Wattleworth v Goodwood Road Racing Company Ltd & Ors, Court of Appeal - Queen's Bench Division, February 04, 2004, [2004] EWHC 140 (QB)

Resolution Date:February 04, 2004
Issuing Organization:Queen's Bench Division
Actores:Wattleworth v Goodwood Road Racing Company Ltd & Ors

Case No: HQ01X04617

Neutral Citation Number: [2004] EWHC 140 (QB)



Royal Courts of Justice

Strand, London, WC2A 2LL

Date: Wednesday 4th February 2004

Before :


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Between :

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Robert Glancy QC and Stephen Killalea (instructed by Hughmans) for the Claimant

Anthony Barker QC and Malcolm Duthie (instructed by Paris & Co) for the first Defendant.

Graham Eklund QC and Bruce Gardiner (instructed by Edwards Davies) for the second Defendant

Justin Fenwick QC and Prashant Popat (instructed by Mayer Brown Rowe & Maw) for the 3rd Defendant

Hearing dates :Wednesday 3rd - Friday 19th December 2003

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JudgmentMr Justice Davis :


  1. On the morning of the 5th November 1998 Simon Wattleworth was driving his Austin Healey car on the Goodwood motor racing circuit. As he came out of the second part of a bend known as the Lavant bend he lost control of his car, collided with a tyre-fronted earth bank on the inside of the track and was killed.

  2. These proceedings were commenced on the 2nd November 2001. By them, his widow, Ruth Wattleworth, suing on her own behalf and as administratrix of the estate of Mr Wattleworth, claims damages from one or more of the three Defendants. These are the Goodwood Road Racing Company Limited (``Goodwood'') the owners and operators of the circuit; the Royal Automobile Club Motor Sports Association Limited (``the MSA''); and the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (``the FIA''). It is alleged that Goodwood was in breach of the common duty of care owed by it to Mr Wattleworth under the Occupiers' Liability Act 1957. It is alleged that the MSA and/or the FIA owed a duty of care in tort to users of the Goodwood circuit, including Mr Wattleworth. It is alleged that the death of Mr Wattleworth was caused by the breach of the duty of care on the part of one or more of the Defendants. In essence, the allegation is that the death of Mr Wattleworth was caused by allegedly negligent design or selection of the tyre structure fronting the bank at the relevant part of the Lavant bend. The MSA and the FIA deny that they owed any duty of care to Mr Wattleworth. All the Defendants deny that they in any event were in breach of any duty of care. Causation is also denied. In addition, defences of volenti and contributory negligence are raised.

  3. The trial before me, which lasted some two and a half weeks, was confined to the issues of liability and causation. It was agreed that the issue of damages be left to a further hearing, depending on the outcome. A considerable amount of documentary evidence was placed before me. I also received evidence from a number of witnesses, including expert witnesses as to track safety, accident reconstruction and neurosurgery. In addition, I had the benefit of a view of the circuit (and including, in particular, an inspection of the Lavant bend), undertaken at the invitation of all the parties.

  4. The background facts, as I find them to be, are as follows.

    The Goodwood Circuit

  5. The Goodwood circuit is a part of the Goodwood estate in Sussex. The estate is very extensive. There is a holding company (Goodwood Estate Company Limited) and various subsidiary companies through which the various operations on the estate are conducted.

  6. The Goodwood motor racing circuit was originally established by the Ninth Duke of Richmond in 1948. It was used for motor racing between 1948 and 1966, when motor races as such were discontinued. The inside of the circuit is in fact laid out as an aerodrome, which remains in use.

  7. From around 1991, the Earl of March (son of the Tenth Duke of Richmond) became actively involved in the various Goodwood companies. He had had a lifelong interest in motor racing (and had become President of the British Automobile Racing Club in 1991) and formed the idea of seeking to reopen the circuit as a motor racing circuit, albeit with its old ``feel''. In 1993 he inaugurated at the estate, although not on the circuit itself, what was known as ``the Festival of Speed''; and eventually in September 1998 an event, known as the Revival Meeting, which appeared on the International Racing Calendar, brought the circuit back into prominent use as a motor racing circuit: the racing being designed for historic or vintage cars. In addition, the circuit had in the meantime been used for training (with qualified instructors), testing and events known as ``sprints'' (involving timed laps); and the circuit was also hired out to companies or individuals or groups of individuals for what were known as ``track days'' - whereby individuals or groups of individuals could collectively drive around the track, albeit not by way of racing. The circuit itself was at the relevant times and is owned and operated by Goodwood, the First Defendant.

