But its beauty is only skin deep. Beneath those flowing lines lurks a car that suffers fools not at all. Unlike its famous British rivals like the Jaguar D-type and Aston Martin DB3S, the 750 Monza is not an essentially benign beast, tolerant of driver mistakes and playful on the limit. It’s a tricky, truculent car with a primitive chassis, an inadvisably short wheelbase and a growling, snorting 3.0-litre four-cylinder motor derived from a Formula 1 engine.
What it's like to race a multi-million dollar Ferrari at Goodwood
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The 75th Goodwood Members Meeting takes place this weekend, recapturing the atmosphere and camaraderie of the original BARC Members’ Meetings, which were held at the Goodwood Motor Circuit from 1949-66. It's a phenomenal spectacle, but spare a thought for the man on the grid, gripping the wheel of his priceless automobile as he prepares to do battle at this historic automotive colosseum.
Five minutes before the start of the Lavant Cup race at last year’s Goodwood Revival, there was a moment when I’d have happily paid any sum of money I could raise to be taken anywhere in the world other than where I was – strapped into someone else’s Ferrari 750 Monza.
I was on the grid of what one leading authority of the classic car world suspected might be the most valuable gathering of cars in a single race in the history of Goodwood. Every one of the 23 cars on the grid was a 1950s sports racing Ferrari, even the cheapest with a value best measured in millions.
And yet, even by those standards, the car I was in was special: the 750 Monza is a pure racer rather than one adapted from a road going design. This actual car raced at Le Mans in 1955 with F1 star Masten Gregory at its wheel and campaigned successfully across Europe, including coming second at Goodwood in 1955. It is a thing of such exquisite beauty it feels an honour even to be allowed to look at it.
Andrew Frankel sits on the grid in the number 14 Ferrari 750 Monza
It is a car you must respect but also master. Fail to strike this balance and it will casually lob you into the scenery which, on this occasion, would be about as public a fall from grace as a bloke like me could have.
But it’s quick, too. These days historic Ferraris are rarely competitive against the cars they’d have beaten blindfold in period, because while its rivals have since been tuned to produce power unimaginable when they were new, Ferrari's engines were at the limit the day they came out of the factory. Only in a field of other Ferraris of a similar age could the Monza’s real pace be shown. Which, as it turned out, was enough for me to qualify third on the grid.
I think what really scared me was the thought that if all I managed was to maintain my position, I’d return the car to the Goodwood podium after 60 years away. I’ve been lucky enough to race at the Goodwood Motor Circuit many times, but never before in a car with a shot at the top three. Getting it there became rather important to me, and the prospect of failure or, worse, damaging a near priceless machine started to gnaw away at me.
Happily, there is nothing like the downward stroke of the Union Flag signifying the start of a race at Goodwood to blow such fears away. I made my customary terrible start and was blessed indeed to lose only one place to a stunning and beautifully driven 250 Tour de France, and luckier still to slip past it through the Fordwater kink and back into the top three.
And there I stayed. I was not fast enough to trouble the two cars ahead, but soon drove out of sight of the 20 cars behind. Which was perfect, because I had no desire to go wheel-to-wheel with anyone; I just wanted to stay out of trouble.
Then I noticed the chap who was second had been given a 10-second penalty for jumping the start, and that he was then slowed further by a spin. In the race if not on the road, I was second. And for once I felt on top of the Ferrari, able to park thoughts of its value sufficiently to drift it in the way such cars must be driven to unlock their inherent pace, but keeping away from the kerbs, the rev limit and the slower competitors I was now starting to lap.
A Ferrari 250 TR goes through the chicane at the Goodwood Motor Circuit
With three laps to go it seemed too good to be true, as indeed it was. Coming out of the St Mary’s corner I changed up only to be greeted by an expensive grating sound from the back of the car and a discernible absence of forward motion. Something, probably the differential, had quit on me.
I coasted to a halt at the Lavant corner after which this race was named, thankfully remembering my misfortune was likely to be being screened all around Goodwood and therefore resisting the urge to burst into tears, kick the car and throw my helmet over the hedge.
So I just sat there on the bank in the late summer sun and even through the clouds of what-might-have-been misery, I could see and savour the unique spectacle this race provided.
Most Ferraris are special; those that raced, all the more so, and those that did so in the Fifites are among the most special of all. To see so many being driven so well and in a setting such as this was almost enough to make me forget the champagne I’d never taste, the laurel wreath I’d never see and, rather more importantly, the chance to put that car back where it belonged on the Goodwood podium. Almost, but not quite.
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