The time of March

For three days each year, racing turns the clocks back. Paul Lawrence is your guide to a stupendous event which celebrates everything that made our sport glorious

Goodwood is simply the best. It is a happening that has to be experienced to be fully appreciated. On the track, star cars and star drivers pack the 13-race programme; off the track, it is a magical weekend that recreates the Goodwood of the 1950s and ’60s. Attention to detail is everything.

The 2002 Revival Meeting was the biggest yet, with 81,000 fans packing the former Westhampnett airfield over the weekend. This year’s event will be just as popular, if not more so. Yet it will be handled with aplomb by Lord March’s team, building on the experience of the five previous meetings.

As ever, the race line-up has undergone subtle change. Notably, the Madgwick Cup is a new event for small capacity sports-racing cars, while the Fordwater Trophy will focus on the low-drag sports and GT cars that were built for Le Mans and Monza in the early 1960s. The Chichester Cup Formula Junior race will revert to cars from the front-engined era, while the glorious St Mary’s Trophy will once more be contested by saloons from the 1960s.

Special demonstrations will celebrate the life of Barry Sheene, and the regular pair of motorcycle races will be run in his honour. On Saturday, a demonstration of cars that raced at Brooklands will parade in the lunchbreak. Stunning period air displays throughout the weekend will entertain in the skies above the track.

The entry list is crammed with major names. Where else will you find Stirling Moss, Jack Brabham, Derek Bell, Johnny Herbert, Phil Hill, Jochen Mass, Ivan Capelli, Darren Manning and Emanuele Pirro all racing in one weekend?

The highlight for many remains the hour-long RAC TT Celebration race for early-1960s GT cars. AC Cobras, Ferraris, Jaguar E-types and Astons are all entered, with Pirro and Mass both expected in E-types. The grid value is £30 million, but the racing is fiercely competitive.

The St Mary’s Trophy is another two-driver race and has an entry packed with star names, including Brabham (Ford Anglia), Herbert (Lotus Cortina) and Capelli (Alfa Romeo GTA). Gerry Marshall/Chris Sanders (Lotus Cortina), the 2001 victors, will go head-to-head with the Jaguar MkI of Derek Bell/Grant Williams, while Andy Middlehurst/Andy Rouse (Lotus Cortina) and Marc Surer/Jackie Oliver (BMW 1800 TiSA) are other strong contenders. Add Barrie Williams and John Rhodes in Mini Coopers, and the stage is set for a glorious 20-lapper.

The amazing prospect of Mass in a Lancia D50 taking on Willie Green in a Maserati 250F awaits in the Richmond & Gordon Trophies. Green will be in one of seven 250Fs, with current rumours suggesting that Juan Manuel Fangio II might race one of the cars made famous by his uncle. Aston Martin DBR4s, as well as cars from Scarab and Vanwall, will make this another highlight.

Green will also star in an Alfa Romeo 158 Alfetta in the Goodwood Trophy that kicks off the racing programme on Saturday.

On Sunday, the Glover Trophy will celebrate the 1.5-litre F1 of the early 1960s and promises a fierce contest between Richard Attwood (BRM P261) and Frank Sytner in a recently acquired Lotus 24.

Sytner should also be a contender in the Whitsun Trophy that will conclude the weekend in style. The sports-racing prototypes of the mid-1960s are an absolute favourite for many and the prospect of up to eight Ford GT40s will make this a wonderful curtain-closer. Champ Car ace Manning is due back to defend his title, but Sytner in a Lola T70 Spyder will be a big threat to the GT40s.

If you only go to one race meeting this year, make it Goodwood. The event has a unique atmosphere and transports everyone back to an era when the sport was uncluttered by technology.

It really is very special.