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The Goodwood Revival is simply the best vintage motorsport celebration the world may ever know.

It’s not just the cars -– Grand Prix racers, sports cars, Ferrari GTOs fer goodness sake — that make Goodwood great.The cars, while extraordinary (three GTOs out on the track! One punted off into the gravel!), are only a part of a much larger and far more elaborate vintage motorsport dream, and everyone, all 10 or 20 thousand attendees, are playing along.

Not only did the generous and benevolent Lord March, on whose magnificent estate is held this revival, re-create everything on the track and the surrounding grounds down to the teakwood sun chairs scattered in perfect convenience all over the acres of beautiful green lawn, but the people, the fans, almost every single person who attends this fabulous and historical happening, come dressed in colorful period costumes that even big-budget Hollywood extras couldn’t match. There are military men and women in uniform, civilian gentlemen in tweed, ladies in seamed nylons and little babies being pushed around in period-correct prams. The whole thing is like stepping into the portal of a time machine back into immediate post-war England (except that there’s free wifi).

Sure, it’s a somewhat rosy view of that time. Unlike the real post-war England, there are no shortages of anything at the Goodwood Revival. There’s ham and champagne aplenty (as there should be everywhere, of course), no one’s on strike and there is perfect harmony among the classes. But this is fun nostalgia, accurate about the good things we want to remember.

And they are good. The vendors that line the grounds don’t just hawk their wares out of cheap plastic tents. Well, some have tents, but inside they’re done up in perfect period decor. A company that does Porsche 356 engine restoration re-created an entire early-‘50s garage (pronounced “gare-raj”) and dressed all the mechanics and service lads in period-correct coveralls. On the track, when the gentlemen racers passed one another, they waved. A motorcycle racer patted his competitor on the back and gave a thumbs up when he passed as both were going about a hundred miles an hour.

The whole thing’s a giant costume ball where the dancing takes place on the front straight approaching the chicane.

At Goodwood it has always been thus. The Goodwood estate traces its history back centuries.

“The family’s been here for 300 years,” said the perennially affable Mark Featherstone, general manager of Goodwood.

They had horse racing here before cars were invented and they still have horse racing today. They also have golf and they used to have shooting (ed: and they still do!).

“It was founded on passion and remains driven by that to this day,” said Featherstone.

How did the car racing get started? During WWII there were airplanes.

“The large field hosted Spitfires,” said Featherstone. “The Battle of Britain was commanded partly from here.”

The grass airfield had three runways, still does, and a perimeter road. Yes, a perimeter road. Are you thinking what we’re thinking?

“Race you round the field,” you could just imagine one Squadron Leader saying to another. That road just cried out to be raced on. 

Goodwood girls

Period costumes extended to 1966, well beyond tweed coats. Photo by Michael Shaffer

At the end of the war, Lord March’s grandfather, Freddie March, took that perimeter road and turned it into Goodwood Motor Circuit. In 1948 the racing started. Between 1948 and its closing to modern race cars in 1966, Goodwood held 870 races, up to and including Grands Prix.

While the circuit remained open to car manufacturers for development and testing, and while several endurance records were set there, racing didn’t return to Goodwood until after the idea of vintage racing had taken hold. The Goodwood Festival of Speed, held in the spring, was launched in 1993. It is run as a hillclimb, on the other side of the estate, basically up Lord March’s driveway. With the success of the Festival of Speed, Lord March added the Revival five years later. Historic motorsports has never been the same.

This year there were races and parades all three days, Friday through Sunday, rain or shine. The cars featured highlight those that competed at the circuit in its original 1948-1966 glory days. There are races for all of them, including motorcycles. Here are just a handful of the track events at this year’s Revival:

–          Jack Brabham Tribute Parade for cars Brabham either built or drove

–          Return to Power F1 Parade celebrating F1’s bumping displacement from 1.5 to 3.0 liters with Grand Prix cars from 1966 to 1968

–          Kinrara Trophy, a one-hour race for closed-cockpit cars that raced up to 1962

–          Goodwood Trophy for GP cars that raced up till 1951

–          Madgwick Cup for sports protoypes under 3.0 liters from 1960 to 1966

–          Barry Sheene Memorial Trophy for motorcycles up to 1.0 liters up to 1954

–          Whitsun Trophy for sports prototypes up to 1966

–          Freddie March Memorial Trophy for sports cars 1952 to 1955

–          Richmond Trophy for Grand Prix cars of 1954 to 1960

There were many more; suffice it to say that just about everything that ever raced at Goodwood was represented here.

The Goodwood Revival is beyond a bucket list event. You must figure out a way to get there one of these Septembers before you die. And dress appropriately.