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16 Jul, 2009

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Goodwood Revival Meeting

Someone said that Goodwood Revival is like what motor-racing used to be and if that’s a fact I even more would like to have been a racing driver during the fifties and sixties. I have heard so much about the myth Goodwood, but to really understand what it is all about, you have to go there and just walk in through the main entrance and within seconds you are back in time. It was really like going into a time machine, all of a sudden it felt like being a part of a movie set, and the circuit, the buildings, the cars and airplanes, everything is like it was before I even was born. Another thing that is true about this race meeting is that everybody is smiling, I have never been to a race where everybody is so kind and helpful, which of course made the experience even more memorable.

The drivers briefing is normally not one of the highlights during a race weekend but this time I loved every minute of it. Just to sit beside Stirling Moss, Emerson Fittipaldi, Jackie Stewart, Jacky Ickx and all of the other top drivers from the last 50 years is totally unreal. To be racing together on the track is even more fantastic, almost on the day 60 years ago Stirling Moss won the first race at Goodwood just aged 19 and the past weekend I was racing with him on the same circuit – this was undoubtedly one of the best moments of my career.

The Fordwater Trophy

I have to admit that the first lap in the beautiful Porsche 356 Pre-A from 1953 was something of a chock to me, into the first corner with speed and I was sure there was a flat tire or that something had broken. I am used to wide slick tires, loads of downforce and over 500 horsepower,  and with this car I had nothing of that kind to rely on so the learning curve had to be very steep. Unfortunately was the qualifying the only track time that was available so before the race I had just done 9 flying laps which was way to little.

Another factor that made my job even more difficult was that the car was geared for Le Mans so both third and fourth gear was too long which gave me no good drive through some of the important corners. I qualified in position fifteen and maintained the position during the first lap, after a couple of laps my tyres started to work better and I passed one car before I started a good fight with a Jaguar XK 120. It was very satisfying to be able to pass him on the outside in the Madgwick corner and I wanted the race to be longer than twenty minutes because for every lap I was going quicker and quicker. Even if I closed in on some of my competitors in the end of the race, I had to settle for place thirteen after a race that was much more rewarding and fun than I thought it would be. One thing is for sure, I would like to come back to Goodwood next year but if that happens I will prepare myself much more for the task and do some proper testing with the car before the race.

Goodwood Revival

The Goodwood Revival came to life in the autumn of 1998 – a dream come true for the Earl of March, whose grandfather – the ninth Duke of Richmond – had first opened the motor circuit at Goodwood in 1948.

The aim of the event is to relive the glory days of Goodwood Motor Circuit, which – along with Silverstone – was Britain’s leading racing venue during its active years between 1948 and 1966. During this time it hosted contemporary racing of all kinds, including Formula One, the famous Goodwood Nine Hours race and the celebrated Tourist Trophy sports car race.

Now, for three late summer days each year, the circuit echoes to the spine-tingling bark of golden-age Grand Prix cars from the Fifties and Sixties, thundering sports and GT cars, as well as historic saloon cars and little-seen Formula Juniors. Many of these important historic racing cars are driven by famous faces from motor sport past and present. Sir Stirling Moss, John Surtees, Sir Jack Brabham, Sir Jackie Stewart, Jacky Ickx, Emerson Fittipaldi and Arturo Merzario will all taken part at the Revival this year.

But the Goodwood Revival is far more than a series of races for historic cars: it is a magical step back in time and a chance for visitors to revel in the romance of motor racing as it used to be.The lovingly restored circuit is unchanged from its heyday, and great lengths are taken to ensure that everything on the site is exactly as it was. 

This means that no modern vehicles are allowed within the circuit perimeter throughout the weekend. Period vehicles provide all essential services and competitor support. The Revival’s Period Transport Corps supplies a unique taxi service for competitors and VIPs. In 2007 around 250 pre-1966 vehicles serviced the site, from fleets of WW2 Jeeps and 1950s trucks and vans to an array of classic passenger cars and Rolls-Royce limousines. A fleet of classic tractors tow passenger-carrying trailers around the perimeter road, taking visitors to the prime viewing locations all around the circuit. It’s a big operation.

It is not just the circuit and the vehicles that have an authentic period look….

It is not just the circuit and the vehicles that have an authentic period look. All circuit staff dress in appropriate period clothing from the 1940s and 1950s, and each year more spectators and competitors get into the effervescent Goodwood spirit by dressing the part, considering it all part of the fun. In the paddock you may even encounter all kinds of period characters, from ‘spivs’ selling nylons and watches from beneath their coats, to Mods and Rockers and even the Dad’s Army Home Guard. Bands play authentic 1950s music, the food outlets sell fish and chips wrapped in reprints of 1950s newspapers, and even the corn stooks on the circuit infield are made from a specially-grown crop with extra-long stalks for hand cutting rather than combine harvesting.

Goodwood circuit is also unique for its planted borders, with around 4,000 hydrangeas bringing beautiful florid colour to the track. There are even flowers on the top of the chicane, just as there always used to be. 

Aside from the intoxicating entertainment on the track, there is breathtaking action in the skies above this former Battle of Britain airfield as Spitfires, Hurricanes and Mustangs perform elaborate swoops and dives over the circuit. There are also flying demonstrations from a host of other period aircraft, making the Revival almost as revered for its glorious air shows as its thrilling motor racing. The Freddie March ‘Spirit of Aviation’ concourse d’elegance, held for the first time last year, will again take place with an every-growing number of aeronautical beauties on show.

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