleasantly mild conditions the cars came out on track at 16.00 for 15 very intensive minutes, and with 30 cars, it meant that finding a clear lap was “challenging”. On the first flying lap Chris Drake (Terrier) was fastest with a 1’32.48” from Ray Mallock (U2 Mk II) and Stuart Roach (Alexis Mk2). These three were consistently the most rapid and Mallock’s 1’29.849” on the third lap was good enough for pole, from Drake 1’30.286” and Roach 1’31.871”. Alex Morton (Condor S II) put in a very fast last lap to be fourth on 1’32.254” with Tom Waterfield (Hillwood-Fiat) completing row 2 and fastest (unofficial) class A car with 1’34.393”. The session was fairly trouble-free except for Nick Taylor (Elva 100) who had the throttle cable snap on his first lap.

The race was at 10.15 on Sunday. Earlier rain meant that the grass was wet for anyone venturing off the black-stuff, as several discovered, but the track itself was dry.  Missing from row 3 was Mark Woodhouse (Elva 100) who had a clutch issue and opted to start from the pit-lane. Chris Drake made a slow getaway from the middle of the front row and Mallock led Roach, Morton, Waterfield and Michael Gans (Stanguellini) with Drake about eighth. Drama struck at St Marys where both Drake and Gans were making up places, and fast approaching Morton and Waterfield, who were side by side in front. First Drake ran wide onto the grass after passing Gans, bouncing along whilst avoiding the bank, to rejoin at part two of the corner, meanwhile Gans tried to take Morton and Waterfield in one go, but locked up and spun, causing Morton to take to the grass in avoidance, happily all without damage, but leaving Morton and Gans well down after he got going again. So at the end of the first lap, Mallock and Roach enjoyed a big gap, from Waterfield, Drake, Robin Longdon (dark blue Lola Mk2) and Justin Fleming (light blue Lola Mk2).

The race was all about a splendid struggle between the U2 and the Alexis. Roach nipped ahead on lap 2, Ray led lap 3 and Stuart was back in front for laps four to six. They swapped places again on laps 7 and 8 until, on the tenth lap Ray retook the lead and eased open a gap of a couple of seconds. After the race Stuart said the U2 was some 10 mph faster down the straight but that he could keep up with the benefit of the tow but once he lost that it was over – except that it wasn’t! On the last lap at St Marys, Mallock caught Richard Bishop-Miller’s Autosport and took a tight line to lap him, but this took him onto oil that had been dropped by Justin Fleming’s ailing car and the green U2 slid inexorably wide onto the wet grass to a 360 degree rotation. Such was the lead these two had over the rest that after Stuart took the win, Ray recovered to still be second, and applause from the knowledgeable crowd, with a lonely Tom Waterfield in third.

Other interest in this most absorbing race was provided by the recovery drives of Alex Morton, Michael Gans, Nick Taylor and Mark Woodhouse. After their spins, Alex was 24th and Michael 28th and last. The red Condor’s progress was sensational:- 17th; 13th; 13th; 11th; 11th; 10th; 7th; 6th then 4th to the flag. Nick Taylor, from the back row, was also spectacular, from 12th on lap 1 to chasing Robin Longdon across the line for 5th and 6th after 14 laps. Michael Gans’ run was also good to 11th but Mark unfortunately retired after 6 laps with gearbox maladies.

As mentioned, Justin Fleming went out with engine trouble and the oil he dropped caused a “moment” at Woodcote when Gunther Leidig spun his Elva and stopped broadside across the road, causing the closely following cars, including Gans, Malcolm Wishart (Faranda) and Nick Taylor, to have to take hasty avoiding action, which particularly delayed Taylor.

Chris Drake’s race ended after only three laps with a suspect differential. Other casualties were Stephane Rey with his Scorpion (throttle cable) and Tony Pearson who went off on the oil at St Marys. Laurent de Meeus in Guy Verhofstadt’s Elva caused some excitement on the grid, when the diff failed, leading to a first lap retirement; and Colin Nursey (BMC) non-started due to potentially oily engine problems.

A very good race much enjoyed by all, and long to be remembered with a dramatic speed photo of the victorious Alexis in its first race in correct Team Alexis orange colour gracing the pages of the national ‘The Times’ newspaper on Monday morning.

Richard Page