Drive Cult's guide to getting the best out of the Goodwood Revival.
When it comes to classic cars, the undoubted highlight of the year (in Europe at least) is the Goodwood Revival, which this year takes place between the 16th - 18th September. Put together with extraordinary attention to detail by Lord March and his team, the event recreates a race meeting from the fifties and sixties as closely as humanly possible. All the vehicles inside the circuit must be built before the circuit originally closed in 1966 (with the exception of emergency vehicles). The races feature some of the cream of the classic car world, including Ferrari 250GTOs, AC Shelby Cobras and Ford GT40s.
Since the first Revival meeting held in 1998, I've been to almost all of them. As such, I've picked up a few tips on how to get the best out of the event, especially if you've never been before.
How to get there, and what time to get there
The vast majority of people going to the Revival will be travelling by car, whether it be modern machinery or something more classic. Cars built before the vehicle tax threshold of January 1973 are eligible for forward parking. This was fairly laxly controlled until a few years ago and machinery from as late as the eighties occasionally sneaked in. However, the organisers have become more savvy to this in recent years, and the pre-1973 rule is now rigorously enforced - unless you have a car on foreign plates, which still seem to slip through. You do need to pre-register for this parking, though.
If you're coming from London on the A3, yellow AA signs will begin to appear at Godalming, directing the traffic towards the circuit. The signs indicate two routes, either via Midhurst or via Petworth. Both routes are single lane carriageway roads with variable speed limits along the way, and are equally fun (or not) to drive, though the Petworth route is marginally more picturesque. However, if you take the Petworth route there is a risk of getting stuck in traffic in Petworth itself. If you want to avoid this, as you approach Petworth follow the truck signs; it's a longer route but more fun, and most importantly it avoids the traffic in town. Whichever way you go, the police will no doubt be out in force so, stick rigidly to the speed limits!
A new alternative to the Godalming routes this year may be to stay on the A3 and head through the new road tunnel at Hindhead before cutting down towards Midhurst. I suspect this route will be popular with fans of cars with loud exhausts!
Many people complain about the traffic into and out of the circuit, but I've always found it to be better than many other events I've attended. The secret, in my experience at least, is to get there early. Very early. Car parks are open at 7:00 and the circuit opens at 7:30, so you can always aim to have breakfast when you get there.
Equally, staying later helps to clear the traffic on the way home, so be sure to stay to the end of the event. Many people leave directly after the last race, but if you stick around for the prizegiving on Sunday, it's a great opportunity to meet and chat to some of the drivers and the traffic is much better when you do leave the circuit. Occasionally, if the number of spectators is small enough, Lord March invites those remaining to share in the champagne too!
One other thing to mention here: there is a fair chance of seeing a classic car broken down at some point on the journey. It may be the only outing of the year for some cars. If you do see someone by the side of the road, stop and see if they need assistance - it’s all part of the spirit of the event.
What to wear
One of the unique features of the event is that spectators are encouraged to dress up in period outfits. It's not mandatory, so don't worry if you don't have something appropriate to wear! However, there is a dress code for the central paddock. Over the years, the number of people wearing period clothing has steadily increased and this year I would expect around 70% to dress up for the occasion.
That said, there are degrees of dressing up, with some of the men going the whole hog and getting a period suit or military uniform, while others (including myself) don a sports jacket and tie. What is certain is that you'll get more out of the event if you do make some sort of effort, and I certainly would leave the Ferrari or McLaren t-shirts at home this time!
I'm no expert on vintage ladies fashions but if the rest of the women attending are anything like my wife, I'm pretty sure they're already working out what to wear.
The Revival has been blessed with good weather over the last few years, but if it does turn nasty, there aren't many places to shelter from the elements. Given the state of the British weather at the moment, you may want to pack some waterproof clothing and an umbrella in the car if the weather threatens to turn ugly.
Where to spectate
Goodwood tries to retain the look and feel of a circuit in the sixties as far as possible whilst still meeting modern safety requirements, which means it's surprisingly free from that bane of photographers' lives, the dreaded catch fencing. My personal favourite places to watch are the chicane before the start/finish straight - probably the most likely place to see incidents - and the double apex right hander at Lavant where most of the cars are drifting in glorious fashion through the turn. All of the spectator banks will be busy, but people often move around between races so you can usually use this time to find yourself a good spot before the next race starts.
It is possible to walk around the entire perimeter of the circuit, but keep in mind that at the back of the track at Fordwater and St Mary's, the action will be exciting but you'll be a long way from the rest of the attractions and there are no large TV screens to help you follow the races. While perhaps not totally in keeping with the sixties feel, the TV screens are essential to keep track of the action. This is especially true of the main feature race, the TT Revival, which is a one hour, two driver race. Without the screens or a radio, it's very easy to lose track of who is where after the driver changes.
Lastly, large sections of the spectating areas are closed off during the many air displays. This is usually the area between the pre-66 parking and the Super Shell building on one side and just after St Mary's on the other side. Since the displays take place between the races, movement can be restricted, so if you are heading to meet someone, a little planning is advisable if you want to move to a new spot or you need to find a friend.
Access to the central paddock is restricted to team personnel, press and members and guests of the GRRC (Goodwood Road Racing Club). There is also a strict dress code, and men must be dressed in a jacket and tie (or racing overalls) and women are not allowed to have a bare midriff. The cars entered in the TT Revival and the Whitsun Trophy will be here, as well as the Formula One cars. If you're not a GRRC member, there is viewing into the paddock from the sides. The paddocks for the other races are open and free for all.
