A perfect blue sky is turning orange as the sun sets. A snaking train of cars is powering out of Woodcote corner, a synchronised ballet of drift - a Ferrari 250 GTO replica at its head and on the ragged edge.
A Ferrari leads but this race is no forgone conclusion. Nine times Le Mans winner Tom Kristensen is carving through the field in a 1961 Ferrari 250 SWB/C, door handle to door handle. Value $11 million. Minimum.
There are eight 250 SWBs in this race along with Cobras, E-Types, Aston DB4 GTs and Corvettes. The grandstand rises and roars on every passing and the hairs on my arms and neck are rising with them. There’s nose to tail, sideways action and passing on almost every corner. It’s spine tingling. Welcome to Goodwood Revival. This is race one. Fifteen races to go.
There is no doubt; if you are a motoring enthusiast Goodwood Revival should be on your bucket list. It is well known as the ‘world’s largest’ historic motor racing festival but when you are actually there it is much more than that. It is a heartland of passion for the automobile and for a time long gone.
As one racegoer we spoke to said “There is nothing like Goodwood anywhere in the world. The vibe is contagious. Everything is vintage. The cars, the fashion, the hairdos, the shopping and even the vendors get into the spirit”.
Revival was created in 1998 by Lord March, The Duke of Richmond and Gordon, and owner of Goodwood estate where the Revival is held on the second weekend of September every year. You might know him as the bloke who created the Goodwood Festival of Speed.
From the minute you walk through the gate you are transported back to a different era. The official years to celebrate are from 1948 to 1966 which is when Goodwood operated as a championship racetrack.
As well as the impressive collection of vintage cars, passion for yesteryear is on display everywhere you look. The sell-out crowd of 150,000 racegoers all dress the part with eye catching period dress from the 40s, 50s and 60s. One lady we spoke to starts with one piece of her outfit and builds from there incorporating a hat, gloves, dress, shoes, earrings, handbag and of course the hair style, all matching. Then there are the vintage aircraft, along with stalls and food vendors all in period theme. Several swing, and rock and roll bands add to the atmosphere. For racegoers in need of a beverage there is plenty on offer from double decker English pubs to Veuve Clicquot tents with champagne flowing.
When the sun starts to set and the races finish for the day patrons head ‘over the road’ which has a whole world of entertainment - from outdoor cinemas with period cars, to a variety of bars with bands, authentic carousels, more vintage clothing shops, and food vendors. Something for everyone.
That is the thing about Goodwood Revival. Its magical vibe is infectious. In fact one couple we spoke to met at Goodwood Revival on the dance floor 6 years ago and brought their 11 week old baby girl this year. They are true aficionados. As they said “It’s not just a day out, it’s a way of life”.
If you take a break from the racing you are confronted by magnificent machinery at every turn. Behind a small grandstand was Ralf Lauren’s Ferrari 275 GTB/4 NART Spider gathering a healthy layer of dust from the passers-by. One of only ten in existence and worth dozens of millions. That sums up Goodwood Revival.
In the twilight, headlights blazing, Gary Pearson in the GTO replica holds off a hard charging Kristensen with the help of a fortuitous safety car. He claims the Kinrara Trophy. It’s an old fashioned hard but fair contest. Just the way the patrons like it. The podium gather at the start-finish line to receive their trophies. As with all 16 races, cigars are provided for the first three finishers. We can clearly see them happily puffing away in the cockpit as they complete a victory lap. Times change. But not here. Not this weekend.