Only at the Goodwood Revival does a perfect period atmosphere combine with great racing, beautiful cars and a sense of fun
We say it every year, but there is nothing like the Goodwood Revival. There are historic race meetings with fine machinery, there are terrific motor races, and there are brilliant museums invoking years past, but nowhere else do all the elements combine a setting of such period perfection with sublime cars and terrific race action. Watching the TT recreation race one can drift back 40 years because there isn’t a wrong note to be seen: the white-overalled marshals, the ’60s breakdown trucks, original buildings restored to gleaming white. And all this as a background to some brilliant motor racing.
Anticipation builds even while arriving; many of the cars pouring into the car parks are themselves classics. Out of them step the participants, checking their hats and straightening their stocking seams – for at this unique event the public are co-stars, conspiring in the fantasy that it’s 1958, or the Swinging Sixties, or that Hitler still threatens. Dressing up for Goodwood has crossed a line: perhaps three-quarters of attendees now make at least an effort, and many go to great lengths to replicate their chosen look. Anyone in jeans or a fleece looks out of place.
This year Goodwood was swinging, with a ‘Carnaby Street’ boasting mini skirts and Union Jack Minis, groovy chicks and hipstered males twisting to the Hit Parade while parka’d Mods glowered astride chrome-tricked scooters. At the Rockers’ patch, by the racing ’bikes, leather creaked as they polished gleaming Tribsa and Triton cafe racers in sight of BMW’s ‘Revivalfest’, where bratwurst and bier were served in a carefully recreated rundown garage.
Nearby, ‘March Motors’ brought Freddie March’s garage to life, with a Gulf showroom boasting two blue and orange GT40s, a ’50s bay servicing an Aston DBR1 (yes, a real one; the other three were in the paddock) and the historic works D-type OKV1. Next door mechanics worked on the sole unbuilt shell of a Morgan Plus 4 Plus, the ill-fated coupé.
For once dense crowds seem no annoyance, as there’s time to admire an elegant cocktail dress with veiled pill-box hat, a resplendent naval officer, a quiffed Ted’s electric blue drapes or the staggering variety of tweed. If you came unprepared you could outfit yourself in the busy market, where vintage clothing abounds, especially hats, strongly encouraged by The Management.
By the funfair, the ‘TT Garage’ came packed with cars recalling the great Mike Hawthorn: his 1955 and ’56 Le Mans works D-types, his Riley Ulster Imp and Sprite, a Cooper-Bristol and his Lancia Aurelia. Set scenes like this are fascinating to peer into, but all the more powerful when the elements are the real thing.
Obviously unreal were the futuristic offerings in the Earls Court Motor Show behind its dazzling Art Deco frontage. Here, today’s MkI Jaguar and Ford Anglia sat alongside such 21st-century fantasies as designs called XF-R and Focus RS. It’ll never happen. Gathered here too were a squad of road-derived racers: Porsche 906, Alfa TZ2, Dodge Charger Daytona – rare beauties all.
Back among the crowd, spivs, rag and bone men and Dad’s Army worked the field; in the GRRC pavilion turbanned and overalled cleaners complained about rationing, while outside Julian and Sandy wafted past in a cloud of chiffon and eau de cologne.
Behind the stands the pastel-suited Glam Cabs touted for passengers, and a Mini display recalled 50 years of the pocket rocket, with variants from Moke to the mad Quasar – a cuboid greenhouse on wheels. I liked the teeny-tiny TiCi, so small it could hang from davits behind my 5-series.
Somehow the eras blend easily at Goodwood. Hippies in velvet loons chat with wartime officers; everywhere there’s an atmosphere of hat-doffing cheerfulness. Detail is everything: no plastic badges or strident adverts, just brown card armbands and metal labels. Even the man who fixed the fridge on Motor Sport’s stand wore a brown dust-coat. The programme too featured ’60s graphics and celebrities, plus a fold-out racing game and advice on allotments (there were wartime allotments by the Drivers’ Club) to enquirers called ‘K Wharton’ and ‘T Rolt’. When the organisers are having fun you know the event has come to life.
Cars vs bikes for the best race action
Racing action on Saturday kicked off with the Goodwood Trophy for Grand Prix cars that competed between 1930-50, but it was the first instalment of the Barry Sheene Memorial Trophy later that morning that stole the show.
Described as “the best bike race at Goodwood for years”, the two-rider affair was certainly action- packed. Wayne Gardner made a great Le Mans start, but come the rider change it was Duncan Fitchett who was in the lead. Team-mate Jeremy McWilliams had completed an impressive first stint aboard the Manx Norton 500cc, but Fitchett parted company with the machine shortly after taking over. Steve Parrish’s good work – while nursing a very broken shoulder – was also undone when co-rider Keith Bush dropped the Matchless G50 while running in seventh. The two Michaels, Rutter and Russell, deservedly took the top spot on the podium.
The first race of the afternoon was part one of the St Mary’s Trophy with a grid full of Minis and professional racing drivers both past and present. The Swift-tuned Morris Mini Cooper S was clearly a very sorted car, but Oliver Gavin was on song to win the race by over three seconds – surely an unheard of gap in Mini racing. Perhaps the best action was behind him though as Darren Turner battled with Barrie Williams. Some quite brilliant displays of car control finished with Turner pipping Williams to second place by 0.2 seconds. “You get so much enjoyment from driving this car – it’s flat out everywhere,” said Gavin afterwards.
