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Goodwood Revival – the insider’s view

Submitted by on September 25, 2009

“The fact that I had a shunt here is incidental. It has always been such a friendly, social place. Actually there is nowhere else with atmosphere like it.”

Sir Stirling Moss perfectly summed up the feelings of every one of the 130,000-plus historic racing fans who flocked to the famous Goodwood circuit for the 12th annual Revival meeting last weekend.

The racing legend, so gravely injured back in 1962 on what was – and still is – one of Britain’s fastest circuits, took centre stage again, this time for his 80th birthday celebrations.

Moss’s appearance and deserved adulation only added to the magical, time-warp experience that has come to characterise this event. Everywhere you looked – and I mean everywhere – was another exquisite piece of attention to detail to complement the fastidious pit and paddock complex built to exacting standards for the 50-year anniversary opening in September 1998. In fact, since that inaugural event, when this unique celebration first blew other historic motorsport gatherings, not to mention fashion shows and lifestyle jamborees, out of the water, the familiar ring of: ‘whatever next?’ has been all-pervading.

For added innovation and the ultimate ‘wow’ factor, event host Lord March, whose grandfather we have to thank for kick-starting the love affair with this part of West Sussex, had invited legendary NASA astronaut Buzz Aldrin to experience the razzmataz. The second man on the moon made an emotional speech from a plinth on the start-finish straight on the Sunday in which he honoured fellow octogenarian Moss. Stirling couldn’t quite believe it when the American icon called him ‘cool’. You know you’ve made it when a bloke who’s been to the moon calls you cool!

Three days is simply not enough to take it all in. You can’t fix your eyes on the wheel-to-wheel combat out on the sweeps and swoops of the 2.4-mile former perimeter road of war-time RAF Westhampnett all weekend – there’s too much going on off-track to do that. Similarly, spend too much time seeing and being seen in your period attire among the champagne tents, big bands and mini-skirted dancing girls, and you’ll miss some of the finest, oversteering derring-do from the hordes of iconic grand prix single-seaters, sports-racers, and  tin-tops.

As one of the privileged few who gets to commentate on this retro-fest, the majority of my time is given over to what’s happening on-track and this year’s 15-race programme provided thrills and (fortunately very few) spills aplenty. Don’t get me wrong: I still found time for champagne, music and mini-skirts. If you’ve yet to experience glorious Goodwood, let me whet your appetite for 2010. No more excuses, you simply have to come:

  • Goodwood Trophy – Grand Prix Cars & Voiturettes, 1930-’50. Think ERA, Alfa Romeo Tipo B…
  • Madgwick Cup – 2-litre Sports Racing Cars, 1948-’55. Think Maserati, Tojeiro, Frazer Nash…
  • St Mary’s Trophy – normally for Production Saloons, 1950-’66, but this year given over to a pro-am Mini Cooper S double-header to celebrate 50 years of Sir Alec Issigonis’ world-beater. Think Oliver Gavin, Darren Turner, Derek Bell, Jackie Oliver, Desiré Wilson, Rauno Aaltonen, John Cleland and countless other race and rally luminaries in paint-trading action.
  • Lavant Cup – World Championship Sportscars in the spirit of Goodwood Tourist Trophy races, 1958-’59. Think Ferrari, Aston Martin, Lotus and Lola…
  • Glover Trophy – 1.5-litre GP and Tasman Cars 1961-’65. Think Lotus, Brabham, Cooper and every other significant period F1 racer…
  • Fordwater Trophy – Production-based Sports & GT Cars in the spirit of the Goodwood members meetings, 1960-’66. Think TVR, Austin-Healey, Morgan, Ginetta…
  • Brooklands Trophy – Endurance racers prior to 1939. Think Aston Martin, Frazer Nash, Bugatti, Bentley…
  • Richmond Trophy – Front-engined GP Cars 1950-’60. Think Ferrari, Maserati, Lancia, Scarab…
  • RAC TT Celebration – GT Cars in the spirit of the Goodwood GT races 1960-’64. Think Jaguar, Ferrari, AC, Aston Martin…
  • Freddie March Memorial Trophy: Sports Racing Cars in the spirit of the Goodwood 9 Hours, 1952-’55. Think Lagonda, Jaguar, Ferrari, Aston Martin…
  • Chichester Cup – Front-engined Formula Junior Cars 1958-’60 (alternates annually with rear-engined machines from 1960-’63). Think Lola, Stanguellini, Gemini, Elva and dozens of other important period FJ chassis…
  • Whitsun Trophy – Sports Racing Prototypes 1963-’66. Think V8-powered McLaren, Lola, Ford and Cooper…
  • Barry Sheene Memorial Trophy – double-header for 500cc and 350cc motorcycles, 1948-’66. Think Manx Norton, Matchless, Wayne Gardner, Leon Haslam, Michael Rutter, Steve Parrish…

People often ask me about my favourite Revival races and cars. I tell them it’s a bit like being asked, as child, if you love Mum or Dad more. Futile, especially in this company.

If the mouth-watering collection of names doesn’t get your juices flowing – and as a MotorSportRetro.com ‘reader’ I’ve got to assume it does – then there’s no hope for you. Don’t take my word for it, here’s what Aldrin made of it all: “I had no idea I’d be attending such a wonderful gathering of aficionados of motorsport.”

See you there next year…

Henry Hope-Frost

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Images: Henry Hope-Frost

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