The first could scarcely have been more different. The whole event took place on a single day, Sunday June 20th, 1993. There were just 101 runners and 32 riders that day and where today you find those colossal and extraordinary Gerry Judah sculptures outside the front of Goodwood House, back then there was merely an Aston Martin DB7 on a plinth. Then again as a car from a company also looking to return to former glories, a more apposite choice would have been hard to find.
Look down the entry list and it is sobering to see how many people who were fit enough to compete then who are no longer with us now. Tony Dron, Robert Brooks, Mike Salmon, Soames Langton, John Surtees, our own Denis Jenkinson and many more besides.
I look back, remember how the cars were separated from the crowds by, at times, no more than a line a tape strung between sticks and marvel at how it ever happened. The atmosphere was incredible, as if everyone there was aware they were witnessing the start of something special, something big. Quite how big and how special we had no idea at all.
I remember the ‘party’ too. I’ve been so fortunate to go an improbable number of Goodwood balls and they are spectacular. I remember seeing Blondie and The Pretenders in consecutive years and being so close to the stage I could literally have reached out and grabbed Debbie Harry or Chrissie Hynde by the ankles had I been so moved. This weekend 1600 people will sit down to dinner and thereafter be treated to a firework display you’d need to be a monarch in her platinum jubilee year to substantially outdo. Back in 1993, it was a self-service canteen. I will never forget the sight of Ron Dennis and Ken Tyrrell sitting on the steps of Goodwood House in front of the DB7 discussing affairs of state while they ate their meal.
Nor will I forget my first run up that hill. I must have been invited by Honda for I remember a load of motoring journalists, all being issued with identical NSXs and blue boiler suits to clamber into before driving them. Knowing nothing other than I was absolutely not going to make a fool of myself in front of tens of thousands of people, I turned off the traction control, made a very dramatic and smoky start, turned it back on again and quietly ambled to the top. It’s a policy I have pursued ever since. And even then I was surprised by how quickly the notorious Molecomb corner appeared after the blind brow through which it is approached. Forget Montreal’s ‘Wall of Champions’, Molecomb’s hay bales have surely collected a far greater number of motor sporting heroes over the years.
So as ever I will be back this year, driving a few things, gawping at plenty more, wondering once again about the enormity of the operation that makes it all possible. Gun to head and forced to choose between them, I’d take the Revival over the Festival because it’s racing and that is where my true love lies. But that is also to forget that without the Festival, without Charles March’s plan to gently return motor sport to West Sussex and transform the fortunes of the Estate of which he is now custodian in the process, there would never have been a Revival in the first place. It all started here and next year the Festival will be 30 years old. Those should be celebrations worth seeing.