For historic automobile aficionados, the list of must-attend events is well established. Pebble Beach, Amelia Island, and Villa d’Este are certainly stand-outs on the calendar; likewise, those with a predilection for the more sporting aspect of automotive history flock regularly to the Lime Rock historics, Historic Grand Prix of Monaco, or Le Mans and Spa classics. What affluent collectors and daydreaming petrolheads alike are quickly realizing, however, is that none of these world-class events come close to the all-encompassing spectacle that is the Goodwood Revival.
True to the founding vision of Goodwood Estate’s Lord March, the Goodwood Revival is a festival sui generis that has been bringing the otherwise sleepy English countryside roaring to life for three days each September since 1998. With the Revival, March has deftly extracted and concentrated the most vital ingredients from other historic automobile events and amplified them with unparalleled scale and pageantry. Step foot onto the grounds of the Revival at Goodwood Motor Circuit and you are instantly transported back in time, with every minute feature reflecting an obsessive dedication to detail and reverence for the golden era of racing.
The Goodwood Circuit began its life as a winding 3.8-kilometre perimeter road around RAF Westhampnett, which saw action as an emergency airfield during the Second World War. This was first converted into motorsport use by the Duke of Richmond and Gordon in 1948. From that time until its closure in 1966, the Circuit saw legendary names Stirling Moss, Jim Clark, Graham Hill, Dan Gurney, Roger Penske, and many more compete in Glover Trophy non-championship Formula One races and sports car classics such as the Tourist Trophy and nine-hour endurance racing tests. The end of this era came as owners refused to modify the Circuit to accommodate the safety requirements of faster and faster speeds in the mid-1960s. It is perhaps that same uncompromising nature that March embodied when he brought back those classic racers to recreate the Glover Trophy and other races in 1998. Since the Revival’s first year, it has ignited a genuine and contagious passion for vintage racing, drawing attendees from around the world.
The #40 1959 Cooper-Maserati T51 driven by William Nuthall is pushed off track by marshals after suffering a broken driveshaft at the start of the Richmond and Gordon Trophies race. This race features Formula One cars of the type raced between 1954 and 1960.
What truly makes the Revival magical is the lengths to which attendees go to become an authentic part of the show. Throngs of gearheads take advantage of the occasion to don their best vintage attire. This completes the immersive time warp and helps make the Revival nearly as renowned for people watching as it is for car spotting. With 150,000 attendees taking in the event year after year, the festival has developed a broad appeal as entire families stroll down recreated high street shopping displays packed with vintage vendors, and thrill over classic carnival attractions with all the appearance of a mid-century movie set just called into action. So complete is the illusion that even among the credentialed press corps, there can be heard grumblings about cellphones ruining the perfect photograph and an awkward reluctance over their own reliance on 21st century digital cameras, which betray their otherwise authentic appearance.
The #41 1959 Lister-Jaguar Costin owned by Richard Goddard is worked on by crew in the paddock area, prior to racing in the Sussex Trophy division for World Championship sports racing cars from 1955 to 1960.
Jackie Stewart (front) and Dario Franchitti (rear) on track to re-enact the official lap record of 1:20.4 set jointly by Stewart and Jim Clark in 1965. Franchitti sits behind the wheel of a Lotus 25, while Stewart is in a BRM P261.
This past September, the 2015 Revival continued to live up to those lofty expectations. The significance of the event was underscored by the extremely rare sight of all six Shelby Daytona Coupes, including the one and only prototype designed by Carroll Shelby and Peter Brock in 1964. And like all of the historic machinery in attendance at any Revival, the Daytona Coupes were not there merely to sit still and be admired. The Coupes took to the track at speed in a wondrous celebration of American muscle, marking 50 years since the Daytona’s triumphant 1965 World Sportscar Championship season, which included a victory at Goodwood Circuit itself. Another half-century anniversary brought fans to their feet at the Revival when Jackie Stewart and Dario Franchitti took to the track to re-enact the Goodwood lap record. This was astonishingly set by both Stewart and Jim Clark during the 1965 Sunday Mirror International Trophy for Formula One cars. Attendees were absolutely spoiled to be able to watch Stewart behind the wheel of a classic BRM Formula One machine, with Franchitti fighting to keep up with the 76-year-old while filling Clark’s shoes in a Lotus-Ford.
The Revival doesn’t hide its aeronautical roots. Here two revivalists in Royal Air Force officer attire roll past a few of the 20 Supermarine Spitfires on display and flying overhead.
The #23 1952 Tojeiro-Bristol Special of Simon Arscott is rolled toward the assembly area before taking to the track for practice in the Freddie March Memorial Trophy division.
The weekend featured an emotional tribute to Bruce McLaren, who lost his life in a testing accident at the Goodwood Circuit in 1970, and regular flypasts of historic Spitfires and Hurricanes, gathered to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain. These legendary warbirds represented the single largest gathering of Second World War aircraft since the war, providing hair-raising counterpoint between all 15 races held during the festival. And where else can you witness Ferrari 250 GTOs and LMs racing wheel-to-wheel with AC Cobras, Jaguar E-Types, and Aston Martin DB4 GTs? When the green flag dropped, you would have been hard-pressed to notice anything over the absolutely riotous thunder and smoke erupting from the starting line.
The Revival not only evokes, but vividly re-animates legendary tales of motorsport history, blurring the line between past and present. By the time the 2016 event kicks off this September, the Revival will have equaled the original 18-year golden era of racing at the Circuit, a milestone that seems to signal a present-day legend in the making. For any enthusiastic fan of classic cars and racing, these may very well be the best of days right now.
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