I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that the Goodwood Revival Weekend is one of the biggest and best classic motorsport events on the planet. Along with its sister event, the Festival of Speed, it has expanded over the years to the point where it attracts many tens of thousands of spectators each day over the weekend and can also be streamed live via the internet to anywhere with a decent connection. But perhaps most importantly, the event brings in some of the most significant (and valuable) historic racing cars in the world, along with their owners and drivers.
And it doesn’t end there – the Revival is a great deal more than “just” a historic motorsport meeting. In fact, it’s so much more that it’s very difficult to do it justice in words and pictures, but I shall try. The organisers – the British Automobile Racing Club – go to enormous lengths to recreate the atmosphere of bygone times, not just with the cars on the track, but also the classics that decorate the areas around the track, the cars spectators arrive in, the displays, the shops and not least the spectators themselves, who are encouraged to dress as if it were any time from the 1940’s to the 1970’s. Last year, our International Editor likened it to a gigantic film set, and he wasn’t wrong either – if you didn’t know better, you’d think you’d either accidentally fallen through the Time Tunnel (remember that series?) or had got lost somewhere on the Pinewood Studios lot while a post-war costume drama was being filmed. Some of you may remember a time when men never left the house without a jacket, tie and hat and women in a smart twin-set or summer dress – well, that’s the Goodwood style. The main exceptions to this to be found among those who decide to embrace the Sixties and its then new-found freedoms, and so cheerful ‘60s colours and geometric patterns equally brighten the scene.
Now, I have two confessions to make:
The first is that I’m generally pretty averse to fancy dress, but to turn up at the Revival in jeans and T-shirt just isn’t done, so I donned a tweed jacket, shirt, tie, dark green cords and fedora and set off towards the Sussex Downs in die Zitrone before sunrise on the event’s first day.
The second is that the racing – while it is obviously the hub around which the entire event revolves – is actually less interesting to me than the cars themselves, both racing and non-racing classics. There, I’ve said it. The reason is very simple – it doesn’t matter where you stand or sit around a race track, you only get to see a small fraction of the actual racing, and entertaining and exciting as that corner or straight might be, it tells you very little about the race as a whole; your mileage may vary, of course.
What I enjoy greatly about the Revival is the atmosphere generated by the film set surroundings, the sights, sounds and smells of the past – some of which I’m old enough to remember personally – and the chance to get up close to so many fabulous cars. For me, the racing is a by-product – I know many would disagree, but there we are. So this won’t be a race report, not least because I attended only on the Friday which was mainly dedicated to qualifying. Besides, the results will all have been available on Goodwood’s own website before this piece is published anyway. What it will give you, I hope, is a sense of just how special a place Goodwood is over the weekend of the Revival.
My drive down to Goodwood was circa 110 kilometres, of which the last forty or so is an unalloyed pleasure; driving through dawn’s early light along scenic country roads and via numerous picturesque villages is hard to beat, especially when cruising along in a classic car. For part of the journey, an Iso Grifo filled my rear-view mirrors, the first time I’ve seen one on the road. About 90 minutes after leaving home, I pulled into the car park reserved for pre-Tax classics just after 7:30 a.m. and set off for the press tent, which, being across the other side of the track near the airfield, meant I got to see the Revival just starting to stir. Following a traditional unhealthy British breakfast, I got walking… and walking… and walking…
The motorsport history here surrounds you while you walk the area as some of the most famous classic racing cars come to Goodwood every year to compete in front of thousands of classic car and motorsport enthusiasts. As our readers well know, many of these cars have values running into six, seven and even eight-digit figures, but fortunately for all of us, their owners use them as they were intended – to drive and to race with real gusto.
There is an incredible amount to see and do and even if you were to spend the full weekend here, I doubt you’d manage to see and experience everything – I spent no time in the retail or fairground areas, for example, other than to walk through them on my way to another part of the circuit. Where I did head to first was the racing paddocks, hoping to get a good look at and take some non-photo-bombed pictures of this year’s historic racing cars.
It would be impossible to mention all the fabulous machines present but there were some that stood out even in this exalted company. I started with two of the most fabulous, most valuable, most famous (and seemingly unguarded) Aston Martins ever built, the 1962 DP212 and 1963 DP214 projects. These are the sole surviving originals (there are three replica DP214’s as well as this car) and worth a king’s ransom, yet are still raced and – occasionally – crashed. Sleek and purposeful in metallic green, the pair made for a marvellous start to my days’ wanderings.
A row of AC Cobra’s, a pair of Bizzarini’s (one of which is the only RHD 5300GT built), Lola T70’s, Jaguar D-Types, Ford GT40’s, some heavy Corvette metal… not forgetting of course the intimidating line up of 72 Austin J40 pedal cars competing in the Settrington Cup… all these and more lay in wait during the deceptive calm before things started to get very busy as the day’s first practice session, for the entrants in the Kinrara Trophy, got going at 8:45. From then on, there was a constant stream of cars with mechanics either pushing or jogging alongside them when heading to and from the paddock to the assembly area.
