In the slipstream of the Festival of Speed’s 25th anniversary, the Goodwood Revival Meeting celebrates its 20th. Racers and Motor Sport writers recall a few personal highlights
It has become as much a seasonal sporting occasion as Henley Regatta, The Grand National or Wimbledon. First run in 1998, when it ended a 32-year racing drought in the shadow of The Sussex Downs, the Goodwood Revival Meeting is partly a social occasion, partly a fancy-dress party (period clothing advised) and a theatre for some of the UK’s finest racing.
The circuit’s brisk sweeps suit cars with antiquated concepts such as suspension travel and body roll – and pedigree drivers (including many Le Mans winners and former F1 racers) exploit them to their full potential, or fractions thereof. It has never been anything other than fulfilling to behold.
It was Motor Sport that broke the full story of Goodwood’s possible reopening for racing: the April 1994 edition’s front cover was prescient, a shot of Graham Hill’s Ferrari 250 GTO hustling towards victory in the 1963 Tourist Trophy beneath a ‘Goodwood revival?’ headline. Within a couple of years, it would become clear that the question mark had been superfluous.
Catering for cars active during Goodwood’s original period of operation, 1948-1966, that first event was well received, but few could have foreseen what lay ahead. This year marks the Revival’s 20th anniversary – and 21st running – so Goodwood, the former RAF Westhampnett, has now been a heritage showcase for longer than it served as a circuit first time around.
On the following pages, leading drivers, Motor Sport’s staff and key collaborators reflect on some of their favourite moments, in the company of those that helped to create them.
Regularly slays giants with his Mini Cooper
“Because Goodwood is invitation only you never know if you’re going to be returning, so you’d better bloody make the most of it!
“My first race there was back in 2009, when they did an all-Mini grid for the first time and half the field used our [Swiftune] engines. I think we’d sold at least one part to each car owner on the entry list! I teamed up with Oliver Gavin: he won the pro race and I won the muppet race, so that was a big old year for us and such an occasion. You get out of the car, are given your big, fat cigar and shake hands with the Duke of Richmond. It’s great.
“But the best race I ever had was the one against an Alfa in 2015, which has been shared massively on YouTube. You always want to put on a show at the Revival, and that race was epic. The circuit lends itself so well to the handling and cornering speed of a Mini. If you look at the speed traps, things like the ‘Yank Tank’ Galaxies and such are doing about 145mph plus, and we’re doing about 120, but at places like No Name we don’t brake and just chuck the car in, and that’s where we make up so much. There’s always amazing support for Minis at the Revival too. The fans love an underdog, fighting against the big boys, and you see the crowd waving their hats as you’re making a last-gasp attempt to pass a bigger car into Woodcote on the last lap. It gives you a feeling unlike anywhere else in the world.”
Decorated racer, dedicated history student
“It goes without saying that I’m a huge fan of the Goodwood Revival and have enjoyed watching it grow first-hand. Our sport’s past is very important to me and Goodwood showcases how things have evolved. I know historic cars race at many different tracks nowadays, but they rarely look as at home as they do at Goodwood. The circuit is in top condition, but also in original condition.
“I’ve been lucky to compete in many races at the Revival, but the car that most stands out is probably 4 WPD, the Lightweight E-type. I have driven it a couple of times, but particularly enjoyed sharing it with Dario Franchitti. He is a great friend and we have the same appreciation and passion for racing history.
“In 2005 we won the RAC TT Celebration and I drove the second stint, so took the chequered flag. Immediately afterwards, I slowed right down, loosened my belts, removed my helmet and eased myself out of the door, so that I could share the moment with the crowd. The reaction was fantastic and when I got back to the pit straight [the then]Lord March seemed really pleased – he asked me to go around and do it again, this time with Dario hanging out of the other door. I’ve always maintained that winning is not the most important thing in historic racing, but that was a really nice moment.
