Opened September 1948 and closed in July 1966, Goodwood’s world-famous racing circuit was resuscitated in 1998 with an annual Revival meeting and almost 25-years later, 17th-19thSeptember, has grown to become not only a parody of its former self, but also the most successful UK motor racing meeting held annually, outside the British Grand Prix.
That astute Revival light-bulb moment came from Goodwood’s perspicacious provost, Charles Henry Gordon-Lennox, 11thDuke of Richmond & Gordon, who masterminded both Revival and its equally successful cousin the Festival of Speed in 1993, utilising the capacious grounds around the duke’s majestic Sussex house complete with steep asphalt driveway for the annual mid-summer motoring jamboree.
Back to the 3·4-mile racing circuit which follows the course of the perimeter track of the former WWII RAF airfield of Westhampnett, encircling what is now Chichester & Goodwood’s busy airfield. Since the revival’s inaugural meeting, the eligibility for invited cars is capped at 1966, the date of the original circuit’s closure. S
Spectators too enter the spirit of this immediate post-war era – ration books welcomed – and dress appropriately with 1950s/60s tweed twinsets, polka-dot dresses, military uniforms, teddy-boys, and hippies most popular styles, but literally anything worn from this epoch is seen at a Revival meeting.
But it’s the sublime cars and feverish motor racing that’s the raison d’etre for all this associated pizzazz. Let’s just look at the 2-driver, one hour Stirling Moss Memorial race for pre-1963 closed-cockpit GT cars, potentially the most valuable grid of the day.
Four stunning Ferrari 250 SWB – only 36-made – current value $10m each and, four Aston Martin DB4 GT – only 19 made – at $16m each. That’s $104m for just 8 cars with another 22 Jaguar E types, a TVR, couple of Porsches and a Lotus Elite to add! If as they say 80% of the dosh is held by 5% of the populace, for sure they were racing at Goodwood last weekend!
The race was won by classic car dealer and restorer James Cottingham, co-driven by Harvey Stanley in a 1962 3·8 Jaguar E type. This race was formerly the Kinrara Trophy but renamed in honour of ‘Mr Goodwood’ himself, Sir Stirling Moss who was always the spectator’s darling at Goodwood, ironically the very circuit which ended his driving career on Easter Monday 1962 in a very serious accident.
But the architype motor racing virtuoso, who died April 2020, was honoured at the Revival with a daily parade of some of the cars our hero drove during his stellar career as a truly international driver and peerless sportsman.
Also racing was genial 2009 F1 world champion Jenson Button in his first experience of top-flite historic racing, which he fully intends to repeat. Other famous faces included former F1 McLaren driver Jochen Mass, driver turned pundit Martin Brundle, Le Mans winners Richard Attwood, Emanuele Pirro, Marcel Fassler and Andre Lotterer.
Former 3-time WTC champion Andy Priaulx, and 3-time BTCC champion Matt Neal. While twice Formula E Champion Jean-Eric Vergne reacclimatised himself to piston engines again. All happy and relaxed racing personalities signing autographs and talking to fans between races.
Other blue-riband races included the St Mary’s Trophy, a perennial spectator’s favourite capturing the spirit of pre-1966 saloon car racing, the Brooklands Trophy for pre-war sports cars, Glover Trophy for grand prix cars 1961-65, Sussex Trophy for sports cars 1955-60 and Chichester Cup for Formula Junior cars 1958-62, forerunner to F3 which provided entry level international motor racing for young drivers.
For very young drivers the Settrington Cup was for J4 pedal cars recycled from Austin-Longbridge steel off-cuts in a Bargoed factory 1949-66, a race energetically contested by 60 young future champions.
For enthusiasts of two-wheels, the Barry Sheene Memorial Race contained top-draw riders including John McGuinness, Steve Parrish, Troy Corser, Mick Grant, and Michael Dunlop, racing on an eclectic range of mainly British 500cc bikes manufactured in 1962 – obviously a good year for racing motorcycles?
Stylish outdoor cafes serve every kind of food, mostly alfresco accompanied by music of all genres, rock & roll, jazz, and melodious brass bands. This year the miniature Earls Court motor show carried a strong Mini theme and a very authentic film studio, complete with actors, lights, cameras, and clapper board.
We’ve not even touched on the extensive shopping village showcasing all styles of retro attire available for those who’d forgotten or fancied a change or the myriad of restorers and automobile trade outlets.
There’s really nothing not to like about a Revival meeting. Close, hard-fought racing between the cream of historic drivers with a race card containing elite machinery in each category. Add to this mix typical late summer weather and all the ingredients are assembled for a truly great weekend on the majestic Sussex downs with an international motor racing flavour.
Oh, and just in case you thought you’d forget the realities of COVID-19, Goodwood had thoughtfully installed a pedestrian footbridge to access to the infield for the first time in its history, just to encourage social distancing and Lifebuoy donated several thousand tubes of complimentary hand sanitizer which were readily available throughout the venue.
It’s great to report that traditional British idiosyncratic behaviour has successfully survived the lockdowns intact, a sure sign that at long last normality is returning – a big thank you Goodwood!
© Ken Davies