It has taken years of planning, negotiating and hard work but the time has come, at last, for motor racing to return to Goodwood. Over the pages that follow, we hope to create a flavour of the place, its past and its future while removing any doubt as to where you should be spending the third weekend in September. We start with an event preview from Marcus Pye
Many moons have passed since July 2, 1966, when the chequered flag fell on the last car race at Goodwood, more still in the fifty yea’s since the motorsport-mad ninth Duke of Richmond and Gordon opened its gates to his favourite pre-war pursuit. But, looking south from The Trundle, high in the Sussex Downs, it is as if nothing has changed.
The awesome off-camber dive towards Fordwater and St Mary’s corners where Stirling Moss’s Lotus-Climax speared off the track in 1962 and subsequent rise to Lavant is easily picked out, as are the old airfield buildings. But the bustle of urgent activity suggests the venue is once more bursting into life.
Having fought a five-year war with the authorities, and won the right to bring racing back to Goodwood, the present Earl of March (grandson of the 9th Duke) is on the threshold of a dream. Buoyed by his acclaimed Festival of Speed, run annually in the adjacent family seat’s grounds since 1993, he has sought to revive its unique atmosphere with an obsession born of unbridled passion for this part of his heritage, adored from childhood.
Armies of dedicated tradesmen have stripped away 32 years of decay in a matter of months (the circuit has hosted sprints and non-competitive events in the interim) and the place will be restored to its former glory for the grand reopening on Friday, September 18. It will be fifty years to the day after Paul de Ferranti Pycroft won the first race at the inaugural meeting.
Charles March’s attention to detail is extraordinary. The pits, steel framed now for a viewing gallery is to be added to the roof will look as they did, topped by the original clock, two faces of which were repatriated from Brooklands. The old wartime aerodrome control towers, and the Super Shell building (backdrop to so many classic photographs at Woodcote) are being renovated, with no expense spared.
The ultra-fast 2.4-mile circuit is essentially unchanged, and remains as fine a test of man and machine as was ever hewn from an airfield perimeter road. But the breathtaking fingertip control of yesteryear’s aces, and their spiritual successors, in cars unburdened by downforce-enhancing devices or sticky slick tyres, will be more visible than ever.
Five-metre high banking, sculpted from 270,000 tonnes of earth, promote unparalleled views over three-quarters of the circuit, and double as sound-deadening walls a vital concession made to the authorities before permission to race was granted. More than 20,000 trees have also been planted atop the grassy banks. Once mature, they will add considerably to the noise screening.
Visually unobtrusive tyre walls, to be covered eventually in ivy, have been built to arrest machines which stray beyond the poppy-strewn grass verge, but there are concessions to FIA and RACMSA safety regulations. Apart from solid pit and chicane walls disguised with suitably distressed period advertisements gravel beds have been dug in key run-off areas. Spray them green and nobody would know…
Come the great day, you should scout out the entire lap to find your favourite vantage point. Whether it is powerful Aston-Martins and Ferrari GT cars four-wheel drifting through the double-apex right-hander at Madgwick, single-seaters hurtling into Fordwater, sleek sports racers nibbling the grass fringes at Woodcote or saloons three-wheeling through the chicane that you seek, do take time to find the right place. Goodwood is a large facility and while the whole circuit should be explored, expect to limit your viewing to two or three corners unless you’re happy to be always on the hoof between races.
Many of the sport’s most feted stars will be there to thrill you. Moss will demonstrate his absolute mastery in numerous cars of course, while Sir Jack Brabham, Phil Hill, John Surtees, Dan Gurney, Derek Bell, Tony Brooks, Roy Salvadori and it is hoped, Froilan Gonzalez will leave yet more indelible memories on this splendid occasion.
Twelve feature races reflect the classes on which the circuit’s history was built, The Tourist Trophy, Richmond Trophy, Glover Trophy and The Lavant Cup evoking memories of the halcyon days. Even the BARC, which grew out of the Junior Car Club in 1949, is back in charge, and will run a couple of short handicaps for good measure.
The 300-car entry, drawn from a staggering 1000 applications, is truly representative of the circuit’s history. Those with genuine Goodwood provenance have priority. From shrill V16 BRMs to cigar-like Formula juniors and buzzy 500cc cars, all the great monopostos will be there. Feast your senses on Maserati 4CLTs, 250Fs, Vanwalls and Ferraris from the front-engined Grand Prix mu, and the Lotus and BRM models in which Jim Clark and Jackie Stewart set the final lap record at 1m20.4s, or more than 107mph.
Burly World Championship sportscars recall the classic Nine Hours, howling Aston Martin, Ferrari and Jaguar GTs which characterised the Tourist Trophy races and Production Sports Racers from Cooper, Elva, Lola, Lotus and Lister promise mighty dustups. And a superb Group 2 Saloon field, led by British champions John Fitzpatrick, John Rhodes and Jeff Uren, embraces Abarths, Anglias, Lotus Cortinas, Mini Coopers and rumbling Ford Galaxies.
True to the ethos of the event, no post-1966 vehicles (other than emergency services) will be allowed onto the inside of the circuit. To complete the garden party picture, a strict dress code will apply in the paddock, accessible to members of the Goodwood Road Racing Club only. Gentlemen must wear jackets and ties, indeed T-shirts, anoraks, baseball caps and mobile phones are banned.
With Spitfires, a Hurricane and Tiger Moths providing third dimension interest, and the voices of Raymond Baxter and Norman Greenway booming over the PA once more, it will appear as if Goodwood has been suspended in a time warp. Amen to that.