The Epic Classic Car Race That'll Send You Back In Time
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because it’s time to dress up … and put your foot down.
By Tracy Moran
Paul Goodman has been a hippie for years, he says, proudly holding up a huge (fake) joint. His wife, Alison, and son, Edward, nod and smile. “But next year, we might mix it up,” he says, referring to the 1970s getups they’re wearing at the Goodwood Revival. The Dorset residents have been coming for years; Paul — who owns an Aston Martin — enjoys the classic-car racing, while Alison loves seeing the costumes from the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s.
They’re among the 150,000 people who steer toward Southeast England each September for three days of races featuring hundreds of classic cars on the historic Goodwood Motor Circuit owned by the Earl of March in West Sussex. Last year marked the 18th annual revival and featured all six original Shelby Daytona Coupes — to mark the 50th anniversary of its World Sportscar title — and Ferraris, among many others. The oldest cars on site, according to Motorsport press officer Jamie O’Leary, included a 1925 Bentley Saloon and Vauxhall 30/98 Brooklands Special from the same year, both of which raced.
The old-fashioned feel goes well beyond the footwear and the millions of dollars’ worth being hurled around the track.
Organizers also pay homage to the site’s legacy as a wartime air base with historic flyovers and chances to ride in the famed British Spitfire, which licensed pilots can even train to fly at the site’s Boultbee Flight Academy, the world’s only Spitfire flying school.
Great drivers and celebrities take part each year. Rowan Atkinson is a regular, royals have been known to turn up and last year’s races featured famed Danish driver Tom Kristensen, nine-time winner at the 24 Hours of Le Mans; former World Champion motorcycle racers Kevin Schwantz and Freddie Spencer; and two-time Indy 500 champ Arie Luyendyke. Enjoying his first revival this year, Luyendyke tells OZY how much he enjoys the glimpses of yesteryear. “I like the way the women dressed back in the day,” he laughs. “They look pretty good.” He’s referring to the ladies’ tea dresses, lined stockings, pencil skirts, fur stoles, miniskirts, swing dresses and well-coiffed hair, which go hand in hand with the men’s aviation overalls, tweeds and silk cravats. Nearly everyone in attendance comes in period gear, with costumed participation hovering “somewhere between 98 and 99 percent,” says O’Leary.
But that old-fashioned feel goes well beyond footwear and the millions of dollars’ worth being hurled around the track: All the installments — from amusement rides to a motor show — buildings and paddocks hark back across the decades. Visitors enjoy wares from ice cream vans, wartime tea huts, a ’50s Shell gas station, a 1965 Tesco (British grocer) complete with authentically packaged goods and even Betty’s Parlour hair salons, where stylist Jenny West says more than 200 ladies line up for victory rolls and beehives over the weekend. Add to that hundreds of stalls selling period gear, furnishings, posters and even whisky, as well as era-tuned musicians, miniskirt-clad singers, 150 period actors and a tent full of swing dancers … and you’ve got a veritable time warp.
What’s that? Yes, one drawback is the noise, and powerful cars roaring around the site in a near-constant roar do leave many struggling to hear; small children often sport aptly named “defenders” to protect their ears. The only other warning is the inherent danger of motor racing, but Goodwood events — including its Members Meeting each March and the Festival of Speed in early summer — have been humming since the ’90s with no fatalities.
So buckle up and bring ear plugs: Goodwood’s Revival, held this year from September 9-11, offers plenty of amusement for roughly $75 a day, which includes racing, entertainment and plenty of people-watching … not to mention a chance to catch a whiff of Paul’s “Mary Jane” and a buzz from world-class motorsport.