Living the dream. An often over and sometimes ironically used phrase that seems to have lost its significance of late, and somewhat of an unreachable goal. I mean, very rarely does anyone actually get to live a dream. But I’ve just come back from the Goodwood Revival Meeting and as far as I can see, that entire event is a dream, and to attend it is to spend three short days living that dream down to its minutest detail.
Sitting back now looking at these pictures on my dimly lit computer screen in suburban Adelaide, I have that kind of groggy, vague memory of this dream I’ve just awoken from. Was I really there, did that actually happen? It was set in the lush, green English countryside and everyone was dressed so nicely in tweed and frocks and they were all so friendly. There was champagne flowing and everyone was dancing to live swing music; the best classic cars driven by the most famous drivers were racing door handle to door handle; there was an airshow and a dogfight and there were priceless Ferrari’s dotted around the place. And then for some reason we were with Hillary and Tenzing at the summit of Mt Everest? At least, I think that’s what happened. Take me back!
Any Given Reason has been truly privileged to attend both Goodwood events in 2013; two events with completely different characters, despite being held only a stones throw from each other just outside Chichester in the South of England. If the Festival of Speed is the world’s biggest automotive garden party, then the Goodwood Revival is surely the worlds biggest automotive dress up party.
Goodwood began its life as a Battle of Britain airfield and at the conclusion of the war the perimeter road was converted into a circuit, like so many other tracks of the time. It saw all the famous cars and drivers however its life as a circuit was relatively short, and it was closed for racing in 1966 due to the growing speeds of modern racing cars and its relative lack of safety. It was used as a test circuit for a while, but largely sat dormant until the first Revival Meeting in 1998. The Revival aims to recreate Goodwood exactly as it was during its heyday from 1948-1966, however with 15 Revival meetings now in the history books and an incredible worldwide popularity, one could certainly argue that right now is Goodwood’s heyday.
The funny thing about the Revival is that the on-track action, no matter how incredible, is not what really what sets it apart. As exciting as seeing a pair of Ferrari 250 GTO’s drifting through a bend just inches apart in the wet is, it’s everything off-track that separates the Revival from being just another historic race meet. The attention to detail, and more importantly attention to authenticity, is what really makes it The Revival.
… even the tow truck was a period Bedford. The food vans were mostly old Citroen’s, the cleaners were carting rubbish away in series 1 Land Rovers and distinguished guests were chauffeured about in early Bentley Continental’s.
The dress code is a wonderful thing, but at times you do feel as if you’ve accidentally wandered onto a Midsummer Murders set and you’re always secretly expecting a director to yell ‘Cut’ and angrily ask you to leave.
The level of depth and detail just goes on and on. Actors walk around playing period characters, and on the Saturday all of the car park staff were wearing patriotic ‘Dan Gurney for President’ badges.
Goodwood events are big on celebrating anniversaries and there were several celebrated at the 2013 Revival, chief of which was the 50th anniversary of Jim Clark’s first F1 world championship. A special parade of over 30 of Clark’s cars including Lotus Cortina’s, the DB4GT Zagato he raced in the ’61 and ’62 Goodwood TT’s, his ’65 Lotus-Ford 38 Indy 500 winner and the gas-turbine Lotus 56 Indy car he tested just before his death highlighted the incredible versatility of the down to earth sheep farmer from the Scottish Highlands. This 1957 Porsche 356A 1600 Super was first owned by bandleader Billy Cotton, before being bought later in 1957 by Clark’s mentor, Ian Scott Watson. Watson loaned the car to Clark just three days after purchase, where he achieved his first ever win in it at Charterhall. Clark campaigned it a further 28 times, winning 13 times, as well as using it as his daily transport until it was replaced by a Lotus Elan company car.
The Rolex Driver’s Club was transformed into Everest Base Camp for the weekend to celebrate 60 years since Hillary and Tenzing first conquered the summit of the world. Whilst I obviously didn’t have access inside the club, the level of detail (including actors posing as mountaineers, dressed completely in period mountaineering attire) on the outside was still very special.
