Goodwood Revival

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Pure bliss…

Once again, the world’s greatest historic race meeting blended thrills, spills, glamour and excitement over a heady three days
Words: Robert Stride. Photography: Ian Fraser

That delicious moment when, on a perfect September morning in 1998, we were wrenched back in time by the Time Lords, and the March Lord, is now itself a piece of history. But the magic has not waned. This extraordinary event still takes us on an incredible journey back through time to the days when men were men, and when racing cars looked like racing cars.

The Goodwood Revival, while a masterpiece of theatre, represents serious motor racing. Always colourful, invariably thrilling, and often frightening. We are not used, any more, to the sight of racers on the ragged edge of sweeping curves surrounded by grass. For the young, and thereby the uninitiated, it needs be explained that this manifestation of our sport involves slipstreaming and four-wheel drifts.

Each day in this wonderland begins with a lone Spitfire, looping and swooping across the sky, the Merlin engine growling out its wake-up call. Then it’s time for the cars to stir from their shelters, called up by the trumpeters of the Blues and Royals, and rumble towards the grid.

Friday’s awakening was rude, a stark reminder of the warning on the back of the tickets. Motor racing is dangerous. First Adrian Newey lost control of his lightweight E-type Jaguar and hit the bank hard at the kink in the Lavant straight. Then, still in practice for the RAC TT Celebration race, IRL ace Dario Franchitti put his E-Type into the tyre wall and spent the rest of the day in hospital with concussion. It could only get better, and it did.

In the afternoon eight Spitfires appeared on the horizon, circling the aerodrome just as they had in the Battle of Britain. Raymond Baxter waxed lyrical about R J Mitchell’s creations on their 75th anniversary.

Meanwhile Sir Jackie Stewart opened a new pavilion in his honour. JYS made an off-the-cuff speech, recounting the day he tested here for Ken Tyrrell thanks to a tip-off from former Goodwood track manager Robin Mackay. The rest is history and the lap record holder, jointly with fellow Scot Jim Clark, now has his own building with a trackside balcony to cement his place in Goodwood history.

Then there’s the racing, more exciting than ever this year. Robin Longdon took the Chichester Cup by overtaking, opposite lock, less than half a second from Stuart Roach. Frank Sytner, new heart and all, stole the Whitsun Trophy from under the orange nose of Nick Whale’s McLaren. The Wayne Gardner masterclass left Duncan Fitchett and Tim Jackson in its wake for both races in memory of the much-missed Barry Sheene. Lord March needs to find a rival for Gardner by next year, and the Aussie is surely up for the challenge. Derek Bell in a Jaguar Mkl somehow prevented Tony Jardine in an Austin A35 from being the first to receive a wreath and a kiss from ‘Marilyn Monroe’, a metre separating the two at the end of a classic St Mary’s Trophy race. Americans dominated the Glover Trophy, a rare error by Bobby Rahal letting Duncan Dayton get away to win by a whole three seconds. And then, to make a good day a great day, Phil Hill’s son Derek won the Freddie March Memorial in an Alfa 3000CM from Nigel Webb in a Jaguar C-type.

Race-goers were on their feet for a tribute to Phil Hill, the only natural-born American to win the World Championship. Now very frail, the Californian walked to the grid and stood proudly among the cars he’d raced over four decades, from MG TC to Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa; Cooper-Climax to Chaparral 2F.

Sunday dawned wet and miserable. Visors misted up, fans on the banks huddled together, and the only warmth came from the flames that spat from Julian Mazjub’s Bentley Pacey-Hassan Special as it sat on the grid for the Brooklands Trophy.

Yes, we were racing again. Mazjub only managed three laps but one of those was the fastest of the race, which was won by Mark Hales in Nick Mason’s Bugatti T35. A thrilling battle for the Richmond Trophy saw Gary Pearson, later voted driver of the meeting, take the laurels with a BRM P25 from Gregor Fisken’s Ferrari 246 Dino.

A discernable twitter in the crowd heralded part two of the St Mary’s saloon car epic. Could Rae Davies and his little A35 get one over the Jaguar of Grant Williams? No, he couldn’t, but it was an extremely close-run thing. This gave Derek Bell, who won part one the previous day, his first victory at Goodwood since 1966.

Back down to earth, but not for long: Lee Proudfoot flew Ray Hanna’s Spitfire in an aerial tribute to his friend and mentor who had done so much to make the Revival as famous for its flying as its racing.

Pause for breath, and the RAC TT Celebration — the big one. By now three E-types were missing, Viscount Cowdray’s car having holed a piston. This left the door wide open for the Cobras and the one remaining Jaguar of oval ace Michael Vergers and Juan Barazi. And so it was, Vergers leading away from Darren Manning in John Benda11’s AC Cobra. Down the field, Jean-Marc Gounon scythed through in Anthony Bamford’s Ferrari 250 GTO, lapping faster than the leaders. But Manning could do nothing about Vergers who spent 40min building a cushion before handing over to its owner for the final laps. Peter Hardman and Nicolas Minassian completed the top three.

Gounon starred again in the Sussex Trophy, pipped to victory this time by Gary Pearson, but he’ll be back. The Revival rose to a resounding climax with Simon Hadfield and Anthony Hancock arguing the toss in the Madgwick Cup, while Rob Wilson drove from 19th on the grid to fourth.

The famous Goodwood chicane survived until the last lap of the last race, Otto Reedtz-Thott scattering the woodwork and pieces of Lotus in a final flourish to bring the flag down on 2006. But we’ll be back, as there is simply nothing else like it in the world. Not in this world anyway.

Alfa Romeo 300CM

Derek Hill, son of ’61 F1 World Champion Phil, won the Freddie March Memorial Trophy in this gorgeous Alfa Romeo. Built in 1953, the six-cylinder, dohc 300CM wasn’t the fastest, or the most powerful, car of its period but this was the same car driven by Hill Snr with real verve to finish third in the ’03 Revival meeting. The ’06 win at Goodwood, with the former F3000 driver at the wheel, was a popular one with the enthusiastic crowd.

Brabham BT5

Brabham built only two BT5s for the ’63 season and, unbelievable, both of them came to Goodwood to compete in the Madgwick Cup, driven by John Delane and Brian Wilson. The model lasted for only one competitive season before being replaced with the BT8. ‘Pretty’ is almost certainly not the word that Sir Jack – who also came to Goodwood – would use to describe his BT5, but that’s what it is. And quick too.

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