If you're an autograph hunter, your best bet would probably be to hang around in the access area between the central paddock and the marshalling area before the race, since race cars are often queued up here or at the holding area after the race is over.
If you've never been to a classic car race before, or your experience of classic car events is limited to Stateside races, yo'll be surprised at the level of competitiveness at the Revival. Despite the fact that many of the cars racing are valued in the order of millions (and in some cases tens of millions) of pounds, they are often driven as hard as possible. Drivers from the classic car world are joined by some of the top aces from modern racing to take part.
The headline driver this year is 8-times Le Mans winner Tom Kristensen, who is entered to compete in a Shelby Daytona Coupe in the TT Revival race. Formula 1 fans may want to cheer for BBC F1 commentator and ex-F1 driver Martin Brundle driving Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason's Ferrari 250GTO in the same race.
Of the more specialised historic drivers, Peter Hardman is always entertaining to watch as he hustles whatever he's driving pretty much sideways on every corner. Grant Williams is equally a star turn, as shown in the video clip below:
One other driver to look out for is F1 design guru Adrian Newey, someone more usually found on the other side of the pit wall. His E-Type is usually a frontrunner in the TT, but this year he'll be competing in the Fordwater Trophy, which is exclusively for E-Types to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the model's introduction.
All of the races are usually exciting to watch. None of the cars have any significant downforce, and their brakes and tyres, while massively improved from when they first raced, are still not a patch on modern racing cars. Goodwood is a wide, open and very fast circuit with overtaking opportunities most of the way round. The stewards frown on rough driving, but there will certainly be a few cars sporting panel damage in the paddock on Sunday night. I know people have differing views on this in historic car racing, and I don't wish to debate the pros and cons of it here, but it certainly adds to the excitement of the event.
The Goodwood organisers try very hard to get full and varied fields for the races, and each year you can usually expect to see a car or two not seen at previous Revivals. Looking at the pre-event press releases, the inclusion of a Maserati Tipo 151 in the Revival TT caught my eye. Only a few were made (less than five) and it was not very successful in period. Sporting a 5.0 litre overhead cam V8 producing north of 400bhp, it was probably the most powerful race car of the time. It's scheduled to be driven by current Maserati GT racer Michael Bartels.
Usually the TT will feature three or four Ferrari 250GTOs including the 64-bodied example that won the race last year, and the 4.0 litre 330GTO 4561sa about which I've written elsewhere on Drive Cult. The recent 250GTO celebration in Monterey may have reduced this number, but as I mentioned above, Nick Mason's example will definitely be racing.
Two other Ferraris that are often regulars but not confirmed in the press release are the 330LMB, usually piloted by Bobby Verdon-Roe, and the famous 250 Breadvan.
The St Mary's Trophy for saloon cars features cars from the sixties this year (it alternates with cars from the fifties), so if it's dry expect the big American Ford Falcons, Mustangs and Galaxies to be providing some smoky sideways action. If it's wet expect to see the Yank Tanks floundering around in the wake of the enthusiastically driven Mini Coopers.
The fastest and loudest race of the weekend is the Whitsun Trophy, where GT40s will do battle with Lola T70 Spyders, McLaren M1s and maybe the odd prototype Ferrari.
If you have a certain preference for watching a particular race do check the itinerary, since the schedule does change year on year. For example, the Whitsun has moved from Sunday to Saturday afternoon this year.
It's not just cars
The on-track action includes the Barry Sheene Memorial Trophy for motorbikes. This is a two-part race with part one on Saturday and two on Sunday. The format of this race has changed a little in the last few years as it was getting rather predictable with former World Champion Wayne Gardner winning every year on a Norton, and now features rider changes which I think spoils the action a little.
Above the circuit there are a number of air displays throughout the weekend, usually involving World War II fighters, to celebrate the fact that Goodwood was also an airbase during the Battle of Britain. At the back of the car paddock there is also an aviation concours for classic aircraft.
There are numerous sideshows and small events going on round the circuit. Most of these change every year, and are always worth checking out. I suspect there are a few fans of the fifties and sixties eras who come exclusively for these and ignore the racing altogether! Music from the period will be much in evidence and the Goodwood Actors Guild will be providing street theatre to help recreate the period. There is usually a mocked-up historic garage, and the sixties-style Tesco returns again this year.
There is also the Earls Court Motorshow building, set up as a sixties motorshow previewing concepts of the future, though actually they're just modern cars from the manufacturers. This has been a little disappointing in the last couple of years and the lighting in the building made photography difficult, although I believe this will be revamped this year.
The market area provides lots of opportunities to find that motoring book or piece of vintage clothing you've always wanted.
Finally, there's the Bonhams auction which takes place on the Friday, with the marquee for this located in the forward car parking area. Drive Cult will cover this separately.
Hopefully we've given you a taste of what to expect at the Revival, but here are a few other tips. As you've probably guessed, to see everything you really need to attend at least two days. The Friday practice day is the quietest day and probably the best to visit the sideshows. It's also the only day when all of the cars run at least once on the circuit. Sunday is obviously the busiest day; in 2010 an estimated 68,000 people passed through the gates.
The food concession stands are excellent, especially when compared with what you can expect at modern vanues such as Silverstone or Brands Hatch. However, that quality comes at a price, so if you’re on a budget bring your own sandwiches.
Lastly, simply enjoy the event - you'll have a great time!