Every year the Goodwood Revival weekend is the highlight of my September. I’ve attended regularly for eleven years, becoming a club member from 2006. It usually benefits from Indian summer weather – I can only remember two occasions on which it was a washout – and is always a wonderful spectacle, often eventful. This year was no exception.
I usually attend all three days, reserving the Friday for myself, taking my nephew on the Saturday and my neighbour and friend on the Sunday. This year, however, I needed to be at work on Friday and then travel straight to my sister’s house, in order to pick up my nephew for an early start on Saturday morning. So I drove my Suffolk SS100 into central London and parked it in the British Library, where I work. The sight of a 1930’s sports car in the Library’s car park created quite a stir amongst the staff and visitors that day.
Setting off with my nephew at the crack of dawn on Saturday, the weather was chilly but dry. As is my habit, I was driving with the hood down and all was fine until, at 65mph just south of Heathrow, our entry ticket (which had to be affixed to the windscreen) flew off, 10 feet up in the air and into the fast lane of the M25. I crossed 3 lanes, stopped onto the hard shoulder and then reversed back about 100 yards, until my nephew spotted our ticket 10 feet in the air being buffeted along from lane to lane by the passing cars, articulated lorries and coaches. At about 6:30am, traffic was still pretty heavy and the only thing I could do was to follow it from the hard shoulder, hoping for a miracle or at least that the ticket would not be blown over to the other carriageway. After an anxious five minutes and 300 or so yards, the ticket landed on the chevron area just between the M25 and the M3 as it turns off. Waiting for a gap in the traffic, I managed to drive over from the hard shoulder to the chevron area, hop out of the car and pick up the ticket, before driving off again. All highly dangerous, illegal and definitely not a sensible or advisable thing to do, but the ticket had cost about £150 and we would not have been allowed into the Revival without it.
Having arrived safely and parked trackside in a members-only area, we left to get some breakfast. Walking back past a splendid red S-type and a Rolls Royce which offered its driver the perfect grandstand view, I noticed that my nearside headlamp seemed to be at an odd angle. One touch and it dropped right off! Metal fatigue had worn through the weld between the bracket to which the headlamp attaches and the bar supporting it. Fortunately I had my toolkit so was able to remove the headlamp safely and pack it away (each lamp costs about £2,000) with no further damage. But it meant the car now looked like a lopsided Cyclops and would not be possible to use the following day; strictly speaking, it was probably also illegal to drive home later that day, although I had no choice. Unfortunately, in the process of crawling under the car and on the grass, I also lost my members-only pass to the paddock. So, all in all, an eventful and expensive morning.
However, Goodwood itself and the remainder of the weekend was as good as ever. This year marked the 60th anniversay of the Jaguar D-Type (which won Le Mans in 1955, 1956 and 1957) and the Lavant Cup race was devoted exclusively to D-Types. There were 25 original D-type cars, including the very first prototype, plus 5 original XKSS cars, the roadgoing version of the D-type racing car. Looking at them in the paddock, I bumped into Derek Bell, the 1975 Le Mans winner, doing a radio broadcast about them.
The paddock, only accessible to club members, offers the perfect opportunity to get up close to all of the cars. I have always admired the beautiful engineering displayed in early racing cars such as the Alfa Romeo Tipo B, but I was also much taken this year by the straight six DOHC engine of the Maserati 250F, that iconic Formula 1 car of the 1950’s, and a “naked” Cooper Climax, which had all its body panels taken off for a thorough nut and bolt check. One can also see some famous individual cars; this year included a tribute to Sir Jackie Stewart with most of the actual cars from his racing career, including the Tyrrell 006 in which he won the 1973 world championship and the Matra MS80 and Tyrrell 001 cars in which he won the 1969 and 1971 world championships respectively.
The paddock also includes a mock “Earls Court Motor Show”, used to display some very beautiful and/or unusual road cars. The highlight on this occasion was one of the six brand new but original Lightweight E-Types that were built this year by Jaguar, to original specifications. Ironically, as a fan of Jay Leno the American talk show host and car enthusiast, just 1 week earlier I had seen the video of him talking to Ian Callum about these very cars.
The Revival is not just about cars; motorbikes also feature and I was especially impressed this year by a collection of early 1930s and 1950s BMWs next to the “Earls Court” show area, plus a 1923 Ace XP-3 Experimental and a 1928 Indian Four, both high-performance inline four-cylinder racing motorcycles.
It’s also about the people. All visitors to the Revival are encouraged to dress in period, or at least in smart clothes, and almost everyone does. One can have just as much fun seeing the huge variety of colours and costumes among the crowd as on the racetrack.
And there is also a vast array of specialist shops and stalls, selling everything from vintage clothes or luggage to books, models, cars and car-related bits and pieces. I was fascinated by the stall of a Dutch firm, EZ Electric Power Steering, demonstrating a very small and simple electric power steering system which can be easily bolted onto almost any car without having to make any chassis alterations or complex additions to the engine systems – a brilliant idea for those of us with older cars to park!