The 100th running of the Tour de France was celebrated with a special peloton of classic racing bicycles taking a sadly sopping wet lap of the circuit, led by six time Olympic gold medalist Sir Chris Hoy…
… who were proceeded, in true cycling fashion, by a large fleet of vintage French promotional vehicles brought over from France by members of the Association des Vehicules Anciens Publicitaires. I really, really hope they drove them cross country to Goodwood!
The French theme was continued with a large section behind the start/finish straight turned into a French food & wine district complete with music, flags and even road signs. The most interesting part was this mock French ‘Cafe Tabac’, which looked innocent enough on the outside, apart from the lovely French ladies bearing machine guns at the door.
A stroll around the corner revealed it to be a covert WWII French Resistance base. The Tour de France was not held while France was under German occupation and this display next to the bicycles implied this. It was a nice little detail missed by most, myself included until after the event.
It’s not often that you go to a race meeting and find a restored Royal Mail rail carriage craned onto display for the weekend, but this is Goodwood and I really shouldn’t have been surpised. This display marked the 50th anniversary of the Great Train Robbery, one of the biggest hold-ups in history. At around 3am in August 1963, a gang of masked men forced the overnight express from Glasgow to London to a halt and took more than £1,000,000 in used bank notes. They loaded the haul into a truck and a pair of Series 1 Land Rover’s, and made their escape to a nearby farm.
Despite all this, the most exciting celebration without a doubt was the Whitsun Trophy, marking 50 years since the birth of the Ford GT40 project. The car didn’t race until 1964, making next year the anniversary, but the project to develop the Lola Mk6 GT into the GT40 was well underway in 1963 and Goodwood was the primary test track used. A canny technicality exploited by the Revivial organisers, because it would be almost impossible to assemble all but two of the remaining GT40’s in one place in the 50th anniversary year. That’s right, all but two of the genuine GT40’s remaining were in one place at the 2013 Revival.
They all lined up for a few parade laps before the Whitsun Trophy race, with about ten of the really rare cars peeling off before the start of the race. It’s a kind of strange scenario when a £5,000,000 genuine GT40 makes you just one of the pack, fit to scrap it out in a race.
It was a little bit nerve-wracking seeing such historic cars duking it out and I’m sure there are plenty of aghast armchair anorak’s arguing that these GT40’s should be preserved in museums. But you know what? It was a rare and probably never to be repeated spectacle to see these cars raced exactly as they were designed.
The winners of the 45 minute, two-driver race was the unbeatable pairing of Formula 1 designer Adrian Newey and Indy 500 winner Kenny Brack in Newey’s 1965 GT40. Both put in a sterling performance but the highlight was certainly Brack, whose opposite lock filled drive in the wet is already going down in YouTube history.
There’s a good chance you’ve seen this clip, but watch it right now if you haven’t. I can’t even begin to imagine what half a turn of opposite lock in fourth gear down a wet straight in someone else’s GT40 must feel like from the inside – it was heart stopping enough to see it live from the outside.
The most famous race at the Revival is without a doubt the Royal Automobile Club TT Celebration, for “Closed cockpit GT cars in the spirit of the RAC TT races, 1960-1964”. Also known as ‘the race with all the GTO’s in it’.
In fact, the TT Celebration has turned into the roll call of famous names of the motor racing world. Derek Hill, Tom Coronel, Tiff Needell, Rob Huff, Emanuuele Pirro, Derek Bell, Stefan Johansson, Christian Horner, Jackie Oliver, Jochen Mass, Chris Harris, Anthony Reid, Vern Schuppan, Oliver Gavin, Karun Chandhok, Darren Turner, Jean Alesi, Andy Wallace, Rauno Aaltonen and Henri Pescarolo could all be found on the entry list.
The race was close, with the Chris Harris/Anthony Reid 1963 Lister-Jaguar streaking out to an early lead. Forget the humble comments Chris Harris makes in his videos about being an average driver – after seeing him race in person, he’s extremely talented behind the wheel.
