Pomp! Fervor! Enthusiasm! Three words that perfectly describe and introduce everyone’s favorite automotive time machine. The calendar has rolled over to that time of year again, when one must dust off the flat cap, roll out the tweed, and unleash the classic race car from its hiding place within the garage—this is the Goodwood Revival.
To say that this event is firmly established in the classic motoring calendar would be somewhat of an understatement, now in it’s 20th year the annual edition of revved up reminiscence is synonymous with everything related to historical motor racing. From the bottom to the top, it is a triumphant celebration and recreation of not just the cars, but the fashions—and perhaps even the attitudes—of a different era of sport, and the way in which Revival fever is embraced by all of those attending is testament to just what a fabulous event it really is.
We Brits you see, are usually of a reserved nature—flamboyance and extravagance is not in our everyday vocabulary—however the enthusiasm with which the 150,000 or so guests of Lord March that descended upon the historic Goodwood Circuit puts paid to that theory, and the pageantry of the fashion show is perhaps only eclipsed by the spectacle of the cars and, of course, the racing.
Ah yes, the motor car! How could we forget, for amongst the air shows, side shows, and fashion shows, the epicenter of the whole thing is the tremendous machines from a bygone era going at it like they hadn’t aged a day. Goodwood surely curates some of the finest and most expensive grids anywhere in the world, from the thump and wallop of the unlimited sports prototypes that compete for the Whitsun Trophy, to the sublime gentleman race cars that disappear into the sunset of the magical Kinrara Trophy; across the weekend no less than 15 different grids will feature on the circuit.
Even if you never make it trackside, a meander through the various paddocks that house the competitive cars and bikes can leave you lost for hours. Ferrari 250 GTs melt into ranges of different Alfa Romeo Tipos and Disco Volantes, Maserati 3500s morph into open-wheel Bugattis. It seems everywhere you turn there are more famous names of racing, ’60s Formula 1 cars like the beautiful Lotus machines of various vintage, complete with signature canary yellow flash; older pre-war Talbot and ERA cars; and of course the excitement and variety of the two-wheeled sort with the motorcycles that compete in the Barry Sheene Memorial Trophy.
It is mesmerizing stuff all around, and to be in this paddock during the hazy early morning light, as cars begin their warm up sequences is a special experience only heightened by the lengths that the organizers go to to ensure historical accuracy. Each year that I have attended Goodwood, I have enjoyed a real moment of clarity whilst bathed in early September sun, as I realize just how fortunate I am to be experiencing such motoring riches all in one place.
This year, as with every year, the on-track action is just as good if not better than the static stars of the paddock. You see despite the value and provenance of the assembled grids, the competition is fierce—the plethora of pro racing drivers at the front see to that. The circuit too is probably the only track in the UK that is the same as its original layout, and though the crowd line is probably a bit further back than it used to be, spectators can still experience the action at close quarter and without towering spires of catch fencing.
Each race that I saw provided memorable moments, whether it be Cobras drifting under power around the numerous right hand bends that populate the circuit, the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it flash and thunder of the motorcycles, or the enchanting vision of Aston Martin DB4GTs appearing out of the orange glow of the setting sun; it was all a captivating spectacle of noise, smells, and sounds as the drivers pushed their racing cars to—and sometimes beyond—their limits.
The nucleus of the whole show is the racing, but the Goodwood Revival is of course the sum of all of its parts, and each year becomes bigger, better, more detailed. From the walk in to the circuit, amongst thousands of others dressed in the fashion of another time whilst Spitfires soar overhead, to the historically accurate signage and advertising that adorns the walls and windows of the period-correct buildings, this weekend is special for so many reasons. If you have never heard of it, where have you been?! If you have never attended, I hope you too can place yourself under Goodwood’s spell next year, and if you are one of the lucky ones that was there this year I imagine that, like me, you are yearning to do it all over again. Goodwood just gets it right, and it will be a long year of waiting before we can celebrate the spectacle again in 2019, for the 21st time.