The 2012 Revival Meeting
David G. Fox
Describing the Goodwood Revival is a somewhat daunting task. Is it sports car racing? Yes, indeed. Is it an air show? A little bit. Is it a car show? Most definitely. Is there something of a circus atmosphere? One could go and spend very little time watching cars speed around the beautiful circuit. Apart from the racing, between formal displays of cars (old and not so old), members' cars simply parked around, the paddock, product shows, vintage clothing shops, etc., there is entirely too much to take in. Is it history? Yes, on several levels.
The historic Goodwood Racing Circuit is to the south, in West Sussex, on the estate of the Earl of March and Kinrara. The estate is home to a wide variety of types of activities throughout the year (goodwood.co.uk). Fortunately for people with an automotive bent, among them are the Festival Speed and the Goodwood Revival both international level vintage motor sports events. The Revival is held at the same facility and on the same 2.4 mile circuit that was a premier racing venue from 1948 to 1966. The Revival primarily celebrates the cars and racing of that period.
The afternoon and evening of September 14 began our adventure in vintage sports car racing at the Goodwood Revival. The event information packet had suggested this day was largely for practice. However, in the heats we saw the cars were grouped as they would be for the later races, and it appeared that these heats established qualifying positions.
Freddie March Memorial Trophy
The Freddie March Memorial event later in the day and running into twilight was Race #1, a very enjoyable experience. We watched from the Lavant Corner grandstands where the track makes a tight bend at the far side of the circuit from the starting area. The cars approach from the right up a slight grade, turn, and pass the grandstands before turning again onto a long straight where they accelerate hard toward the Woodcot turn. Watching 1950s sports cars accelerate up the hill and pass by with their headlights on in the evening shade was really quite pretty. The first few laps were led by a trio of Jaguar C Types. Then one of them ran away from the field only to go out later when the transmission locked up. The Freddie March Twilight Race was eventually won by another of the C Jaguars.
After getting our bearings on Friday, the missus let me go to the races by myself for the second day of Goodwood, while she stayed to further discover Brighton. The rented Audi's navigation system had difficulty dealing with congestion that came from all directions, thus thwarting an early arrival.
It was sunny and warm most of Saturday. I watched some races and toured the areas of the paddock that were open to us mere mortal attendees. The Cobras and some of the Jaguars and Aston Martins were in this area, along with sedans and the other cars of, say, lesser value. Interestingly, the Silver Arrows were well protected in another area, but they were not fully inaccessible. The exceedingly impressive lineup of Ferrari GTOs, maybe a third of those built and in total worth perhaps 300 million pounds, one could view from the back of their stalls in a more restricted paddock. That area also housed the Ford GT40s, various other Ferraris and Astons, the really early cars, etc. the heavyweights.
Shortly after we returned to the States, the internet was abuzz with the news that this particular GTO had moved in a private sale earlier in the year for a record price.
The Silver Arrows
The Mercedes Benz and Auto Union (Audi) Silver Arrows, products of the late 1930s German need to dominate all fields of endeavor no matter the cost, really were well beyond the competition of the time. The examples at the Revival ran exhibition laps each day, chased by other period machines that seemed quite antiquated in comparison. At one point, when I had been looking around the paddock for a while, I realized the Arrows were out. My view of the track was cut off by various structures, but the situation made an interesting aural experience. These cars have engines with superchargers and lots of cylinders. On approach I mostly heard the whine of the superchargers. Then, as they came into view, the exhaust notes were pretty incredible. Overall, the Arrows are darned impressive for late 1930s vintage iron. Later, the drivers were interviewed on the PA system and indicated they were under strict instructions from the factories about how hard they could push the cars they couldn't. The Auto Unions have the driver in front of the engine, and look sort of ungainly. The Mercedes cars are much prettier and have some design elements much like the post-war Indianapolis roadsters. When they came back to the paddock, one could get up close to see them, but of course a flood of people gathered to look and take pictures.
This year's Shelby Cup race celebrated the 50th anniversary of the creation of the Cobra. Having twenty-some cars on the track, all with very similar (289 Ford) engines, was interesting they all produced about the same rather high pitched exhaust sound. The beginning of the race was well led by a Daytona Coupe, but unfortunately it retired early, yielding to a black roadster.
Perhaps I missed it, but it didn't seem like there was much in the way of a tribute to Carroll Shelby. He had history at Goodwood, particularly when he was driving for Aston Martin. It's too bad he couldn't be there. There was a fascinating piece of artwork in one of the display areas made up of all the unassembled body panels, seats, dash panel, wheels/tires, and such, of a replica of the 1959 Aston Martin DBR1 Le Mans winner he co- drove. All in all, the presentation resembled a full-size model kit.
Ferrari 250 GTOs
It was also the 50th anniversary of the Ferrari GTO, and there were parade lap sessions for them each day of the Revival. The GTOs did get moving, but, like the Silver Arrows, they didn't race very hard. Even though they all probably were raced hard back in the day that's what they were built for they are just too valuable now. But to see fifteen or so of these cars charging around the track was most impressive.
The vendor areas at the Revival were pretty spectacular. There was everything from vintage clothing dealers to the Aston Martin Works Heritage. The Aston Martin factory does full restorations on vintage machines. They had a recently completed, gorgeous, dark blue over white DB5 coupe on display, together with a recent barn-find DB6 coupe that was up next. I chatted with a very pleasant fellow who works there and told him about being in England when the V8 Vantage first came out and seeing the prototype in the (then Ford-owned) museum. It turns out he was on the product team when that car was being developed.