Eventually visibility became so bad that there was no option but to flag the race early. Taking the rarity and value (AUD$35,000,000+ in some cases) out of the picture, this was still the closest, most exciting race I can remember witnessing in person, even more unbelievable when you take the combined value of the field into consideration.
There were highlights in just about every race, but there were a few in particular that stood out. The Freddie March Memorial Trophy is a 90 minute, two driver race for ‘cars in the spirit of the Goodwood Nine Hour races, 1952-1955′, and the field was made up of cars like Jaguar C-Type’s, Aston Martin DB3’s, a pair of Maserati A6GCS’, an Alfa Romeo 3000 Disco Volante and a Ferrari 750 Monza dicing amongst a full field of equally rare machines. The original Nine Hour started at 3pm and finished at midnight, and despite being held only three times it was one of the standout races at Goodwood back in the day. Whilst the current day tribute lasts only 90 minutes, it starts in daylight and the cars race through until just after dark. For 2013 the race was run in a torrential downpour, which surprisingly didn’t deter any of the drivers. None had roofs, windscreens or wipers but that didn’t slow them down, and despite being soaked and chilled to the bone it was a real treat to watch these guys sliding around in the wet for the full hour and a half race.
Possibly the hardest fought battle of the weekend was in the St Mary’s Trophy, a two part race for ‘production saloon cars of a type that raced between 1960 and 1966’. Guest drivers take the wheel in Saturday’s Part 1 race, leaving the car owners to fight it out for overall victory in Sunday’s Part 2.
As you would expect at Goodwood, the ‘guest drivers’ aren’t just anyone. Nine times Le Mans winner Tom Kristensen just managed to set the pace in a Ford Galaxie 500, however DTM and FIA GT driver Frank Stippler charged hard and very nearly came away with the win in an Alfa 1600 GTA. Further down the field Christian Horner drove another 1600 GTA, Dakar champion Stephan Peterhansel and rally legend Rauno Aaltonen both drove Cooper S’, Rowan Atkinson drove a Lotus Cortina and John Cleland drove a Vauxhall VX 4/90.
These cars were arguably the most exciting to watch, thanks to tightly controlled class specific rules. Modern tires, suspension and engine technology is out, with the only concessions to current times being safety items. The cars are setup loose and they run old school racing tires which means they lean and slide beautifully; you could see the drivers steering them with the right foot through long corners. And what’s more, every single one of these cars is beautifully prepared with no regard to cost. They were without a doubt the best historic saloons I’ve ever seen race.
Upon reflection, the Revival is an event that leaves you somewhat dumbfounded. By definition this event is a playground for the obscenely rich and their hanger-on’s. I mean, what kind of world is it where a single person can not only own a pair of Mercedes Gullwing’s, but de-bumper them, cage them, and race them. And for that effort to not be big enough to even warrant a second glance from most?
And you walk back into the circuit and find a lovely older couple picnicking out of their 275 GTB/4, next to a large family packed tight sheltering from the rain in an unrestored Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost.
A highlight of the event was standing and watching these two chaps discussing an ignition problem one was having with his GT40. They could easily have afforded to pay someone to take care of the problem, however here they were – getting their hands dirty, trying to fix it themselves.
But what is so wrong with our hobby these days is that the cars we love are rapidly becoming investment grade commodities. In a world of financial turmoil, classic cars are increasingly seen as bluechip investments; superannuation portfolios and bankers are buying them up and stashing them away.
What makes the Revival so special is that it is a giant two-fingered salute to that whole world. This event is for the people who like to use their classics, and use them hard. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Nick Mason, an Anthony Bamford or just some bloke who turns up in the MGB he’s scrimped and saved for.
When you combine that factor with such a unique venue, a jam packed off-track program and a crowd of enthusiastic, knowledgeable and excited spectators, the end result is an experience that is truly unlike anything else in the motoring world.