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Le Mans 1000 Km – Four British Efforts (3 – Fred Goddard Racing)
Fred Goddard is one of racing’s characters, of that there is no doubt. Introduce someone to him and you’re highly likely to receive a “It’s a pleasure for you to know me” kind of response.

With Warren Carway and Martin Short joining Fred’s son Earl in the Reynard Judd for the Le Mans 1000 Km, fireworks were likely, on and off the track.

Why? Well, Earl Goddard is the outright circuit lap record holder on the Bugatti Circuit and ….. .. um, a Goddard Snr. and a Short were likely to - clash, is that a fair prediction?

Being racers both, they were likely to come to the same conclusion regarding the set-up of the Reynard – eventually. That was Sunday morning, for the wet warm up. The Reynard on softer springs was a much more attractive proposition (we’d suggest that Earl is a sort of Gilles Villeneuve character – give him a car and he’ll drive it fast. Give Martin Short a car and he’ll want to work away at it until it’s as near perfect as he can make it).

Earl Goddard started the race, from tenth on the grid. He wouldn’t be there for long – but he had a couple of problems to cope with. “We had a gearbox problem, and had to be very precise with it as it returned to neutral. I got used to it on the reconnaissance lap, having not driven in the warm up – but when we took the start, I was as apprehensive as the next guy.

dailysportscar.com“I think it was pure luck that got us all through the first corner. As we started to turn right for Dunlop, I couldn’t see anything except the brake lights of the car in front. When the RML car spun, I was able to go over the kerbs and miss him. Had he spun half a second later, I would have gone straight into the side of him.

“One of the 550s came past me as I bounced across the kerbs, so I sat behind him for a while, to see what would happen. With its traction control, that car was amazing out of the corners – but with it being so slippery, we were really struggling with traction.

“I got past Kox after about 20 minutes, and there we were running fourth overall, the first day we’ve ever run in the wet. The plan was for me to stick out there and do a double stint, and the whole time was pretty action packed. The Dunlop wets were great - so perhaps it would have been better for us if it had stayed wet.

“At one point, Ortelli had to spin going into the fast Dunlop right hander, to miss the big XL Ferrari: there was the Porsche spinning into my path, and I was flat in sixth!

“As I pushed harder, I had the rear brakes lock up into the double right hander onto the back straight. I slithered into the gravel, but the marshals pushed me straight out, losing hardly any time. I pitted, but then had to pit again: there was a rock down by my feet in the footwell – it was five or six inches long. I’ve no idea how it got there!”

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“Martin took over for the third stint as the track dried, and that’s when our times really came down.”

Short: “With the care we had to take with the gearbox, I wasn’t out to set the track on fire, but I became more and more confident with the car, and the handling was very good. When I let Kristensen and Bourdais past, I suddenly found that I could stay with them – even though none of us could enter the corners at 100%.”

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Then Short lost fifth gear, and the Reynard pitted for a replacement Gemini / Ricardo gearbox.

“It was all about keeping it going,” concluded Earl Goddard, “and we did finish the race, which was a good start for a first race with the Judd engine. But I am sure that without the gearbox problem, we would have had fourth place in the bag.”

That wouldn't have been a secure Le Mans entry, but Fred Goddard and his team are on the way towards a potentially very rewarding 2004.

It's been a difficult season trying to make the little turbocharged engine work in the Reynard, in the 675 class, and then changing to the Judd V10 in August, but next year can't come soon enough now. Sebring or Monza, Fred – or both?

 

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