“Later in the afternoon I was summoned to see the stewards. I had no idea why, but they told me my actions had been potentially dangerous – I genuinely thought I was on Candid Camera, but it soon dawned that they were serious and, no matter how much I disagreed with what they were saying, they handed me a £5,000 fine. I went back to the car owner, Bernie Carl, and let him know what had happened. He told me he’d deal with it and wrote a lovely letter to the authorities, pointing out that it was important for drivers to interact with the crowd and enclosing a cheque for £10,000 in anticipation of the following year’s fine!”
The art of commitment in a Ferrari 250 GTO
“I’ve really enjoyed the TT Celebration over the years. My first was in CUT 7, the Lightweight E-type, with Jack Brabham. I arrived late because my kids were bridesmaid and page boy at a former nanny’s wedding – and when I left the pits I thought it had four punctures because it had zero grip. It took me six or seven laps to get anywhere near Jack’s times.
“The most seminal moments I’ve ever had in a racing car were my first few seconds in a Ferrari 250 GTO, coming out of Madgwick, clickity-clacking through the gearbox, listening to the V12… and then a Spitfire came through my field of vision, coming in to land. It isn’t going to get any better than that. Unbelievable.
“You tend to forget the value of the car you’re driving once the adrenaline’s going and the result beckons. As you’re going to the event you’re thinking, ‘I’m going to drive no more than 75 cent this weekend.’ The cars are much faster than in period, the track hasn’t changed and they’re not all pro drivers. So you think about leaving a margin. Then you go out to practise and already you’re at 90 per cent and then the race starts and it’s 100 per cent. There I am rubbing door handles with someone going down to Madgwick to take the lead, kicking up the dust, partly on the grass, but I got through and it all seemed normal.”
‘It’s motor racing’s version of Disneyland…’
“I’ve raced everything from an Austin A35 to a Lotus Cortina via a Studebaker and a Sunbeam Tiger, but I think my stand-out memory is my first visit. I never got the whole historic racing thing beforehand, but took the option to go one year and as soon as I walked through the gates I just stood there, looked around and got it.
“It’s like going to Disneyland. You walk in and get immersed in another world, a time warp. It’s magical… even when the weather is poor.
“My favourite car for the Revival was the Le Mans Sunbeam Tiger, because it’s probably the scariest thing I’ve driven. I first tested it in the damp and it was an animal. I was coming down the straight between Lavant and Woodcote and the thing wanted to swap ends on me, without even using full throttle. I was thinking ‘What the hell am I doing here?’ and then I looked to the airstrip and there was a Spitfire coming in to land, which makes you think ‘Yeah, that’s why I’m here.’
“I raced my own Cortina and that was actually less nerve-wracking as you’re more comfortable in your own clothes, so to speak. To jump into other people’s cars, and put them on the edge, is a big task. It was raining last year, the Sunbeam is worth more than £1m and the owner, Tony Eckford, put his hand on my shoulder and said, ‘I don’t want you to hold back, I want you to give it everything.’ I just thought ‘That’s easy for you to say. I’m the one behind the wheel in the wet!’
But it’s an amazing experience, the blue riband of historic events.”
Nine Le Mans wins, several at Goodwood
“It’s the whole Goodwood atmosphere that always strikes me – the effort people make to get dressed up for the occasion, the way everybody seems to be enjoying the weekend… it’s unlike anything we see in mainland Europe.
“Picking out highlights is very tricky, simply because I’ve driven so many different cars – Austin Westminster, Ferrari 330 LMB, Ford Galaxie, Ford Fairlane, Daytona Cobra, Jaguar E-type… and even a Lotus Cortina with Prince Joachim of Denmark. I finished third in my St Mary’s Trophy heat that year , after a fantastic battle with Darren Turner’s Mini and Anthony Reid’s Mk2 Jaguar.
“I’ve won the TT with Kenny Bräck, in a Daytona Cobra, and shared a few victories in the St Mary’s, but whatever happens I just enjoy taking part. I love the circuit, too – especially the run through St Mary’s and on to Lavant, where the car really flows.
“The Westminster and the Cobra are the only things I’ve ever tested before the meeting: when I practise on the Friday it’s usually the first time I’ve sat in whatever I happen to be racing, but that’s part of the appeal. Goodwood always feels like a fresh adventure.”