Thursday, 25 August 2016

Natalie Goodwin

Natalie in the Lotus 7/20

Natalie Goodwin is most famous for racing in Formula 3 in the 1960s. The British Women Racing Drivers’ Club’s annual racing trophy is named after her.

Natalie was from a background that was both privileged and sporty. Her mother, Marjorie, was a member of the Cussons family, and the Marketing Director of the Cussons toiletry firm in the 1970s. She played hockey for England. Natalie’s cousin, Nick Cussons, started racing GT cars in 1959. However, her initial first love was music; she played piano to concert standard, and performed in a jazz band with her brother. After losing a fingertip in an accident involving a door, she had to stop playing professionally, and seek other things to do.

She bought her first racing car in 1961, when she was twenty-one years old. It was a boyfriend, rather than any of her relatives, that stirred her interest in motorsport. Her racing career started very badly, reversing into a pit wall at Silverstone, but she carried on and finished the race, not even in last place. Among her first cars were a Mini Cooper, Mini Marcos and an Austin-Healey 3000. Soon, she was winning club races.

For the first few years of her racing career, she often drove Lotus cars. The 7, initially painted black, carried her through her many of her early days in British club racing. Between 1962 and 1964, she raced the car both as a self-entry, and as part of the Ashley Smithy Garage team, which necessitated a change of paintwork to a McLaren-esque orange. The three drivers used custom number plates for racing, reading “NAT1” (Natalie), NIT1 and NUT1. As well as racing for Ashley Smithy, she worked for them, handling paperwork.

In 1964, she bought a Lotus 7/20, one of only two built, although at least four replicas were produced. It was a Lotus 7 with independent rear suspension and the brakes from a Lotus 20 Formula Junior.  Hers had previously been owned and raced by Colin Chapman, David Porter and Wendy Hamblin. She sold her original 7 to the team, and kept the 7/20 for three seasons, before selling it to an American collector.

1965 was the year that she switched her attention to single-seater racing, acquiring the first of her Brabham Formula 3 cars. Not stopping there, she purchased two more, and set up her own three-driver team to take on the European Formula 3 circuit, along with her brother. John Cardwell and Dave Rees were her other drivers. Managing the paperwork at Ashley Smithy had proved to be useful training.

Her first outing on the European stage appears to have been the Pau Grand Prix, which she entered in a Brabham BT15, but did not qualify for. Her first Formula 3 finish was at Magny-Cours, where she was twelfth. The best of the Goodwin Racing Brabhams was driven by John Cardwell, who was third. Goodwin Racing then took three cars to Zolder, and Dave Rees was third, in a BT9. Natalie had planned to race, but did not. The team had its best race of the year at Chimay, the Grand Prix des Frontières: John Cardwell won, Natalie was seventh and Dave Rees, ninth. At Caserta, John Cardwell was second. Natalie did not finish, despite coming third in her heat. It was a similar story at Monza, although Natalie did not qualify this time. None of the Goodwin cars finished at Rouen, and the team then pulled out of the Ville Nevers Grand Prix, at Magny Cours. A few more entries for John Cardwell followed, but Natalie did not race herself.

As well as its European forays, the team competed on and off in F3 in Britain. Natalie’s best finishes were a pair of second places, at Oulton Park and Aintree, which she earned in 750MC and BARC races. She was also seventh in a BARC event at Aintree.

Goodwin Racing went even more international in 1966, starting the year with a race in Buenos Aires for John Cardwell. He contested the Argentine F3 series in a BT15, with some top-five finishes. After this, he parted ways with Natalie and her team.

At Pau, a Brabham BT18, driven by Charles Crichton-Stuart, was added to the team. He had moved over from Stirling Moss’s SMART team. Natalie, driving a similar car, made her first appearance at the Barcelona GP, but did not finish. Monza in May was a similar scenario. Natalie’s first finish of the year was at Chimay again, where she was thirteenth. She did not qualify at La Châtre, after not finishing her heat, and lost out at Vallelunga, too. At Caserta, Charles Crichton-Stuart broke into the top ten, but Natalie struggled again. Neither BT18 qualified at Monza in June. Driving solo, Natalie entered the 1900 F3 championship in France, and finished fifteenth at Rouen. After another couple of DNQs, she was tenth at Hockenheim, in the Touring Car Grand Prix support race. After another couple of disappointments, Natalie earned another finish at Zolder, a fifteenth place. This was during a spell of competition in Belgium with Charles Crichton-Stuart, and it was her last finish of the year.

