When Vintage Racing Bites You Hard

Duncan Pittaway finished building this Richard Petty tribute Barracuda just four days before he straightened Goodwood's chicane with it.

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Máté Petrány / Road&Track

For a lot of the richest people on this planet, winning a vintage race at Goodwood has become number one priority. That's why there are so many rumors of picture-perfect Ferrari 250 GTO copies being built, so as not to risk a ridiculously valuable original on the race track. And that's not to mention the wild upgrades you'll encounter in the paddock, such as the supposedly "Cosworth DFV-inspired" firing order of Adrian Newey's Ford GT40.

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Yet after the 20th anniversary of the Goodwood Revival, we mustn't forget the majority of the Goodwood crowd is still made of the nicest and most dedicated motorsport enthusiasts, as well as pro drivers who can't wait to spend three days driving the way their childhood heroes drove.

1965 AHRA Winter Nationals - Bee Line Dragway - Arizona
Richard Petty’s 1965 Hemi Barracuda.
Getty ImagesThe Enthusiast Network

Duncan Pittaway's Barracuda is a tribute to Petty's Trans Am homologation special, the car Plymouth cooked up during the NASCAR boycott of 1965—which Petty protested by taking his Hemi-powered "OUTLAWED" Barracuda drag racing instead.

The sight of Duncan's bee-striped helmet isn't new to Goodwood fans. He is the man who spent a decade rebuilding a 1911 Fiat S76, the original Beast of Turin, only to take it racing straight after. He's also a vintage Harley rider, and among many other challenging vehicles, owner of a very special Chevrolet Cheetah, chassis No. 1. For this year, he chose a '65 Barracuda to race against an army of touring car drivers in Alfa GTAs, Mini Coopers, Jaguar Mk2s, Lotus Cortinas, BMW 1800s and Ford Galaxies.

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Máté Petrány / Road&Track

Team Pittaway wore vintage STP jumpsuits, Andy Granatelli-style—ensuring a fashion victory even before the car took to the track. Having noticed their vintage Car and Driver "Dan Gurney for President" sticker on the bumper, I first caught up with Duncan on Saturday, after his V8 Mopar finished the first race of the colorful St. Mary's Trophy in fifth place. Here's what he told me:

It’s a late 1965-66 model Barracuda, 318 cubic inch, and it’s a copy of the Richard Petty car that they homologated at the end of ’65 for the Trans Am of ’66. I’ve had it for 12 years—it was probably owned by a little old lady who went shopping with it. It’s good! When I wanted a saloon, I just didn’t want a Mustang or a Falcon. Just something different. And the Chryslers are great! I’m really keen on Mopar, but the trouble is that it’s too heavy. It weighs 440 lbs. more than a Falcon or a Mustang, and it’s just not that powerful. But today, we’ve done really well! My competition is always the Galaxies, and we’ve really beat both Galaxies and the Cyclone. That’s a really trick car driven by [three-time BTCC champion] Gordon Shedden, and I cannot quite believe that we’ve come in front of them. So, apart from the Studie [1963 Studebaker Lark Daytona 500, Matt Neal/Nick Whale], which is a bit cheaty with the Chevy engine, we’re the first V8 car, which is undeniably good. It’s a really nice car. It’s too heavy, but when you turn it in, and get it going in the right direction, balancing it on the throttle, it’s got no problem going sideways at 100mph, and it doesn’t feel like it’s gonna kill you. It just feels nice. The steering is shocking! It makes you think the steering is bad. But once it loads up in the corners, it’s good. My BTCC driver [Mat Jackson] has fried the brakes. That’s the problem. It’s a ton and a half, and it’s doing 127mph down the straight here, on the rev limiter. And you've got to stop it for the corner. That just boils the brakes. But we are fine! We’ve got brakes, we’ll put some on for tomorrow. We finished the engine on Tuesday, and it’s running like a watch, 387 horsepower on the dyno. And 340 foot pounds. So, not masses of power, and really, just too much weight. Mat Jackson said it’s not the quickest car, but it gives you so much confidence that you can drive it quicker.
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Sunday: Three completed race laps in 20 minutes

Disaster struck on Sunday when, chased by an Alfa early into the second round of the St. Mary's Trophy, Duncan plowed through Goodwood's chicane in a truly spectacular fashion. The race got red flagged immediately.

Mostly annoyed by the thought of ruining his fellow competitors' race, Duncan had this to say once he climbed across the tire wall:

It just locked up the back wheels. I don’t know … it felt like I got it in two gears, you know when you haven’t disengaged third, but haven’t engaged second either. And so it just locked the transmission. The back wheels locked up, and I was a passenger. But I’m more bothered about all the other cars who were in the race.

Goodwood's marshals did an amazing job cleaning up the circuit in no time at all, and once the poor Barracuda got towed to safety, they even gave drivers an extra ten minutes of race time. Only for Peter Chambers' 1963 Lotus Cortina Mk1 to carry on like this:

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Three completed race laps in 20 minutes. It was just one of those afternoons at Goodwood, with cars older than their drivers being pushed to their absolute limit. In England, they call that period correct.

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