The very first race meeting was held at the Goodwood Motor Circuit on the 18th September 1948. After the circuit being closed in 1966, the Duke of Richmond finally succeeded in bringing motorsport back to this historic site with the first Revival meeting in 1998. Now, twenty years later – and seventy years after that very first race – enthusiasts from all around the globe continue their love affair with this most epic step back in time.
As the Duke of Richmond spoke about their anniversary and all they’ve achieved with the Revival, he also made the point that these twenty years seem to have passed unbelievably fast. I guess time flies when you’re having fun! Largely though, they’ve managed to keep the perfectly scripted formula to the Revival unchanged for all these years. Of course, with the vast success of the race meet, it has also continued to grow year for year in both span and size. If we were to be skeptical, we could make the point that it has become more commercial over the years, and with that perhaps lost a little bit of its grassroot charm. But the growth and slow evolution of this celebration of motorsport’s most golden era has also brought many great things with it, and regardless, it is still a rather unique package and by a fair margin the greatest historic motorsport event on the planet!
I parked up on the Saturday morning and made my way to the press office. Already here I was immediately confronted with just how meticulous the planning and execution of this fabulous event is. They’ve frankly thought of everything, and of course even the press office immediately emits a charming retro atmosphere for us to work in – if you can really call this work…
Unfortunately, I was unable to attend on the Friday and thus missed out on the epic one-hour, two-driver Kinrara Trophy just like I had last year. Since its inaugural appearance in 2016, it hasn’t thus far failed to impress the crowds, with both fabulous pre-1963 GT cars of three-litres and above, immensely close racing, and not least breathtaking visuals as the brutal race cars sped into the sunset as dusk fell over the circuit. This year, victory went to the #16 Ferrari 250 GT ‘Breadvan’ shared between Niklas Halusa and five-times Le Mans winner Emanuele Pirro. Strongly driven E-types took up the following places as they fended off several other Ferrari 250 GT’s, AC Cobra’s and Aston Martin DB4GT’s. Next year, I’ll clearly have to make an effort to make the first day as well.
As it is, Saturday morning’s Fordwater Trophy for sports- and GT cars raced up to 1955 was my first. When pole-sitting Sam Tordoff thoroughly fluffed his start in the #600 Porsche 356, it was instead David Franklin who held a short-lived lead until his grassy excursion in the sublime #7 Ferrari 225S Vignale. This handed the lead to the hard-charging Stuart Graham in the blisteringly quick #72 Jaguar XK120 roadster. But there was yet another change already on the third lap when Darren Turner managed to press the #11 Aston Martin DB2 ahead – never to be caught again. However, after his poor start, it was Tordoff in the 356 who set fastest lap of the race during his hard charge from the very back of the field. On the last lap of the race, his efforts got him into second, but Turner had the DB2 too far down the road and passed the chequered flag first. But for sheer visual impact, my hero of the race was the painstakingly beautiful #5 Ferrari 212 Export – just stunning!
But despite the excellent racing, there is just so much more to the Goodwood Revival than what’s happening on track. This is more than just a race meet – it’s probably more like a full-scale film set, filled to the brim with authentic buildings, characters, staged little scenarios and intriguing details. Together they all contribute to creating a perfect little pocket in time, where we can all escape from the modern world and experience a charmingly glorified picture of life as it used to be. It’s really quite overwhelming as you try to come to terms with the fact that you simply can notsee everything during the weekend. Some things you will have to sacrifice in order to be somewhere else. So seeing as motorcycles have never been my prime passion, I left the Barry Sheene Memorial Trophy behind me as I ventured into the streets of the Revival to take in all of the atmosphere.