In fact, the paddocks and track assembly areas were the places to be to get up close and personal to the cars and drivers, as they lined up in Le Mans staggered formation before roaring off onto the famous old former airfield – sadly not all at once (which would have resulted in the world’s most expensive car crashes) but peeling away one at a time. The sound was furious, the whiff of petrol was in the air, and a brisk walk over to the Salvadori Pavilion meant you could get a decent view of the cars hurtling out of Woodcote and twitching their way through the Chicane before accelerating down the straight.
From the sublime to the ridiculous, and the world’s most expensive car sold at auction to date – well, not the actual car, but a Ferrari 250 GTO nevertheless, this one resplendent in silver and entered in the Kinrara Trophy alongside a gaggle of its sister 250GT’s as well as E-Types, a trio of Aston DB4GT’s and a few “strays” making up the numbers. Unsurprisingly, this almost mythical car attracted numerous spectators and photographers throughout the day, but neither this, nor the many other beautiful sports and single-seater Ferrari’s were the main attraction for me.
It’s no secret that I am a big fan of Stuttgart’s finest – no, not Mercedes-Benz, admirable as they are, but Porsche of course. And the Holy Grail for me at Goodwood was not just the two 904’s taking part in the RAC TT Celebration (one driven by none other than Derek Bell), but two 910’s entered in the Whitsun Trophy. If a more beautiful sports racing car has ever been built, I haven’t seen it. The 910 is just stunning and had I not been very disciplined indeed, there’d be at least a dozen photos of the duo in this report. Its track career was short as it fell a little between two stools in Porsche’s racing development programme, but what a car…
It wasn’t all Ferrari’s, Porsche’s and Astons – more humble machinery could also be found, for example entered in the St. Mary’s Trophy for saloon cars between 1950 and ’59. Here was a line up that recalled the door-handle banging of 1950’s saloon car racing, with a wildly eclectic range of cars, from two mighty American muscle cars in the shapes of a 7-litre ’59 Ford Thunderbird and, more surprisingly (to me, at least), a ‘59 Studebaker Silver Hawk, a ’58 Vauxhall PA Cresta driven by Tiff Needell, Jaguar Mk1’s, an Alfa Romeo Giulietta Ti and even a 1958 Volvo PV544S in Gulf Oil colours.
Bentley’s 100th anniversary celebrations roll on, and at Goodwood it was celebrated with the running of the Brooklands Trophy dedicated entirely to the marque – 29 of the 1920’s and early ‘30’s fastest lorries made a very imposing line up before rumbling onto the track.
Some of the world’s greatest Grand Prix – and pre-Grand Prix era – single-seaters had made their way to the Revival too. Maserati’s ranging from the mid-1930’s through to the magnificent 1957 250F, two 1948 Talbot-Lago 26C’s, gorgeous slender, skinny-tyred 1 ½ litre Lotuses, Brabhams and Cooper Climax’s, and not forgetting the ex-Stirling Moss 1958 Vanwall, one of five ex-Moss cars at Goodwood to help celebrate his 90th birthday. He drove his first and last races at Goodwood and another 61 in between, including 22 victories, so the celebration was particularly apt, although he was sadly absent this year through illness.
I could go on and on (some say that I do anyway…) and still not do much more than scratch the surface here – hopefully the pictures will convey more of the glories that could be seen on the day.
One of the things I wanted to ensure I made time for while at Goodwood was to head Over the Road to the Revival Car Show, which on its own would make an exceptional classic car show – two fields filled with pre-1979 and pre-1966 classics respectively, driven to the circuit by spectators; I spent the best part of a couple of hours there, but more on these fields of gold at a later time…
Wandering over from the race paddocks across to the Revival Car Show gave me an opportunity to take in some of the other diversions arranged over the circuit. I had a brief look to see what I couldn’t afford among at the lots on offer at the Bonhams auction – highlights included a wonderful 1935 Type 57 Bugatti Atalante which sold for £1.5m, a superb Alfa Romeo 6C 2300B that found a new home for £408,000 and a very elegant 1963 Facel II that sold for £184,000 – and just walking around soaking up the sights and sounds and styles of a different era. BMW had an intriguing display that focused on the small cars they built and sold before they became synonymous with sports saloons, including an example of their first car, a 3/15 from the tail end of the 1920’s (they also sponsored the Bavariafest beer pavilion, where you could buy the world’s most expensive so-called “giant pretzel” – in reality a completely standard one – a bargain at just £5.50…).
Across from a small beach (sic) was parked the easy winner of the competition for Most Upmarket Ice-cream Van – nothing less than a converted Rolls-Royce Phantom II and yes, you could buy an ice-cream from it!
There was glamour and elegance, blues, jazz and rock ‘n’ roll music, and warm September sunshine to soak it all up in. Above all, there were classic cars from the rarest and (literally) most valuable cars on the globe to regular family saloons and just about everything in between. It has of course been iterated before, but Goodwood truly is a very special place and the Revival is a very special event – if you ever get the chance to go, take it!