19 October 2011

The 2011 Goodwood Revival: It ain’t over ’til it’s overdone

“A magical step back in time,” they call it. And even before you cross the portal that is the famous tunnel under the start-finish straight, you’re kaleidoscoped into another world. No post ’66 vehicles are allowed into the circuit, so all of the support network – from the course car to the fleet of Glamcabs Mk1 Cortinas (just like in the Carry On film) are period.

From the hordes of bookies, spivs and bunny girls to the Dad’s Army platoon and the mods and rockers, the Bavarian beer hall sponsored by BMW and the ’60s-style food store (a great bit of marketing by Tesco), the attention to detail is seamless. Even the cash machines are concealed within old-type red phone boxes.

Motorcycles have always been a feature of the event, and this year motocrossers and their bikes from the golden 1950s-’60s era of scrambling paraded daily and mudplugged on a course built especially for the event at Lavant Corner.

Goodwood is about pure overkill and can leave you dizzy from such a surreal experience. If there was one GT40 you’d stand and stare at for an hour; here in the paddock there were 11 lined up, all of them real. Ten Spitfires flew from the infield – Goodwood was Westhampnett airfield during WW2 and here celebrated the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain as the RAF choir sang.

5 best things about it

  1. Proper racing – no Monterey demos here
  2. Top drivers in real, priceless cars
  3. WW2 air displays
  4. The willingness of many attendees to get into the spirit of the event by dressing in period clothes.
  5. Seamless attention to detail mean there’s something new around every corner, leading to sheer feel-good factor

It’s not compulsory to dress up, but most people do: Tweeds and twinsets will do it, military uniforms are popular and the lowest common denominator is white overalls – but you’re not getting into the paddock without a tie. Tickets are advance only and sell out long before the event; for 2011`, organisers are claiming a record, full-capacity 138,000 visitors over the three days.

This year’s featured hero, 100 years after his birth, was Juan Manuel Fangio, and a grid of cars celebrated his career, including three Mercedes-Benz racers and two Chevy coupes brought over from Argentina. A handful of drivers who knew and raced with Fangio were also on hand. The largest-ever Revival parade took to the track as 100 British-built Fords lapped the circuit to mark the Blue Oval’s centenary in the UK.

Oh, and there’s the racing: an explosion of sight and sound, all of it real and priceless. Highlights included Saturday’s Fordwater Trophy, an E-Type-only race to mark the 50th anniversary of Jaguar’s legendary sports car, won by Jon Minshaw and Martin Stretton in a 1964 semi-lightweight. In the St Mary’s Trophy for 1960s saloon cars, it was the turn of period F, pre-’66, and here Richard Shaw anchored a brilliant overall win with a track victory in Sunday’s second instalment of this two-part race in his BMW 1800 TiSA. Tom Kristensen and Kenny Brack took an emphatic win in the rain aboard Daniela Ellerbrock’s Shelby Daytona Cobra in the Royal Automobile Club Tourist Trophy Celebration race for GT cars.
In the concours, the 1934 Hawker Fury Mk1 was voted the Freddie March Spirit of Aviation pre-1966 aircraft winner, while a 1937 Bugatti Type 57SC Atalante owned by William Ainscough was the public’s choice out of 10,000 entries for “the most beautiful car in the world” in the Earls Court concours d’elegance, with the 1961 Jaguar E-Type roadster coming second.

The sheer glee of a weekend in another world with likeminded petrolheads will leave you reeling – as my companion, a Revival first-timer, said on leaving: “That’s not real” – but it’s an event you must visit at least once in your life. Until then, there’s more, including dress advice, at www.goodwood.com. Provisional dates for the 2012 Revival are 14-16 September.

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