As well as the European calendar, Goodwin Racing was a semi-regular presence in British Formula 3, with either Natalie or Charles Crichton-Stuart as driver. Natalie’s British season did not really get going until late on, and she managed a best result of fifth, in the Louth Trophy at Cadwell Park. She was also eighth at Silverstone and Mallory Park.

The following year, she proved she could cut it as a driver as well as a team owner, and apparently won her first major F3 race. Unfortunately, the details of where this win happened are proving hard to find.

In the UK, Goodwin Racing was mostly represented by Natalie, as a single-car entry. She was particularly effective at the more northerly circuits, such as Oulton Park and Rufforth, close to her Cheshire home, and particularly after she swapped the BT18 for a newer BT21. Her best result was third, at Oulton Park.

In Europe, she dismissed the BT18 and made her debut in May, at her favoured circuit of Chimay, in her new car. She was fourteenth overall. At the Prix de Paris at Montlhéry, she was third in the “B” race, which left her classified 21st in the main standings. A fifth followed at La Châtre, at the beginning of June. A run in the Coupe de Paris gave her an eleventh place in September.

After running a car in the Argentine championship the previous year, Natalie got to drive there herself in 1967. Her best result was seventh, at Mar del Plata.

The same year, she tried her hand at endurance racing, and entered the Spa 24 Hours. She drove a Goodwin Racing Ford Lotus Cortina with Cyril Williams. They finished, but were unclassified. A second Goodwin Racing Lotus Cortina did not get to the end.

In 1968, she had another go at endurance racing, sharing Jean Denton’s MGB at the Nürburgring 1000km. They did not finish. Jean and Natalie had previously raced against each other in Formula 3, in 1965.

For much of the year, she was still campaigning the BT21 for Goodwin Racing. In the UK, they entered the MCD Lombank Championship, with principal driver, Cyd Williams. Williams served the team well, winning some races, but Natalie was no slouch behind the wheel either, earning herself a second and third at Oulton Park, her favourite British circuit, and a fourth at Rufforth.

During the early part of the season, she raced in Spain, but struggled to qualify or finish her races there. In April, accepting a drive from the Paul Watson Racing Organisation, she was fourth in the Sprite Cup, at Jyllandsring. She was also eleventh at Roskilde, driving a BT21 for Tony Birchenough’s team. As a Goodwin Racing entry, she was eighth and seventh in the Prix de Paris races at Montlhéry. A couple of weeks later, she was fourth again at Jyllandsring. At the start of June, she was sixth at Chimay, another circuit at which she usually ran well. During the year, she also raced in Portugal and Finland, although she did not do as well there.

Natalie and Cyd Williams continued as a two-car Goodwin team for the 1969 season. Driving the BT21, Natalie was ninth at Barcelona in May. Later in the month, Chimay gave her a seventh place, and she was ninth at Reims in June. She did enter more races, in France and Sweden, but either did not finish, or did not qualify. That year, she competed at Monaco, and was almost prevented from starting by police, who refused to believe she was a genuine driver. Graham Hill ended up vouching for her.

British F3 was not her major priority in 1969, although her team remained a regular presence. A Chevron had been added to the Goodwin stable, which was driven by Alan Rollinson, among others. Natalie declined to race herself for most of the season, although she put in an appearance at the Oulton Park BARC race, and was sixth overall.

1969 was her last season of active competition. During her time in F3, she had raced against the likes of Piers Courage, François Cevert, Patrick Depailler and Jean-Pierre Jaussaud, sometimes getting the better of them.

Between 1964 and 1967, she was Britain’s highest-performing female driver, and won many awards from the British Women Racing Drivers’ Club, of which she was a founder member, alongside Mary Wheeler. In recognition of her success, the BWRDC awarded their original racing trophy to her in perpetuity. Natalie responded by donating three silver trophies to the club, which are still named the Goodwin Trophies, and are awarded to this day. She was also a Vice-Chairman of the club for many years.

(Image copyright Ferret Fotografics)

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