A Ferrari 250GT SWB powerdrifts aggressively through the long right-hander with the unique Aston Martin Project 212 and a Lister-Jaguar in hot pursuit. In the paddock a pre-war Alfa Romeo 8C is being warmed up with its ethanol-fuelled straight-8 popping and banging. A group of men next to me dressed in Second World War uniforms are chatting about the Spitfire air display, while elegant women in beautiful dresses browse through the shops of yesteryear in the High Street. Then Jochen Mass and Alain de Cadenet casually stroll by. This can be only one particular place in the whole world – the Goodwood Revival.
This – the 20th Goodwood Revival – was my first full weekend spent at the epic historic motorsport event, and I was utterly blown away! The scope of the whole event was what really set it apart. The history of the old motor circuit obviously played a key part in all of this. Especially as the races during the weekend were inspired by races that were held in the active years between 1948 and 1966. The historic racing cars that gathered here at the Goodwood Revival were among the finest and rarest in the world, and the names that lined up to race these beasts were equally legendary. Not many other historic motoring events in the world can boast of attracting such an impressive entry list – that applies to both the cars and the drivers.
But while the racing was obviously centrepiece, there were just so many other things which helped invite you back into a bygone era. Spectators dressing up in period outfits was probably the main contributing factor to the amazing atmosphere found at the Revival. Proper dedication had been put into the majority of these outfits, and if you didn’t dress up, you were clearly the odd one out. Impeccably dressed Gentlemen and stylish Ladies with lavish dresses and either stunning hairstyles or extravagant hats surrounded you wherever you went. The famous Betty’s Salon in the High Street was busy all weekend long, but all the other fixtures in the High Street were equally impressive right from the art deco Michelin building to the little classic newsagent. The retail therapy didn’t even have to stop there, as the vast area “Over the Road” presented daily fashion shows in the Revival Emporium to inspire your following purchases at the many booths set up around the perimeter. There was such focus on motorsport and all things vintage, that the obvious commercial aspect to this didn’t even distract. Once night came and the racing stopped, the Valdoe Bar was the perfect place to wind down with real ale on tap, swinging live music and the lights of the fairground behind you.
Getting our focus back to cars, within the circuit boundaries both the March Motor Works and the Earls Court Motor Show were certainly both worth a visit. Especially Earls Court was quite a sensation this year, as resurrected (again!) TVR had decided to use the Revival as their International launch pad for their brand-new Griffith. This of course lead to a wide selection of classic TVR’s surrounding the newcomer, right from the 1952 TVR Number 2 – the eldest surviving TVR – over the intriguing rear-engined 1965 TVR Tina, through 80’s wedge and right up to the striking Sagaris of the naughts. But for static car displays, nothing could beat the Revival Paddock, where you could get up close and personal with the awesome historic racing cars which you had just witnessed blast around the motor circuit. As already mentioned, the line-up was nothing short of astonishing with all a classic car enthusiast could possibly dream of, right from pre-war Grand Prix racers up to the brutal Sports Prototypes of the mid-sixties. To enhance your paddock experience even further, make sure to stroll through the area in the dusk of sunset, as the mechanics in their white overalls prepare to burn some midnight oil, in a spirited attempt at getting the bruised and injured racing cars ready for the action Sunday morning. The atmosphere was pure magic…
But even with all of these brilliant distractions, no static display could possibly better the real-world excitement which was found trackside. I deliberately sacrificed a few races in order to experience as much of Goodwood as possible, but the racing was just such sensory overload that I barely know where to begin. Each spectator will no doubt have his own take on which race was the best of the weekend. However, I also have no doubt that everyone would agree that every single race was spectacular in its own right. I was sadly unable to make it down to Chichester on the Friday, so I missed the one hour Kinrara Trophy now in its second season and already dubbed “the world’s most beautiful motor race”. All the more reason for me to return again next year. A general crowd favourite seemed to be the St. Marys Trophy where production saloons competed on aggregate with star drivers such as Jackie Oliver, Mark Blundell, Jochen Mass and not least ViaRETRO’s Scandinavian hero and nine times Le Mans winner, Tom Kristensen, manhandling these tin-tops to within an inch of their lives on