I just managed to make it back trackside in time for the first of the two heats of the ever-so-popular St. Mary’s Trophy for production saloons raced between 1960 and 1966. The Saturday race is where the invited professional racing drivers have their blast behind the wheel, before the owners of the cars have a go on the Sunday. St. Mary’s always guarantees close, committed and very sideways action which is a real spectacle to witness. Furthermore, being able to relate to the saloon-based shapes which we know and recognize from public roads makes the race all the more popular. There were several good fights throughout the field. The big growling V8’s of the Yank Ford Galaxie 500’s, a Mercury Cyclone and a Plymouth Baracuda sounded spectacular, but ever the BMW-fan I was delighted to find two BMW 1800 TiSA Neue Klasse battling it out with Mini Coopers and Alfa Romeo 1600 GTA’s. Out in front it was between a trio of Lotus Cortina’s driven by Andy Priaulx in #7, Ash Sutton in #10 and Rob Huff in #13 joined by the #55 Studebaker Lark Daytona 500 driven by Matt Neal. A hard-charging Andrew Jordan tore through the field from the back row in the #77 Lotus Cortina and homed in on the leading cars. Out in front, Sutton was edging away when he was forced to dive into the pits towards the end of the race. This gave Huff the lead with Priaulx pushing hard just behind him. Priaulx never managed to find a way around Huff, but he didn’t have to either. Without pits-to-car radio, little did they know that Huff had been given a ten second penalty for jumping the start, relegating him to fourth place. Priaulx got his victory with Neal manhandling the brutal Studebaker into second. Now the rest of the aggregate result would be left for the second drivers to decide on the Sunday.
I might have only been a spectator, but I needed to catch my breath and get my pulse back out of the red again, so I departed the track for another nosey around. I realise that there are plenty of stationary classic car shows to attend throughout the summer, but I simply had to fit in a stroll through the Classic Car Park to slobber over all the gorgeous machinery which other spectators had arrived in. Missing out on both lunch and the Goodwood Trophy for Grand Prix & Voiturette cars raced between 1930 and 1951 was a small price to pay. That however will be a separate story for another day…
I eventually tore myself away and trotted out to my favourite spot at Madgwick corner for the final three races of the day. Next up was the inaugural Jack Sears Memorial Trophy for saloon cars which raced in the 1958 British Saloon Car Championship. From the word GO!, the three Jaguar Mk1’s of Justin Law in #8, Grant Williams in #12 and John Young in #31 powered away from the rest of the field. Young managed to create just a little bit of air down to his two pursuers, while Law and Williams fought hard for second with especially Williams in the ‘BUY 1’ Jaguar achieving some astonishing angles as he powered the big saloon through the corners of Goodwood. Elsewhere in the field the heavily battle-scarred #4 Austin A35 continued to lap the Goodwood Motor Circuit, while a Sunbeam Rapier got into a huge tank-slapper at St. Mary’s corner but somehow every other car around him managed to avoid impact by diving left, right and center as the Rapier departed the track. I personally loved the little #48 Fiat 1100TV Abarth, and credit goes to Richard Woolmer for piloting the unlikely #55 Jensen 541R with proper bravado as he got ever more sideways with every corner he power slid through. Inevitably though, it was three Jaguar Mk1’s on the podium with Young taking the cigar.
Now the spectacular big-banger pre-1966 unlimited sports prototypes made their entry heard for the Whitsun Trophy. One was truly left slack-jawed as these monstrous powerhouses unleashed all their cubic inches and thundered out of Madgwick corner towards the long flowing Fordwater – the vicious V8 cacophony accompanying all of their relentless acceleration up through the gears. The highly effective legend that is the Lola T70 Spyder has always been a favourite of mine, and experiencing them ‘live’ is always a treat. Of course, it’s even better when they’re accompanied by McLaren M1A’s, Cooper Monaco’s, Lotus 30’s and Ford GT40’s including the 1965 Roadster which was crashed in period at the Targa Florio. And while the pair of beautiful Porsche 910’s were nowhere near the leading pack, they did indeed look astonishing as they lapped the old British circuit in unison. The rare #63 Hamill-Chevrolet SR3 from the Can-Am series was a real treat too as it both looked at sounded fabulous as Darren Turner brought it home in second place ahead of Rob Huff in the Oldsmobile-powered #19 Lotus 19. Out in front though, it was a convincing and resounding victory for Mike Whittaker in the brilliant ex-John Surtees / Graham Hill #46 Lola T70 Spyder as he left the rest of the field in his wake.
