Northamptonshire’s Maria Costello MBE teamed up with world-renowned Norton expert George Cohen to claim a magical overall 15th place finish in the two part Barry Sheene Memorial Trophy races at the Goodwood Revival this weekend.
It was Maria’s first time onboard George’s own Norton Daytona Manx, a very special bike raced to victory in 1952 at the 200 mile Daytona beach race by Dick Klamfoth. However this was Maria’s third appearance at the Revival, an exceptional event Hosted by Lord March which, through amazing attention to detail, transports you back in time to the 1950’s.
The weekend started badly when a fouled plug meant that both riders would miss the 30-minute practice session, hence no track time for George to check the bike and more significantly, Maria would have zero time on the bike before the race. Without a lap time, the pair had qualified in last place (30th) on the grid, but the duo were ever optimistic.
George Cohen commented:
“Maria is a top class racer with multiple podiums at the Isle of Man Manx Grand Prix races and her excellence for the sport has been recognized by an MBE, no less. My ‘Garden Gate’ Norton is however quite a different machine to the modern machines which she more regularly competes on; the gear change is on the other side, the brakes are almost useless, the power is about one quarter and the handling is terrible. But as far as old Norton race bikes go, I was confident that we had a solid mount for the event and I was equally sure that Maria would quickly adapt to an old ‘clonker’.”
Maria would start Saturday’s race. Although already accustomed to the Le Mans style start, she wasn’t so familiar with the bike and fluffed engaging first gear, leaving her to trail the field. With the new NGK spark plug fitted, all their problems were solved and the engine again sounded strong. Maria’s lap times improved with each lap as she acclimatised to the handling quirks of the bike.
At the halfway point Maria handed over to George who completed the race – an achievement in itself as many bikes fell by the way side with various problems.
Unfazed by the super quick competition in the form of BMWs, Rudges, Nortons [both original and new replicas], Velocettes, Vincents and Triumphs, George and Maria made vast improvements in Sunday’s race with Costello dropping six seconds off her lap times and improving her speed trap time by over seven miles an hour.
The mid-way change over was swift and uneventful thanks to the team pit attendants Clint and Nigel and Maria took the chequered flag, placing the team 15th overall.
“We set out to finish both races but exceeded all expectations by finishing 15th. The bike did have a tendency to wobble in fast bends and the brakes were almost non-existent, but that’s the endearing nature of this bike and I loved every moment on track. It was an honour to share George’s bike and be his teammate and I can’t thank George and his wife Sarah, Sally & Gordon Russell and Goodwood enough for the invitation. I know George was very proud of the fact that the only spanner he used all weekend was a plug spanner. I was over the moon too – what an event! It has to be the most enjoyable of my race calendar. “
Part of the magic of the Goodwood Revival is dressing in vintage attire and when out of her Vircos motorcycle leathers, Maria fully embraced the opportunity to do just that. With expert help from Sharon and Gloria at the Vintage Hair Lounge, who created some authentic 1940’s and 50’s hairstyles and make up, Katy from Hand Picked Vintage who provided some genuine vintage clothing, furs and accessories and Masquerade Costume hire and Hayley Moore for the military uniforms, Maria truly looked the part.
“A great event, fantastic company and plenty of bubbly; as the late Roy Salvadori once said: “Give me Goodwood on a sunny day and you can forget the rest.”
Maria’s next outing will be onboard her own modern Kawasaki ER6 in the Adelaide Masters at Mondello on the 6/7 October with her final event taking place at her local circuit, Silverstone, when she returns to classic machinery and the Team Classic Suzuki XR69 for the CRMC Race of the Year on the 13/14 October.