After a full year’s delay due to Covid the Goodwood Revival returned 17th-19th September for what has become not just the best historic race meeting in the world but a firm fixture on the social scene. Goodwood even has its own radio station for the event, with amusing interviews and race commentary.
When The Duke of Richmond started The Revival in 1998 he had no idea it would become so successful. The circuit was opened by his grandfather in 1948 and held international motor racing until 1966 when he thought the cars were becoming too fast for the track.
For those who aren’t keen on racing there is the Concours d’Elegance for aeroplanes, open air cinema, funfair, vintage market, shopping village, rock-and-roll ballroom, fashion shows and live bands. Those who are were treated to a full programme of the most exciting motor racing – anywhere.
Don’t imagine for one minute these are just priceless old motors being taken for a sedate bumble around the late summer English countryside by old duffers. The cars are piloted by Formula 1 champions, Le Mans winning sports car- and touring cars drivers, who are there to win. The action is fast and furious, no quarter is asked or given. This is wheel to wheel racing at its best.
Before an event starts the paddock of a race-track has a special atmosphere of peace and serenity. This is especially true at Goodwood where before the engines are fired up and engineers become busy preparing their cars the only sound – apart from the dawn chorus – is the melodic Merlin engine note of the dawn patrol, three Spitfires performing a gentle aerobatic ballet.
This year three special events were held. One to commemorate Sir Stirling Moss’ career which began and ended at the circuit. The second to celebrate the achievements of B.R.M. (British Racing Motors), with 38 cars on display including five 1.5 litre twin supercharged V16 racing cars famous for their ear piecing scream and total failure to ever complete a whole race without breaking down. And the third for a track parade of hot rods. Calling it a parade is misleading, more like a noisy wheel spinning thunderous thrash, I had no idea I liked hot rods so much until I had seen this spectacle.
In between all the off-track action there was a full programme of 16 races (which is why we are here) beginning with The Stirling Moss Memorial Trophy on Friday evening and the sight of E-Types and Ferraris with headlights cutting through the early evening dusk were quite stirring.
Saturday’s race card included two single seater races: The Festival of Britain Trophy for pre and post war ERA, Ferrari, Maserati and Alfa Romeos; and the Glover Trophy for Grand Prix cars built between 1961-65. For many that might be enough excitement but there were five more races: The Barry Sheene Memorial Trophy for pre 1966 bikes, The Sir John Whitmore Trophy for Minis which only need to use their brakes twice per lap so their drivers spend most of the time sideways, the St Mary’s Trophy for saloon cars, also driven mostly sideways, The Sussex Trophy for ‘55-‘60 Sports cars like the D-Type Jaguar and The Whitsun Trophy for pre 1966 Sports prototypes – and these beasts can touch 160 m.p.h. along the Lavant Straight.
The event I and many others had been looking forward to the most: The RAC Tourist Trophy Celebration, was for closed cockpit GT cars such as the E-Type Jaguar and AC Cobra. An hour-long race with a driver change pit stop in the middle. It had been raining earlier and these cars are known for having bags more power than grip in the dry so in the damp they are positively gripless.
Once the grid had cleared of engineers, photographers, grid girls and marshals you knew this was the moment the drivers needed, experience, and a state of total concentration.
Goodwood doesn’t start its races with lights but uses a flag so spectators have one eye on the man with the flag and the other eye on the grid. As the drivers revved up the cars shuddered and vibrated like an animal about to pounce on its prey. The flag dropped and an explosion of raw energy rocked the pits as 28 cars and drivers were on full attack.
Formula 1 champion Jenson Button missed a gear and disappeared into the mayhem of the pack. For the first couple of laps drivers used all their concentration just keeping the cars on a damp track. Before the driver change and pit stops Button managed to fight his way back to third place but unfortunately the car was retired with an electrical problem.
A truly exciting titanic wheel to wheel battle between the Cobra of Le Mans winner Romain Dumas and Cobra of Ollie Bryant thrilled spectators, both cars dancing on the limits of adhesion, just inches apart almost touching as they performed perfect four-wheel drifts through the corners. Although Dumas’ car crossed the line first he was given a time penalty for a pit stop infringement so victory went to Ollie Bryant and Darren Turner.
Whilst you are at The Revival there is a feeling of can-do optimism, it gives you a feeling that everything and anything is possible. As I drove home on Sunday evening Goodwood Radio gradually began to fade until the only sound was static. I was going back to normality but the one thing for certain is that I will be back next year for another colourful and exciting Revival.
By William Lansburg
Pics by Nick Dungan and William Lansburg