The Lavant Cup was a highlight for many as the one-hour race, for World Championship sports cars in the spirit of Goodwood TT races between 1958 and ’59, included a DBR1 to celebrate Aston Martin’s famous win at the circuit 50 years ago. Although superbly driven by Richard Attwood and Tony Dron, the pair couldn’t match the pace of the leading cars, eventually finishing sixth.
The opening Brooklands Trophy race on Sunday was, unexpectedly, one of the events of the weekend as Patrick Blakeney-Edwards aboard a Frazer Nash Super Sports was able to lap over five seconds a lap faster than anyone else. However, two stops for water and a severe lack of fuel pressure meant the hare and tortoise affair finished with Blakeney-Edwards 0.3 seconds behind a thrilled Nick Mason in his Aston Martin Ulster.
The second race, the Richmond Trophy, may not have matched it for excitement, but Richard Attwood provided a great display of driving in the stunning Ferrari 246 Dino recreation, leading home Frank Stippler in a Maserati 250F and Jochen Mass in another recreation, a Lancia-Ferrari D50A.
The TT race was, as always, a thrilling spectacle as millions of pounds worth of machinery battled it out. For the first time the Jaguar E-type lightweight of Bobby Rahal and Adrian Newey won, finishing 14 seconds ahead of the Verdon-Roe/Pirro Ferrari 330 LMB. The opening laps saw a good tussle between Rahal and Gounon in the Ferrari 250 GTO64, but
soon after swapping with Peter Hardman the car retired on lap 29.
There was minimal accident damage over the weekend, but what there was came in the last race of the day, the Whitsun Trophy. Immediately after the flag dropped the 1966 Lola-Chevrolet T70 Spyder of Paul Knapfield veered sharply across the track, taking out both the T70 Spyder of Marshall Bailey and the GT40 of Joaquín Folch-Rusinol. After a safety car period lasting over 13 minutes racing resumed, and Julian Bronson quickly took the lead from Andrew Newell. The McLaren-Chevrolet M1B driver had a superb race and held Jon Minshaw at bay in his T70 Spyder.
Cavalcades and a cake for Stirling
Sir Stirling must be looking forward to a break after all this, I said to Lady Susie Moss on Sunday morning. “Oh, there’ll be no break,” she replied. “We have a private party on Monday night, dinners on Tuesday and Wednesday night, then we’re off to Spa for the next race.” Life never slows down for Mr Motor Racing, and his age appears to be an irrelevance.
Except it wasn’t on this particular weekend. Did you notice our former guest editor turned 80 a day before the Goodwood Revival? He was everywhere, from the parades of his cars to racing his Osca FS372 in the Lavant Cup, from book signings to parties. It was a birthday that “our greatest living Englishman”, as Lord March so poignantly called him, won’t quickly forget. Neither will we.
In demand he might have been, but Stirling still managed a flying visit to our stand (top). He blew out the candles on yet another cake, posed for photos with some random blokes dressed as chefs (don’t ask – no, they didn’t bake it), and then he was off to his next appointment. “Got to make a living, you know,” he said with a boyish grin as he left.
On track, the Osca never ran cleanly enough for Moss to play a significant role in the races, but he still managed more laps than most over the weekend thanks to the parades of 80-plus cars associated with his career. The warm applause from the crowds each time he headed the cavalcade – in Mercedes-Benz W196 or Aston Martin DBR1 – confirmed what we already knew. He’s been a professional ex-racing driver for 47 years, but Goodwood’s faithful still revere Moss for what he is and always will be: the benchmark everyone else aspired to in a glorious – but deadly – era of our wonderful sport.
Flying machines and an astronaut…
The aero array would make a day out in itself. Elegant DH Rapides droned overhead in between magnificently tight displays by two Spitfires and two Mustangs, four V12s shrieking in symphony, while later the Downs echoed to more Merlins as the stirring trio of Lancaster and attendant Spitfire and Hurricane roared through.
On the ground, an impressive spread of pre-66 winged machinery vied for the Freddie March Spirit of Aviation concours, named for the current Lord March’s grandfather who wanted to bring flying to the general public. Thus the show included gliders and a tiny 1935 Aeronca ultralight as well as de luxe expresses such as Cessna’s handsome 1952 Businessliner and the oxymoronically-named Spartan Executive, the LearJet of the ’30s. DH Moths and a spindly Piper looked skimpy between the metal bulk of a Harvard and a looming matt-black Dakota, while a French Alouette, the first turbine helicopter from 1961, looked almost as crude with its exposed tubing as the Bleriot XI, a painstaking replica of the machine which conquered the Channel. Behind stood that symbol of Vietnam, a Bell ‘Huey’ in US army markings – appropriate as it chauffeured Apollo astronaut Buzz Aldrin from Goodwood House to the airfield to judge the aviation concours, along with Sir Terence Conran and James May.
Standing under the huge Vickers Vimy replica it was impossible not to think of that freezing transatlantic flight 90 years ago. Remarkably, in 2005 this Vimy also crossed the pond, but sadly this was its last-ever flying weekend, and a crowd gathered as the huge propellers thrummed to haul it into the sky where it banked and turned impossibly tightly before touching down lightly on the grass strip. Now it retires to Brooklands Museum.
The aerial and aural highlight, though, was the ear-pummelling Avro Vulcan bomber. Children cowered as four Olympus engines bellowed and the huge Cold War veteran headed for the sun on pillars of smoke. It was magnificent, and the crowd applauded as it made its last pass.
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