the Saturday. Then on the Sunday they do it all again, but this time with the owners of the cars trying their damnedest to live up to the huge performances delivered by the pro’s the day before. These two races are always big on entertainment and sideways action! Just like in 2015 Tom Kristensen started from the very back of the grid, only this time in the most unlikely race car of them all – a humungous boat of a 1959 Ford Thunderbird. In a stunning display of pure car control, he commandeered the T-bird sideways up through the field at an alarming pace. All the while, a spectacular battle was being fought out at the front of the field between a small group of Austin A40’s driven by Andrew Jordan, Michael Caine and Rob Huff, an Austin A95 Westminster driven by Jason Plato and not least a hard charging Frank Stippler in a Jaguar Mk. 1. Eventually Jordan retired from second place with mechanical issues leaving Stippler in the lead in the powerful Jag, with a determined Plato in second and a huge fight for third between the two A40’s of Caine and Huff. Kristensen managed to make it all the way up to fifth place with the big T-bird, soon to gobble up the two small A40’s ahead, when he was sadly flagged off the circuit and forced to retire with a very loose exhaust dangling under the big Yank Tank. Stippler took home the chequered flag, Plato in second and Caine barely managed to hold off Huff by a mere 0.3 sec. as they crossed the finishing line.
The following Goodwood Trophy for Grand Prix and Voiturette cars raced between 1930 and 1950 was perhaps less of a crowd pleaser, but the heroics required to drive these old and often quite rudimentary machines at such speed was truly impressive. Despite rain in the last half of the race making the track very slippery, battles were hard fought throughout the race. There were several spins and incidents also among the front runners, eventually leading to Michael Gans taking first in an ERA B-type from 1935 followed by David Morris in another ERA B-type and then Calum Lockie in third in a beautiful Maserati 6CM. My personal favourite though had to be Gareth Burnett’s committed charge in the little Alta 2-litre which at one point was even in the lead. Saying that, if only points had been given for sheer beauty and elegance, both Julian Majzub in his 1938 Alfa Romeo 308C and Klaus Lehr in his 1948 Talbot-Lago Type 26C would have blown the rest of the field away.
The rain was still coming down quite hard as the fastest cars of the weekend launched into their 25 minute race. The well-sorted Ford GT40’s are always favourites for the Whitsun Trophy, but the brutally powerful Lola T70 Spyder’s gave them a decent run for their money, while McLaren M1’s, Lotus 30’s and Cooper T61’s added variety to the field. The rain dictated that no lap records would be set this year, with several drivers reporting after the race that these were the most slippery conditions they had ever experienced at Goodwood. While outright speed was perhaps capped, bravery most definitely was not! A fast and beautifully balanced GT40 saw Chris Ward ease away in the lead, while a hard charging Nicholas Padmore also in a GT40 did his best to minimize the gap, eventually leading to a massive moment as he spun the yellow GT40 a full three and a quarter orbits, as he braked hard at the end of the Lavant Straight. The GT40 came spinning across the grass at Woodcote, where Padmore miraculously caught the spin just as he came back onto the tarmac. Pointing in the right direction and seemingly unfazed, Padmore immediately gunned the GT40 towards the Chicane and managed to keep his second place from Mike Whitaker who brought his Lola T70 home in third. However the true hero of the race was no doubt Mike Jordan who put on quite a display in hos GT40, as he charged up through the field from starting last in 29th place to eventually cross the line in a very impressive 4th place!
While the rain stopped for the final race on the Saturday, the track was still wet and slippery as the 50’s sports racing cars came out to play for the Freddie March Trophy in the spirit of the Goodwood Nine Hour races held between 1952 and 1955. This grid was simply jaw-dropping with the likes of Ferrari 500 TRC, several Jaguar C-types, Maserati 300S, and even the actual Aston Martin DB3 which won the first Goodwood Nine Hours in 1952 in the hands of Peter Collins and Pat Griffith now sitting on pole position with Rob Hall behind the wheel. Hall maintained a well-deserved lead for the vast majority of the race, while Chris Ward in spectacular style battled his way up from the back of the field in his Cooper-Jaguar T33, to eventually find a way around Hall on the final lap. In third place came the purposeful HWM-Cadillac of Paul Woolmer. But my own two favourites weren’t to be found on the podium. While not the fastest, I couldn’t help myself from cheering on the underdog Gordini Type 23S driven by its owner Eddie McGuire. Also Christopher Mann’s gorgeous Alfa Romeo 3000 ‘Disco Volante’ caught my attention and deserves mention.
