Motor racing at the Goodwood circuit
The Goodwood Circuit Revival meeting is now recognised as one of the leading historic motor racing weekend there is, if not the best. The rejuvenation of the original, and unmolested by time, racing circuit, based at the former WW2 RAF airfield at Westhampnett, has to be seen to be believed. I've been going ever since the event was launched, as the attention to detail still takes me aback even though I now have an idea
of what to expect.
Needless to say dad and I, as with many other diehard spectators, get kitted out in period(ish) 1950s style clothes, me with trilby up top, and a BOAC airlines bag and original Box brownie camera over my shoulder. A brief walk around the paddock area (for the paddock you need a pass, available by joining the Goodwood Road Racing Club) will convince you of the theatrical efforts that have been made in recreating a bygone era; policemen zip around on period motorcycles and pushbikes, spivs try to sell you black market stockings from within their lengthy overcoats, St Trinians style schoolgirls out on a daytrip certainly meet with approval (!), and even the drivers are ferried around the paddock in period
classic cars supplied by local enthusiasts and clubs.
The overall effect is breathtaking, and well worth a visit, the work that has also gone on to restore the fabric of the circuit and its infrastructure (witness the Shell building on the outside of Woodcote corner, or the infamous Goodwood chicane - now made of polystyrene!). Everywhere you look there are reminders of a bygone motor racing circuit, the white painted buildings and pit straights lined with rows of flowers in bloom, suitable music emanating from the background from bands and tannoys, the occasional vintage warbird demonstrations providing a welcome link to the circuits
wartime past (Dougles Bader was based here during WW2). Once you've taken all this in, there is then of course the spectacle of watching the very finest historic racing cars do battle on a track that has not suffered the butcherings that many old tracks (eg Silverstone) have gone through over the years, probably due to it being closed down and mothballed at the end of 1966. Many of the cars that raced in Goodwood's heyday are back here in action, 50 years or more since they last appeared there. In the years since the Revival meeting kicked off, numerous celebrations have been made, where fleets of interesting old cars are demonstrated on the track, linked by a particular theme, whether is be by manufacturer (say HWM) or by driver (Jim Clark, Stirling Moss, and Phil Hill just some of those celebrated).
Despite the huge values of many of the cars, it is amazing how competitive some of the drivers can be, and this has been known to result in there being the inevitable shunts that go with motor racing. Many forms of motor racing are remembered during the Revival weekend, varying slightly year on year, to keep the event list of interest to spectators and competitors. Do you like saloon car racing?? then there is a race solely for popular saloon cars of the 50s and 60s, such as the mighty Jaguar Mk9s and Ford Galaxies, doing battle with hordes of Mini Coopers, Riley 1.5s, and Lotus Cortinas and GTs, with more unusual entries from owners of the occasional Morris Minor, A40 Farina, MG Magnette, Volvo 122S and FIAT 500. Sportscars get their chances too, with Spitfires and MGBs having a good dice with more exotic machinery from Ferrari and Jaguar, while single seaters of all
flavours (GP, Formula Junior, 500s) get their chance to shine.
Motorcycles, although not raced when Goodwood was a fully functioning circuit, get their chance too, and there have been some memorable dices
over the years between seasoned racers including Surtees, Barry Sheene (sadly no longer with us), Damon Hill, Sammy Miller and others on board delights from Norton, BMW and many more.
At the end of each day, the marshalls are collected by a fleet of vintage preserved buses and coaches (some from the local operator Southdown), rounding off what has always been a highly entertaining day of motorsport.
If you stick around later into Saturday evening, you will be treated to an aerial display, usually either a pair of Spitfire or P51 Mustangs, where the pilots are in full evening gear ... they take off in the remaining few minutes of daylight, perform aerobatics and do low high speed fly-bys
as the guests arrive for his Lordship's evening soiree, then they land their aircraft before being ferried to the party, making the ultimate arrival! All in all this is a cracking long weekend of historic motor racing, where the atmosphere is decidedly retro and the entertainments second to none, with the rare opportunity to photograph priceless old racing cars in their proper habitat.
Some original items relating to Goodwood in its first incarnation as a motor racing circuit, can now be found on this page.