The world’s greatest historic race meeting is back. If you were these last year you’ll need no further encouragement. If not, read on and let Marcus Pye tell you exactly why you should spend September 17-19 weekend in West Sussex.
Goodwood’s Motor Circuit Revival, last September, was universally hailed as the greatest historic race meeting of all time. Unarguably so, for nowhere on the planet was there ever such a visual and aural extravaganza with racing at its hub. More than 80,000 spectators were lured by the heroic drivers of yesteryear, and were mesmerised by the magic they wove anew. lithe hype was impressive, the reality was better. In every respect.
Half a century to the day after Freddie March brought the sport he adored to the World War II aerodrome on his family estate, his grandson Charles March repeated the feat. Against all odds. No detail was spared, on or off -track, in recreating the backdrop and unique atmosphere for which Goodwood was revered. It took 22 years to bring racing back, but no sooner had the last chequered flag fallen than everybody was looking forward to an encore. Even then, it was impossible to countenance a summer without it.
The attraction was not confined to drama of a bygone age on the track or in the sky. Far from it, for the transformation of the airfield into a period racetrack setting was stunning. Historic cars do not sit well against a backdrop of steel barrios and acres of gravel trap. At Goodwood they were back in their natural habitat. Old stagers who remembered the old days said it was never that good! Aside from the reconstruction of buildings, and insistence that modern machinery remained off-campus, the makeover was completed by the central characters who were obliged to wear 1940s-type apparel in the paddock.
Lord March’s initiative, widely viewed on its announcement with a mixture of disbelief and horror, turned out to be one of the Revival’s greatest triumphs. Gentlemen in sports jackets and ties, or resplendent in military attire, ladies in pretty summer frocks and hats and mechanics in baggy white overalls lent a wonderful flavour to an almost surreal scene.
This year, circuit staff, marshals, drivers and their parties will be decked out in clothing and accessories from 1948-55, and spectators are invited to do likewise. “Men remained largely tweedy in the early ’50s, with trilbies, but there was a move towards smart grey suits with brightly coloured ties and pork pie hats,” advises Goodwood’s Dawn Ralphs. “Women’s fashion was becoming bolder, with a choice of simple pared-down suits or flamboyant full-skirted dresses, with hats and gloves. Make-up was strong, with matt red or pink lips, lashings of mascara and winged eyeliner.” Plenty of scope there…
This year’s Revival Meeting, on September 17-19, kicks off officially on Stirling Moss 70th birthday, and — brushing aside painful memories of the accident which ended his serious racing career prematurely on Easter Monday 1962 — there is no finer ambassador for the place. From his victorious debut in a 500cc Formula Three car at the opening meeting in September 1948, Moss excelled there. His final tally of 22 wins from 60 starts – including four successive Tourist Trophy successes – is a remarkable testament to his skill and matchless versatility, to be celebrated with cavalcades of cars on Friday and Sunday lunchtimes. He will drive a Lotus 18 in the latter.
Stirling was magnificent last year, particularly when racing the very Aston Martin DBR1 with which he won the 1958 and ’59 TTs, sharing with Tony Brooks. Pace and judgement undimmed by the years, Moss’ battle with 1988 World Sportscar champion Martin Brundle (in John Coombs’ yellow Jaguar D -type) was immortalised on television. This year both will be back with Stirling behind the wheel of a Ferrari 250GT0, a car his career-ending accident prevented him from racing professionally. On the Sunday a grid of cars will form up to celebrate his staggeringly varied career including a Mercedes 300SLR, Vanwall, Lotus 18, Jaguar C-type and Cooper-Norton.
Following the success of last September’s TT showpiece for the Grand Touring cars of the early ’60s, which starred seven-time race winner Moss, Formula One World Champions Jack Brabham, Damon Hill and John Surtees, and sportscar champs Bob Bondurant and Brundle, this year’s event promises an even more sensational line-up as AC Cobras, Aston Martins, Ferraris and Jaguars engage in battle.
All plan to return and have clearly spread the word. A move to place top pros in as many can as possible has thus targeted Jacky Ida, Derek Bell, Michele Alboreto, Gerhard Berger, Jochen Mass, Emanuele Pirro, Bobby Rahal, Keke Rosberg, Patrick Tambay and Desire Wilson – the only woman to have won an Fl race. British Grand Prix winner David Coulthard and fellow F1 stars Rubens Barrichello, Johnny Herbert and Mika Salo are all raring to join the fun. And there are moves afoot also to put Goodwood Festival record holder Nick Heidfeld and Subaru rally ace Richard Bums in cars.
New on the agenda this time, somewhat controversially, is a race for wingless F1 and Tasman cars which raced between 1966 and ’69, essentially beyond the Motor Circuit’s 19-season sphere of influence. The circuit closed on July 2, 1966 – seven months into the new 3-litre F1 era – and although many cars used the facility for testing (Cosworth DFV-powered cars ran on into the early 1980s, when Nelson Piquet lapped a Brabham BT49 at over 136mph!), none raced there.
