It’s been nearly 30 years since the rumbling open cockpit cars of the Canadian-American (Can-Am) Challenge Cup turned a competitive wheel in the original “Anything Goes” series but their awesomeness is being celebrated at the 2016 Goodwood Festival of Speed.
The Can-Am sports car racing series was sanctioned by SCCA/CASC and ran from 1966 to 1987, so Goodwood is celebrating the 50th year of the establishment of the Group 7 series that permitted unlimited engine sizes (and allowed turbocharging and supercharging) and virtually unrestricted aerodynamics. As long as the car had two seats, bodywork enclosing the wheels, and basic racing safety standards, it could run.
Ironically, Group 7 cars were popular in European hill-climb events, so the handful that made trip to the 2016 FOS felt right at home on the hill at Goodwood. Among the notable attendees were a Hepworth Castrol-liveried BRM P154 whose restoration was finished just the night before the event, Paul Knapfeld’s Ferrari 712 (powered by the largest displacement engine ever made by Ferrari — a 680-hp 6.9-litre naturally aspirated V-12), and the March-Chevrolet 717 of Lionel Dodkins.
The biggest applause, though, was reserved for Brit Brian Redman, who raced in the Can Am Series and Goodwood Can-Am captured various sportscar series championships on both sides of the Atlantic, and even competed in a dozen Formula 1 races between 1968 and 1974. Redman challenged the hill in a Porsche 917/A sponsored by Revs Institute but his attempt was derailed by a deluge and he ended up in the hay bales.
The Can-Am Series was widely respected and renowned around the world, and featured drivers such as Geoff Brabham, Mark Donohue, Bruce McLaren, Peter Revson, John Surtees, Patrick Tambay and Al Unser Jr. Two Canadians won Can-Am championships — Jacques Villeneuve (the uncle) in 1983 and Horst Kroll in 1986.
As expected from an “Anything Goes” atmosphere trying to survive in a recession, spiralling costs put an end to the series, though the cars did pave the way for the American Indycar Series once they stripped away the bodywork around the wheels.