  8. As President of the BARC, Lord March became acquainted with Mr Dennis Carter, Chief Executive of the BARC. Mr Carter was and is immensely experienced in motor racing matters. He was, among other things, an international steward of the FIA and an International Clerk of Course; he had become Competition Manager of the BARC at Thruxton Race Circuit and also was a member of the RAC Motor Sports Council. Lord March told Mr Carter of his plans to reintroduce motor racing to the Goodwood circuit.

  9. Mr Carter recommended Lord March to contact the MSA. He put him in touch with Mr Derek Ongaro, the Track Inspector employed for UK events by the MSA at that time. There was an initial assessment meeting in 1993 to consider whether it would be possible to bring the Goodwood circuit up to a standard acceptable to the MSA (which would in due course be requested to issue a track licence for the contemplated events). The initial assessment was broadly encouraging, and thereafter there was a whole series of meetings. Much of the involvement on the part of Goodwood was undertaken by Mr Anthony Houghton, who joined the Goodwood organisation in 1987. Initially Mr Houghton's involvement was with the aerodrome (his own background being in the RAF) but ultimately he was promoted General Manager; and he had overall day-to-day control of Goodwood Road Racing Company Limited, of which he was a director: albeit he himself had no background expertise in motor racing.

  10. The circuit had the benefit of planning permission for motor racing. However at the time there were in existence noise abatement notices issued by the local authority which effectively prohibited the use of the circuit for motor racing as such; albeit the training and testing days and track days and ``sprints'' could be accommodated within the notices. Thus one problem that had to be addressed, if the circuit was to be restored to use for motor racing, was the issue of noise abatement.

  11. Throughout this time there were numerous meetings. Lord March himself took a keen interest. A wide range of disciplines (in terms of design, planning, surveying, landscaping and so on) was assembled. There was extensive consultation. Mr Carter was closely involved and a Mr David Nye, a motor racing historian with extensive knowledge of the Goodwood circuit, attended many meetings.

  12. The minutes of the various meetings demonstrate what I was also told in evidence and which I readily accept: that Goodwood regarded safety issues as being of paramount importance. It was for that reason in particular that it liaised closely with the MSA. As Mr Houghton told me, Goodwood was looking for ``the best expert advice'' in organisation and safety terms and so consulted the MSA: from whom, as it also knew, it would require a licence for the track as well as permits for the events that Goodwood had in mind.

  13. By December 1996 the proposals were becoming well advanced. There was a meeting on the 4th December 1996. Those present included, among others, Lord March, Mr Houghton, Mr Nye and Mr John Symes. Mr Symes was at that time Safety and Environmental Executive (he is now Technical and Risk Control Manager) of the MSA, which he joined in 1992. Mr Symes had and has enormous experience of motor racing, with particular emphasis on safety issues. He holds a degree in mechanical engineering and had for seven years, before he joined the MSA, been operations director of Brands Hatch Leisure plc, responsible for the operation and maintenance of four circuits. He was also a member of the FIA Circuits (formerly Safety) Commission. Mr Symes had taken over from Mr Ongaro at the MSA who had retired through ill-health. This was Mr Symes' first meeting with Goodwood. He naturally took the opportunity of inspecting the circuit. His approach was that, as with all circuit inspections undertaken by him, he was endeavouring to see that the risks were cut down to a minimum.

  14. The lay out of the Goodwood circuit involves drivers going in a clockwise direction. The course is flat and the circuit is considered to be one of the faster circuits of its type in the UK. From the start the driver proceeds down a straight section to a right bend known as Madgwick. The following section is essentially straight: after a section known as Fordwater there follows a bend known as St Mary's. This is followed by the Lavant bend at the north-west corner of the circuit. The Lavant bend is what is known as a ``double-apex''. The initial part of the bend involves a bend to the right in the order of some 90°; the track then straightens out somewhat for some 40 metres before reaching the second (and less pronounced, with an approximate angle of 55°) part of the bend, also a right bend. There then follows a lengthy section known as the Lavant Straight, followed by another right bend known as Woodcote, which leads to a chicane and the finish.

  15. It had been appreciated from the...

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