Leventis & Verdon-Roe Victorious at Goodwood
Strakka Racing's Nick Leventis polished off a remarkable season with a debut win at the Goodwood Revival last weekend, securing victory with co-driver Bobby Verdon-Roe in the prestigious Lavant Cup.
One of the headline events at the annual Revival, the Lavant Cup vies with the RAC Tourist Trophy for top honours. First staged at Goodwood in 1948, the Cup's list of winners reads like a legendary Who's Who of motor racing history, and includes the likes of Mike Hawthorn, Roy Salvadori, Jack Brabham, Innes Ireland, Stirling Moss, Bruce Mclaren and Jim Clark. "I'm absolutely astounded to be in that sort of company," grinned a delighted Nick Leventis. "This has been my first Goodwood Revival as a competitor, and to win one of the meeting's signature races at the first attempt is a fantastic way to round off my year."
This year's Lavant Cup took place on Saturday afternoon, September 19th, and was scheduled as a one-hour two-driver race for sportscars that originally raced in 1958 and 1959. Nick was co-driving a fabulous Ferrari 246S Dino with former British Formula Renault champion and regular historic racer Bobby Verdon-Roe. Under perfect blue skies and ideal conditions, Bobby had secured pole on Friday, fronting a grid of thirty Aston Martins, Jaguars, Porsches, Lotuses, Ferraris and other remarkably valuable historic sportscars by nearly two seconds. However, despite this achievement, Nick knew that being responsible for the first stint would not be easy.
"We always make a poor start in the Dino!" he said. "The 246 has never been quick off the line. The gearing doesn't lend itself to being fast away from a standing start, so although we were delighted to be on pole, we knew there was a good chance we'd drop back at the start. True to form, I think I was sixth or seventh into turn one. Luckily I managed to keep just ahead of Juan Barazi in another Dino, and then began recovering my ground."
Leading the early stages of the race was Graeme Dodd in Dick Skipworth's ex-Ecurie Ecosse Tojeiro-Jaguar, but Gary Pearson was hot on his tail in Carlos Monteverde's Lister-Jaguar. "I clawed my way back up to third, and I had latched on behind Gary, but I knew he was going to be very difficult to pass," admitted Nick. "I realised I was never going to be able to get by, and with that in mind I decided to pit early and hand over to Bobby. I felt sure the race would come back to us in the second half."
It was a typically slick pitstop, and Bobby Verdon-Roe took full advantage of every second gained. He embarked on an impressive charge that rapidly had the Dino drifting impressively through into the lead. Lapping as much as three seconds quicker than his rivals, Bobby's advantage steadily grew until the #11 Ferrari was very nearly a minute ahead. "The car was running extremely well. It's a lovely car to race -- not the most powerful, but very nimble and it carries speed through the corners so well. Nick had done a great job of staying with the leaders, and I was just able to pick them off one by one."
Despite a much smaller 2.4 litre engine than most of his competitors, Bobby claimed fastest lap of the race at 1:26.910 and looked set to extend his lead yet further had the event not been stopped nine minutes early. The early sight of the chequered flag was a surprise for Verdon-Roe, but under the circumstances, not a disappointment. With a noise like rolling thunder, the massive delta-winged shape of the world's last airworthy AVRO Vulcan bomber was heading in across the horizon to make the first of its awe-inspiring fly-pasts. Designed and built by the company (AVRO) founded by Bobby's grandfather, Alliott Verdon-Roe, the Vulcan was the spearhead of Britain's nuclear deterrent during the Cold War era, and its appearance overhead was a fitting way to celebrate the Leventis-Verdon-Roe victory.
"That was a quite remarkable way to end the race," conceded Bobby. "I certainly wasn't expecting it, but to be receiving our race-winner's garlands as the Vulcan was doing its thing overhead is something I certainly shan't forget in a hurry!"
"It just felt so appropriate," said Nick. "The Vulcan is part of Bobby's heritage, and to watch it complete two fly-bys and then make an amazing vertical climb at the end was just incredible. Winning something right at the end of the season made the race memorable enough, but the Vulcan made the occasion very special. It was a great way to end the year, and I'd just like to say how much we appreciate the tremendous job that Tim Samways and his team did in preparing the Dino. It was a dream to drive."