Matt Biggs at the Mission Motorsport Invitational Trophy

Matt Biggs at the Mission Motorsport Invitational Trophy

Even at 7 o’clock in the morning, Goodwood is a very special place. Despite the time of year, I wasn’t there for Revival – September 6th 2013 was actually the date of the Mission Motorsport Invitational Trophy.

Mission Motorsport is a charity setup for the recovery and rehabilitation of wounded soldiers, through motorsport. At first I didn’t fully understand how charging around in cars could effectively help an IED victim or someone suffering posttraumatic stress disorder, but it really does.

And the Invitational Trophy? An incredibly generous Mission Motorsport supporter provided the funds to hire the Goodwood complex for a day. The question for the charity was what to do with it? The plan was simple enough, put together five groups of ten cars to take the beneficiaries for passenger laps. Fellow supporter Ben Williams was responsible for finding the cars – an unenviable and daunting task – just look at the classifications:

Porsche 911s (50 years)
Modern and Supercars
1950s Sports and Racing Cars
1960s Sports and Racing Cars
Pre-war and early Formula Cars

Not that Ben didn’t have to put the effort in, but the response was overwhelming. I saw a post on a Porsche forum asking owners to bring along their pride and joy to run laps throughout the day. The thread went from ‘Gents, I need your help’ to ‘I’ll add you to the reserve list’, faster than I could tweet. A solid indication of how passionate and emotive motoring can be. I guess that’s a big part of what makes it a suitable catalyst for rehabilitation?

Mission Motorsport HQ at Goodwood

I reported to the MM field HQ, was offered coffee and a dirty McD’s breakfast before being set to work. I was to help the car owners in the paddock and then onto crash helmet logistics (handing them out). In the slowly filling paddock a gathering of cars that made me feel a little tingly was already gathering. At the centre of which was a racing E-Type. Then a Shelby Mustang arrived, the noise when that was started, well, as you’re on PetrolBlog you’ll appreciate the sensation that rouses in your man or lady parts!

It was the same with a contrastingly delicate Lotus Elite followed by a HMW Jaguar, Aston Martin…

Ben had done an incredible job corralling this lot – it’s either a testimony to human spirit or he has a collection of very damaging photographs!

I offered my support, but wasn’t about to force my rookie paddock skills on any of these fine automobiles, so when I wasn’t needed I decided to occupy myself taking photos. Milling about in that environment, the time soon disappeared and I was required at my post which was annexed by the noise test station. All of the cars sounded fantastic, but the older ones came with added Eau de Castrol – score one for the old timers.

Riley Brooklands at Mission Motorsport Invitational Trophy

However I was concerned that the rain, which had been steady since I left home, would spoil the day. How many cars (far less precious than these) are proudly presented as never having been on track or having seen rain? But a late 1920s open-top Riley Brooklands – the driver using a golf umbrella for shelter as he waited for his sound check – marked these chaps out as a class apart, something I fully realised when I saw the onboard video from an Austin Healey 100/4. Simply incredible.

Austin Healey 100/4 at the Mission Motorsport Invitational Trophy

My event job was quite simple – I just needed to give a crash helmet to anyone going out – closed face for those in open cars – and collect them again as the cars returned to the paddock. This afforded John, a regular volunteer, father to one of the beneficiaries and senior crash helmet logistics officer, and me a chance to chat to everyone before they were going out, while many were not quite certain what they were getting into (quite literally) there was a lot of excitement.

The Porsches, which included a 911 S, 2.7 RS and GT3 Cup car, were out first and while I couldn’t see them, the noise coming from the track indicated there was no quarter given – damn the rain, the passengers were getting the full six-cylinders worth! While the Modern and Supercars group was out I nipped over to get a few photos.

Porsches on track at Goodwood

The first car I saw was a blue Elise driven by journalist-racer Dickie Meaden, mostly on opposite lock. Next was a Mercedes SLS AMG that adopted a smoother approach to the corners, before delivering a thunderous punch of acceleration past the pits. And so it continued, McLaren MP4-12C, Caterham SP-300R, Lotus Exige…

The morning and early afternoon continued with the cars dispatched five at a time, due to noise restrictions, according to their classification. As the cars came back into the paddock John and I flagged them down and took the helmets from the passengers, and each time I would ask, “Enjoy that?”  The question was entirely rhetorical as the huge grins said it all. Hardly surprising really. I spoke to the driver of a pre-war car who told me the trick for them is not to use the brakes and instead use the cornering forces and a bit of drifting to scrub off the excess speed. Small wonder they seemed to be the most popular cars there.

Mid-afternoon saw a change to an open pit format, which was quite special. Standing near the chicane at the start of the pit straight I watched a brilliantly mismatched group of cars giving it all; by this time the track had dried considerably. Witnessing a 996 GT3 Cup car accelerating out of the chicane followed by a low-drag Cobra was an honest-to-god goosebumps moment. The combined noise of the Mezger and Shelby engines was utterly immense; pit of the stomach fantastic.

Mission Motorsport Invitational Trophy 2013

For me that moment makes sense of how part of Mission Motorsport works. While I cannot even begin to consider how I would feel after being blown up by an IED – going from a hospital to an organisation that puts you in the passenger seat of a legendary V8 racing car closing down one of Stuttgart’s finest at a rate of about one foot a lap? How can that not help replace at least a small piece of the life that the explosive took away?

It was an epic day which helped those it was devised for take another step to personal recover. MM’s day-to-day activities, in addition to recovery, work towards retraining, providing vocational support and finding employment for those in the program; the charity has seen placements in a number of large motor companies and racing teams, not to mention appearances on the BBC and motoring media. Mission Motorsport is a charity and always appreciates any support or donations. I know they would also welcome any ideas for activities and fundraising. If you can help, please contact them using the details below.

Ford Mustang at Goodwood

The Invitational Trophy was a truly excellent event. I would have liked to get first-hand accounts of the beneficiaries’ stories, but to me these guys are heroes and I found it quite an emotional day. If I’m honest, and following my patchy performance on crash helmet duty I didn’t fancy going to Major Cameron and asking for permission for my lower lip to wobble. Instead I hope my account gave some sense of an unforgettable day with these remarkable people.

A compilation video – the on-board from the 997 C2S about sums up the mood of the day: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LLEieR6UBP8

A Flickr album of the day: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pawnsacrifice/sets/72157635412465541/

Website: www.missionmotorsport.org

Twitter: @Missionmotorspt

Facebook: www.facebook.com/missionmotorsport

Written by Matt Biggs

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