It is the best vintage-car event in the world, bar none. Attending the Goodwood Revival really is like taking a step back in time, so much so that even people who don't really like old car racing will attend. Lord March, who owns the Goodwood Estate in southern England, has a keen eye for detail and a true sense of style, and encourages people to dress in a style commensurate with the way the circuit looks-which is timeless, from sometime in the 1940s through to the late 1960s. Only period cars are allowed into the paddock. Warbirds take to the skies and dominate views of the airfield in the center of the track. There's even an old fashioned fun fair for the kids.The event is growing like crazy. Last year, more than 90,000 people attended the three days. This year, 103,000 went through the gates, to enjoy the racing and the carnival atmosphere, under brilliant blue skies and in unseasonal 80 degree temperatures. (Does His Lordship have a deal upstairs, we wonder?)
This was my fourth year at the event, and it keeps getting better. (Arriving each day in a Porsche Boxster, which could have been made for English country lanes on a sunny day, only enhanced the experience.)
In previous years, there have been two practice sessions for each race on the Friday and part of Saturday, with limited racing on the Saturday and a full card on Sunday. This year, there was just one practice session for all the races on Friday, with more racing on Saturday and Sunday. There were extra races, including a terrific one for cars of a type that raced at the Brooklands track pre-war-this brought out some aero-engined specials, four Alfa Romeo Tipo Bs, Bugattis, Mercedes-Benz SS and SSK, and a number of famous pre-war Bentley track cars.
On track, the action was fraught, with past masters fighting it out with the best historic drivers in fabulous machinery. Anyone who has been to the Monterey Historics is familiar with the type of machinery, but they would be quite bemused by the ferocity of the racing and the quality of the driving. I was sitting on the grid in the Sussex Trophy in Rodney Smith's Maserati 300S, and alongside me was former FIA GT Champion (and head of Automobili Bugatti) Thomas Bscher in a 450S Maser; ahead were multiple Le Mans winner Derek Bell in a D-type Jag, one-time F3 drivers Tony Dron and Peter Hardman in Aston DBR1s, TT winner (on two and four wheels) Stuart Graham in a Lister Chevrolet, and former F1 driver Tiff Needell in a Lister Jag. From where I was sitting, in the wheeltracks of Dron and Juan Barazi's Ferrari Dino 246S, it all looked pretty impressive, the cars sliding all over the place at very high speed.
I also drove Smith's 1939 Maserati 4CL in the Goodwood Trophy, following the lead ERAs of John Ure and Ludovic Lindsay at a discrete distance while fending off Gary Pearson's beautifully driven 12C-37 Alfa Romeo, a 450-hp monster that was in its element around the fast sweepers of this former airfield circuit.
Another outing in the same owner's 1960 Cooper T53 was even more productive, as I fought a full blown battle against American driver Duncan Dayton's Lotus 16 and Michael Schryver's Lotus 18. Dayton, who held the Lotus at angles that had me giggling in the cockpit, eventually spun, and Schryver broke a driveshaft, leaving me to inherit a hard-fought victory. Which was fitting, because the car was used by Sir Jack Brabham to win five grands prix in 1960, and Brabham was being honored at the meeting. Also, it was the first time the car had been in England since 1961, when it was sold to an American buyer, less engine and gearbox. The only sobering thought was that all three of us were lapping at more than 100 mph, in cars with virtually no safety protection: by my reckoning, we were all hitting 160 mph and more in a couple of places. They were tough and fitter than we give them credit for in the old days, too: cars like the Cooper get very warm, because you sit behind the radiator and alongside water and oil pipes, with your backside close to the engine. The physical effort of driving old cars for 80 plus laps around Goodwood drained me for a couple of days, and I'm reasonably fit.
Anyhow, if you like old cars and want to see the best grids of the best cars driven at and beyond their limits, and want to see them in a period setting, you should make a date and go to England in September next year. It is an unmissable event.