Tying up the Saturday was the Freddie March Memorial Trophy in the spirit of the Goodwood Nine Hour races held between 1952 and 1955. But there was no sign of the pace fading as these early fifties sportscars took to the track. Shapely Jaguar C-types, a variety of exquisite Maserati’s and quintessentially British Aston Martin DB3S’s all put in strong performances. Revival-regular Jochen Mass was there in a Mercedes-Benz Gullwing which looked somewhat odd in a very modern dark matt grey paintjob. In stark contrast, the little #12 Frazer Nash Targa Florio looked delicately brilliant, and while it wasn’t particularly competitive – just like last year – my race favourite was the super stylish #1 Alfa Romeo 3000 ‘Disco Volante’. With looks like that, who cares whether it can win a race? Well, clearly there were those who did care, because out front the competition was fierce as Martin Hunt kept his right foot down as he sped to victory in his HWM-Jaguar. The bigger and more powerful #7 Lagonda V12 Le Mans driven by Darren McWhirter managed to take second in front of the always-sideways and very committed #15 HWM-Cadillac of Richard Woolmer.
Strolling through the paddocks as the sun hung low in the sky, mechanics everywhere were preparing to burn some midnight oil. White overalls protruded from under a variety of race cars, there was some emergency panel-beating to the back of a Alfa Romeo 1600 GTA, and an engine-swap was already well underway on a Lotus Cortina. I admired their commitment as I continued towards the party Over the Street for dinner, a pint of lager and plenty of live music.
Back again for more Sunday morning, I decided to sacrifice the opening Chichester Cup for pre-1963 Formula Juniors and instead prioritise a morning walk through the paddocks where you can get up close and personal with the many glorious race cars. A row of C-types and D-types was an opportune moment to compare Jaguar’s two legendary race cars, and just around the corner several sleek Aston Martin’s lured me in with their curvaceous bodies.
I considered also sacrificing the next Richmond & Gordon Trophies for 2.5-litre Grand Prix cars raced between 1953 and 1960. After all, open-wheel racing has never appealed to me as much as tin-top, GT and sportscar racing. Still, the program revealed that all of five fabulous Maserati 250F’s would be competing on the track, so I hurriedly shuffled over to Woodcote corner. The battle between the older front-engined cars and the later mid-engined cars was enticing. But while it was – perhaps as expected – the later cars which were victorious, it’s those last front-engined Grand Prix racers which truly gets my blood flowing. Not just the 250F’s either, but also the ingenious, if flawed, four-wheel-drive #7 Ferguson-Climax P99 and not least the long, slim and beautifully proportioned #30 Scarab-Offenhauser.
For heat two of the St. Mary’s Trophy, I stayed put at Woodcote corner for all the excitement of hard-driven saloon cars standing on the brakes after the Lavant Straight, drifting through Woodcote and then back on the brakes for the famous chicane. It proved to be an incident-filled second installment of the popular saloon car race! The Dutch teen, Oliver Hart, drove a beautiful race in his #4 Alfa Romeo 1600 GTA – perfectly balanced, well-judged and fast. But throughout the rest of the field, there were frenetic battles up and down the order. However, on the fourth lap this was all put on hold as Duncan Pittaway thoroughly demolished the chicane in his #95 Plymouth Barracuda. As a result, the race was red flagged while the bruised and twisted Barracuda was dragged away and the chicane was rebuilt. Eventually the race was restarted, but almost immediately the safety car had to be redeployed as Peter Chambers barrel-rolled his #10 Lotus Cortina as he was coming into St. Mary’s. It looked violent, but thankfully Chambers walked away unaided. Racing got underway once again with only a few laps to go and Hart continued to shine as he held off the opposition. After more doorhandle-to-doorhandle racing it was Roger Wills who brought his #69 Mercury Comet Cyclone into second with Steve Soper in his #7 Lotus Cortina taking third. With Priaulx winning Saturday’s St. Mary’s in Soper’s Cortina, the two took the overall victory on aggregate.