In addition to restorations, several companies in England recreate historic vehicles essentially from scratch. Included among the Revival vendors were the company making DBR1 recreations and a group that asserts they use the original AC panel forming bucks to build reproduction Cobra bodies.
Another feature of the Revival is a variety of car shows. The outdoor show "across the road" was small and not too well fleshed out walking along the "club" parking area by the Lavant straight had a lot more exotic stuff (but non-member attendees couldn't get too close). There was also an indoor show with a factory restored MB 300SL Gullwing, Jaguars old and new, etc.
Okay, somewhere on YouTube there must be video of the rented Audi's nose coming out of the hedge, down from the curb, and onto the four-lane road near Chichester. Unless it's obvious you must do otherwise, always turn after the sign that tells you to turn, not just before it. What looks like a narrow English lane may be the mouth of a damned foot path. Let's just say that one of the fellows directing traffic in the parking area at Goodwood noticed that we had "collected some vegetation."
This day we had seats in the big Woodcot grandstand. Early in the day, we actually watched a vintage motorcycle race, and it was neat. It's interesting that, with all there is to do, a great many of these expensive seats are empty during most of the races. But they did fill up for the Tourist Trophy Race of 1960 to 1964 cars. One of the hyper-valuable GTOs was actually running in that race, but it retired before the finish with a cloud of smoke exiting the exhaust pipes.
This year's Goodwood Revival also paid tribute to Dan Gurney. There were multiple parade-lap sessions with Dan in a convertible followed by an assortment of cars that he actually raced, or facsimiles thereof Brabham, Lotus, a big '63 427 Galaxie, Boss 302, Ford GT Mark II, Eagle-Weslake, Cobra, Ol' Yeller II, etc. Late on Sunday there was a very moving speech by Lord March. Others talked about how revered Gurney was, and still is, in the racing community over there. They even revived the 1964 "Dan Gurney for President" campaign, with proceeds from the sale of buttons and bumper stickers going to charity.
I should note that I have spent much more time observing activities at Bonneville over the years, and probably more time watching drag racing back in the day, than I have watching sports car racing. That's not to say I had no interest, I did and do. Plus I've always had a great affinity for certain sports cars, especially those from the early to mid 1960s, and that is much of what the Revival is about. But it is true that I am somewhat unschooled. In any event, this was a marvelous time, and I believe the missus even had fun, too.
Mrs. Fox is very much interested in learning about her ancestors, correlating them with history occurring when they lived, and (here comes the expensive part) seeing where they lived. In spring, 2006, we had a great trip to England and Scotland. Her grandfathers emigrated as young men, and her grandmothers were first generation U.S. born, so we sought out places from which family members, relatively recent and not so recent, came. In addition to that and the usual touristy activities, we made stops at several motor museums.
Sometime late in 2011, the missus announced that she needed to go to Wales, to see places of relatives on her mother's side. My response? "If we're going to the U.K. again, I'm going to Goodwood." Plans were made that included the three days of the Goodwood Revival Meeting in the south of England, September 2012.
The trip actually started with some time in Paris. I only mention this to point out the inescapable nature of the Chevrolet Camaro. Walking to the train station to go back through the suburbs from Versailles to the center of the city, we passed a small car show. In one corner sat a red 1969 Camaro. Further, on more than one occasion when sitting at a sidewalk café, I heard a familiar rumble above the usual street noise and turned to see a current model Camaro cruising the Avenue de l'Opera.
Notes On Visiting the Goodwood Revival
I purchased tickets on March 1 for admission to all three days of the Revival in mid-September, six plus months away. At that time, I also purchased grandstand seating for Sunday. It would have been better done earlier, in terms of seating in the desirable Woodcot stands. I suspect there are entrepreneurs who buy blocks and package seating with B&Bs, etc. Much of the seating in Woodcot was gone early, but things didn't seem to be changing much as I was making decisions. It may well be that finding ideal seating is difficult right from the start. But defining ideal is not easy for the uninitiated. In July I bought grandstand seating for Friday (roving for all grandstands) and Saturday (Lavant roving).
We stayed in Brighton, as it seemed a place where the missus could spend part of the time while I ran off to look at cars. While that aspect worked out okay, I would not recommend staying in Brighton unless it somehow meets other needs. It's only 40 miles at most from Goodwood, but the travel time is very slow, even before you get into the Goodwood traffic. My experience was 1.5 to 2.5 hours. Admittedly, some of that was sitting as we neared Goodwood, but there also was a lot of time just getting through Brighton and the other towns in between. The longest time occurred when the GPS routed me many miles around the place on roads paved but tiny that required pullouts for passing oncoming traffic. The GPS was smart enough to see traffic jams, but not smart enough to see that it was converging from all directions on the destination. So, commit early and stay close (e.g. Chichester), or perhaps Southampton would be better than going east. There is too much to see to waste time getting there.
Many spectators don't buy grandstand seating. But among those who do, Woodcot seems the most popular. It's a large grandstand and is well covered. The cover is welcome in terms of sun or rain, but makes seeing the air displays difficult, so you want to be low. But if you are too low, hedges, people, etc., can make seeing the cars difficult when they pass directly in front of you.
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