Thankfully the sun was out Sunday morning for another great day of historic motorsports at Goodwood. However, I managed to thoroughly lose myself in the Revival Classic Car Show where spectators parked up their stunning cars, resulting in a field full of classics which could easily match the best of classic car shows anywhere in the country. As such, I also managed to miss out on the first two races of the day, but luckily made it back to the circuit in time for part two of St. Mary’s Trophy. While the lap times achieved weren’t quite up to those of the pro’s on the Saturday, the racing was still every bit as close, as committed, and not least as sideways. Mike Jordan in his Austin A40 and Richard Meaden in the Alfa Romeo Giulietta Ti had a thoroughly epic battle at the front of the field, trading places several times as they just managed to keep the two Jaguar Mk. 1’s of Grant Williams and Justin Law behind them as they too battled it out for the final place on the podium. In the end it was Meaden in the Giulietta who narrowly managed to see the chequered flag first.
Next up was the headline grabbing one hour RAC Tourist Trophy with a built-in driver change for each car. Already during their practice run on the Saturday, was it clear to me that this would in my eyes be the ultimate race of the weekend. The cars are just so physical, so powerful and so loud! AC Cobra’s and Lightweight E-types at the front with stunning machinery such as Ferrari 250 LM, Aston Martin Project 212, TVR Griffith 400, Bizzarrini 5300GT and my personal all-time-favourite underdog, the Sunbeam Lister Tiger, fighting it out behind those front-runners. Adding to all of that, the built-in pitstop for the driver change causes further drama. There were several changes for the lead, multiple hard fought battles throughout the field, and incidents left, right, centre with cars sliding, spinning and even making contact at times. After an initial domination from the Cobras, in the end it was the Jaguar E-type Lightweight of Gordon Shedden & Chris Ward which crossed the finishing line first. However, they also picked up a 30 second penalty for tapping off the leading Cobra of Oliver Bryant & Andrew Smith, so this saw Shedden & Ward degraded to second spot behind the AC Cobra of Michael Gans & Andrew Wolfe. In third spot was yet another AC Cobra driven by Ludovic Caron & Nicolas Minassian.
After a break in the racing for the on-track Ecurie Ecosse tribute, the weather turned rather wet just like it had done during Saturday afternoon – only this time it really meant it! This wasn’t just a shower – it was truly belting down now. Furthermore, the winds really picked up too. Umbrellas collapsed leaving spectators thoroughly soaked, and even the big screens around the circuit were taken down due to the violent winds. Conditions were less than ideal for the last two races of the weekend. There was no way I could possibly take pictures in this weather, but while many spectators ran for shelter and even started to leave early, I decided that if those Gentlemen on track were brave enough to race in this weather, then the very least I could do was stand in it. So as a sign of respect, I stood drenched to the skin – and virtually alone – at the exit of Woodcote throughout the Glover Trophy and the Sussex Trophy, and admired the talent and bravery of those tough and dedicated racing drivers battling the weather and the track in their powerful yet very analogue racing machines, while scrabbling for traction. Gentlemen, I salute you!
So how does one sum up a full weekend at the Goodwood Revival? I quite frankly don’t know. The sights, the smells, the sounds, the atmosphere and the many impressions are simply spectacular and mind-boggling. Having attended other major historic motorsport events such as the Oldtimer Grand Prix at the Nürburgring, and also smaller but really charming events such as the Copenhagen Classic Grand Prix on a street circuit in the very heart of Copenhagen, I am convinced that no one else can match the all-inclusive package that Lord March and his team manage to put together for us. The Goodwood Revival is truly in a league of its own! See you next year…