Respect to the Revival

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Much like the crisp air of the South Downs, the Revival meeting is truly good for the soul. The Festival of Speed is great, but it’s the thrill of real racing on a track reduced to the stuff of distant folklore for so many years that really brings Goodwood to life. I grew up feeling robbed by fate and time, aggrieved that this world-class Motor Circuit on my doorstep should be near-derelict and forgotten, that Easter Bank Holiday Mondays meant no more in West Hampnett than they did in every other part of England. But now each September I catch up on a lavour of what I missed, while those who were lucky enough to be there irst time round re-live the blessed memories of their youth.

The power of nostalgia cannot be underestimated, but Goodwood is about more than that (hell, some of the cars are not even that old…). Beyond the brilliant fancy dress and the fabulous period ixtures and fittings, what really strikes me about the Revival is the lack of simulation or re-creation when it comes to the action. The racing is genuine – and if drivers go off they’re likely to have a very genuine accident. Just ask Gerhard Berger.

Goodwood is as fast and challenging as it ever was, and to maintain its reputation of sidestepping a few modern sensibilities, iron management is required behind closed doors. Recklessness among drivers is frowned upon and a strict code of conduct must be enforced to allow them to walk the thin line of true competition.

The irresponsible few who break that code feel the wrath of their peers, but for all the care taken each year big accidents are an inevitable feature of the Revival. And when the heavy rains came during the RAC TT Celebration this September, I feared the worst. I needn’t have worried. On a sodden track, the skill and control on show in these powerful GTs on cross-plies was nothing short of phenomenal. Huge credit to Tom Kristensen, Mark Hales and the rest: the aces raced on and they raced hard. But they raced responsibly, too.

And so they must, for each driver who competes in the Revival does so with a heavy burden of expectation. All it would take is one tragedy to dilute, and perhaps even rob us of, the best motor race meeting in the world. We spent 32 long years without Goodwood and it means too much for the drought to be repeated. Thankfully, on the evidence of the 2011 Revival, the majority of the pro-am racers understand that perfectly. Respect is due. Respect also exists in modern Formula 1, it seems – against some expectations. In the supplement that comes free with this issue (UK and subscription copies only), Nigel Roebuck celebrates the great champions of our sport and offers some perspective on their achievements. Without wishing to tempt fate as I write ahead of the Singapore GP… the class of 2011, which includes ive of those 32 F1 World Champions, will be remembered in years to come for all the right reasons.

On the evidence of Spa and Monza, hard but fair wheel-to-wheel action is alive and well in Grand Prix racing (OK, Michael Schumacher pushed the limits, but what’s new there?). Four of the World Champions on the grid – Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton (plus the other key front-runner Mark Webber) – have shown degrees of trust that only come with the experience of racing toe-to-toe week in, week out. There were times in Belgium and Italy when the consequences of wheels interlocking left us watching through our fingers. That they walked the line and just stepped back from crossing over it is to their credit. Keep it up, boys.

Damien Smith, Editor