Next up came my own personal highlight – the race I had been waiting for all weekend. The RAC TT Celebration. A 45-minute, two-driver race for closed-cockpit GT cars in the spirit of the RAC TT races held between 1960 and 1964. For this I was back at Madgwick corner, as I know from previous experience that the most aggressively driven cars take the two right-handers of Madgwick in one long, pedal-to-the metal, tail-wagging, tyre-smoking, engine-wailing powerslide! So there I stood – goosebumps all over – as I tried in vain to keep from laughing out loud in utter disbelief of the brutal display of ultimate car control before me. Cobra’s dominated the pointy end of the field as their snarling Ford V8’s propelled them around the track with rear tyres scrambling for traction. The Dutch father/son team of David & Oliver Hart were out in front in their highly effective #1 AC Cobra, but Hart Sr. grazed the chicane leading to a five second penalty – their victory was far from assured yet. Behind them, an awe-inspiring field of Lightweight E-types, Corvette Stingrays, the quirky Lister-Jaguar Coupé, a sole TVR Griffith 400, three beautiful Porsche 904 GTS’s, and not least my underdog-favourite Sunbeam Lister Tiger fought it out.
Cars started diving into the pits for their driver change, which shuffled things around somewhat. But by the time they had all reemerged on the circuit, it was the 19-year-old Oliver Hart who was still in the lead and pulling away in order to make up for his father’s five second penalty. The #19 TVR Griffith was driven with real commitment as they charged up through the field – the rear window popping out in the process just like they had tyre-marks on their left door from a competitor they had left behind. On the last lap, as the ever sideways #7 Sunbeam Lister Tiger of Matt Neal and Michael Squire came drifting into sight, the engine let go in a big way – smoke bellowed out from the front of the car and sprayed oil everywhere! It coasted to a halt clear of the track, but sadly the following #28 AC Cobra of Greg Audi and Jean-Pierre Jarier did not fare as well once they encountered the oil-covered Madgwick corner. Instead it was backwards into the tyre wall only a few meters from where I was stood. By the time the officials reacted, the race was all over anyway with Hart Sr. and Jr. taking the laurels in their #1 AC Cobra, Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen taking second in the #33 Jaguar E-type semi-lightweight, and the battle-scarred #19 TVR Griffith 400 of Mike Whitaker and Mike Jordan managing a strong third. If I really had to name a jewel of the whole Revival meet, this would be it.
After this stunning display, I was convinced that nothing else could ever impress me again. I decided to give the Glover Trophy for 1.5-litre Grand Prix cars a pass in the name of food and drink while I trekked out towards the high-speed dip at Fordwater for the last race.
Did I say it couldn’t get any better? Well, Phil Keen might just have proven me wrong as he brought the curtain down on the 2018 Goodwood Revival with an absolutely brilliant drive in the Sussex Trophy for World Championship sports cars and production sports racing cars which were raced between 1955 and 1960. Phil Keen had put the #33 Lister-Jaguar ‘Knobbly’ on pole position, but a stuck throttle had him starting from the very back of the field. The #1 Ferrari 246S Dino of Sam Hancock initially held the lead, but Roger Wills was working his little #25 Lotus-Climax 15 hard and was soon enough putting quite some distance between himself and everyone else. The Scarab Mk1 looked fabulous out on track, but my personal favourite was Julian Majzub’s #22 Sadler-Chevrolet Mk3 which both looked and sounded astonishing as he fought hard to stay in contention with the front runners. All the while though, Keen was absolutely flying up through the pack. He repeatedly dipped below his own pole-setting qualifying time and hit the last speed trap on Lavant Straight at a thundering 150.4mph. This was a man on a mission! The commentators jokingly renaming his ‘Knobbly’, the ‘Gobbly’ as he ate up everyone in front of him. On the penultimate lap, Wills dropped a wheel over the kerb as he exited Lavant and Keen powered by to take a most impressive victory. Surely the mother of all comebacks drives! The 20thanniversary could have hardly ended on a higher note.
High on octane, adrenalin and heaps of nostalgia, I headed back north towards home. Even after the long drive – and for that matter, even now as I’m writing these words – I still struggle to comprehend all the impressions from traveling back in time for a blast of a weekend. Mere words will not suffice. A staggering 146,000 spectators over three days can’t be wrong. The epic Goodwood Revival is something which must be experienced with all of your senses. So on that note, I shall see you again next September…