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Goodwood Revival In The Rain

Words and photography by Paul Truswell

I’m not really sure where Goodwood sits with me in my list of ‘must go’ venues. I find the Festival of Speed hard work: the last time I went (2013), there was simply too much going on simultaneously, I had the feeling I was always missing something, and the absence of the competitive element, vital in my mind, came in the way of my really enjoying it.

The Goodwood Revival is a proper race meeting though, and when the opportunity arose to attend the Saturday of this year’s event, I jumped at it. Sadly, although the weather was fine for the Friday and Sunday of the meeting, we had to endure heavy rain showers throughout the only day that I was there. When I arrived, official qualifying was underway for the TT Celebration, and my initial view was of the sixties’ GT cars splashing their way through the chicane. Despite the conditions, it has to be said that the Goodwood Revival offers a spectacle that no other motor racing event in my experience comes close to.

Inevitably there is never one single element to these things. Certainly the cars are the stars – the quality and size of the entries are mouth-watering. Proper drivers too, whose competitive nature shines through everything they undertake. Probably more than anything though, it is the nature of Goodwood itself, both on the grand scale – it’s a great track full of fast corners and awkward camber changes – and in all the little details, which of course is (mostly) enhanced by the willingness of those attending to dress the part.

Standing on the start finish line, I was taken by how little had changed since my last visit to the Revival in 2003. There was a wider run-off area on the exit of Madgwick, but apart from that, it looked much as I remembered it – one can stand remarkably close to the track, and one’s view is not obscured by debris fencing or the like, making the place a delight for photographers. It’s not as if there is only one point to view from either. There are vantage points everywhere.

This surely is the main appeal of the Revival. It is a track that is aware of its roots and attempts to remain true to its heritage. Although it is ‘period’, nothing is shabby or dilapidated. There are too many nice little touches to list them all here without omitting something of significance.

Having said all of that, though, there are some elements that stop me from wanting to go there every year – some people’s view of ‘period dress’ strikes me as simply being too flamboyant, and the infernal stands and trade stalls eventually became too much for me. The fact is, that at Goodwood, there is so much going on at the periphery that you could quite easily spend a day at the place without ever venturing to the trackside to watch a racing car go past.

Call me old-fashioned, but for me, that is sacrilege. Surely it is the action on the track that should be the attraction? Not browsing the stores, spending money on the kids at the funfair, or strutting your stuff in your psychedelic T-shirt and platform shoes?

Some of the racing on the track was pretty intense too, although there were times when it seemed that the outcome of the race was secondary to the mere presence of such venerable vehicles. On the Saturday, spectators were treated to seven races, including a motorcycle race for the Barry Sheene Memorial Trophy with events being rounded off in grand period style by the Freddie March Memorial Trophy for the “sports-racing cars in the spirit of the Goodwood Nine-hour races between 1952 and 1955”.

The entry list for the St Mary’s Trophy was simply stunning, the little A30 and A35 saloons capturing the attention of the crowd as they danced over, round and through the puddles. Although he kept it on track, Andrew Jordan’s rallycross experience no doubt helped him to stay ahead, but Steve Soper, just shy of his 65th birthday, drove like a man half his age to take third behind another BTCC star, Gordon Shedden.

In the Whitsun Trophy period accuracy may have been sacrificed, but the spectacle of Chris Ward’s Ford GT40 dicing with Tony Sinclair in his Lola T70 while Tiff Needell gave chase (and eventually passed both) in his Lotus 30 was marvellous, as those with car control were truly able to demonstrate their skills. Rob Huff won the race in his Olds-powered Lotus 19.

The day was rounded off by the splendid Freddie March Trophy – and what better way to honour the man whose passion for motor sport inspired his grandson Charles to create the Revival in the first place? I may not be old enough to have witnessed Goodwood in its heyday, but that didn’t matter as the Jaguars, Aston Martins and Ferraris did battle into the gloom of the evening. Nor did the fact that the race had to be stopped early. Richard Woolmer brought the HWM home less than half-a-second clear of Rob Hall’s Aston Martin DB3, with a Maserati and Ferrari also in the top six.

There was a parade celebrating the achievements of Sir Jack Brabham as well, led by David driving round in his father’s BT24 with which ‘Black Jack’ won the Formula One World Drivers’ championship in 1966.

With the weather the way it was, it was no surprise that the air displays planned for the lunch break had to be cancelled, which was no doubt disappointing for those enamoured of such things.

If you are old enough to remember the way racing was fifty and more years ago, and haven’t been to Revival, then I strongly suggest that you get a younger relative to take you along to next year’s event. And if you have never regarded ‘historic racing’ as your thing, then Goodwood provides plenty else to do, should you tire of watching drivers at work as they control their beautiful cars at the limit of adhesion and beyond.

Paul Truswell