“It’s a fascinating glimpse into what might have been had Goodwood remained open,” explains Lord March. Buoyed by the success of a race kmsimilar cars on the former Adelaide Grand Prix circuit this spring, the intention is to pitch Brabham-Repco, BRM, Cooper-Maserati, Eagle-Weslake, Ferrari, Lotus, Matra and McLaren cars into battle. Hopefully, at least two Lotus 49s will race, including chassis R2, in which Jimmy Clark set the DP/ legend in motion with victory at Zandvoort on June 4, 1967.
The other races for Formula One, F2 and Libre cars have been realigned into 1938-51 (with lots of ERAs and Maseratis, Alfa Rorneos and a rare Cisitalia) and 1952-55 timeframes, the latter featuring BRM V16s, Ferraris, Connaughts, Altas and Cooper-Bristols. Intercontinental and F1 machines of 1959-61 include BRMs, Cooper-Climaxes, Lotus 16s and 18s, Ferrari Dinos, Maserati 250Fs and possibly a Vanwall or two.
Formula Junior adopts an all rear-engined format this time, mirroring the final days of this quick slipstreaming training ground for Grand Prix drivers of the future. Beautiful cigar-shaped monocoque Lotus 27s and Brabham BT6s, the state-of-the-art in 1963, are included this time, with the odd Lola Mk5 and Merlyn capable of upsetting the status quo, as in their day.
Sportscars entertained royally last year, none more so than the opposite-locking World Championship contenders. Another Aston Martin versus Jaguar D type, Ferrari and Maserati tussle is promised, while Cooper Monacos and (Asters (with Jaguar and Chevrolet engines) take on nimble Lotuses among the Production racers.
A stronger field of ‘big banger’ Group 2-style saloons, including at least two hot Ford Falcon Sprints, a brace of Galaxies and a Mustang, plus a gaggle of Lotus Cortinas, is out to avenge defeat at the hands of a tyre squealing Mini Cooper S last time.
Given the constraints of its topography, the 2.4-mile circuit which traces the perimeter of the airfield could not be more perfectly suited to the cars of the era. Unfettered by the curse of wings they slither into corners, then wriggle out under fierce acceleration on their skimpy treaded tyres. With power far in excess of grip, and supple suspension to soak up the undulations, they demand supreme artistry at the wheel, and that is reflected in the quality of racing.
Nowhere is this more amply visible than at the Fortlwater-St Mary’s complex, found right round the back of the track as far from the pits as it is possible to be. Having chosen this vantage point to see last year’s RAC TT Celebration – because the sight of Aston Martins, Ferrari GTOs and lightweight Jaguar Es wailing towards you on the limit, round what appears to be a never-ending right kink, is unrivalled anywhere – I beseech you to walk out there. Perhaps work your way round in the course of two or three races, or hop on one of the tractor and trailer shuttles which will take you straight there.
Stand 50 yards before the apex of St Mary’s to appreciate just how hard the best drivers are working. Having hurtled through the righthanded Forclwater sweep in a controlled four-wheel-drift – speed increasing tantalisingly just before the turn-in point, because the outside of the track falls away – watch how the aces keep right, using as little track as possible, and balance their cars deftly for the awesome adverse camber left-hander. The plunge on the exit is ready to punish those who dive in fractionally early.
After a few laps, particularly in the longer races, move 150 yards either way for two more spectacular vistas. Get behind the turn-in point for Fordwater to see the cars writhing as drivers steer them on the throttle, or on the rise after St Mary’s to appreciate just how fast they are traversing this knife-edge corner.
A short hike further on opens up another exciting scenario at the double-apex Lavant corner, which is considerably quicker than it appears. Carrying good speed through the exit is imperative, for it slingshots the cars onto the huge Lavant ‘Straight’. Intriguingly, this section is very little quicker than the approach to Fordwater, for which momentum has been built from Madgwick.
Overlooked as ever by the Super Shell building – one of the most famous backcloths for Goodwood photographers – drivers arrange themselves for Woodcote by aiming in a straight line through a reference point on the right flank of the tarmac, then braking on a continuation of it to the turn-in point for the second apex. Superb overviews of this and the wriggle through the trademark walled chicane are best enjoyed from the grandstands. Telephone now if you want a Sunday seat, or book for Friday or Saturday and vary your viewing pleasure if you are attending on more than one day.
The other big grandstand is opposite the pits, where all the drama of the race starts unfolds. Sunday’s Freddie March Memorial Trophy race for Sportscars of the Goodwood 9 Hours era begins with the traditional Le Mans-type start, with Jaguar Cs, Astons, Frazer-Nashes and Ferraris lined up in echelon along the pit wall, and their drivers dashing across the track and leaping in. A photographic opportunity of a bygone era not to be missed.
Should you prefer to remain in one place, take a picnic and plonk your tartan travel rug amid the throng of enthusiasts on the lofty grassy bank at Madgvvick. You’ll see plenty and be directly on the flightline as Spitfires, Hurricane and Memerschmitt ME109 fly out for their scintillating dogfights in tribute to those who fought in the second Like the music of Ford Cosworth DFV and Ferrari V12 engine, staccato note of a Rolls-Royce Merlin aero engine overhead newtto bring a lump to throats of all ages. An experience not to be missed!