Spirit of Goodwood
SEPTEMBER 21, 2011
The Goodwood Revival is about sounds, sights and smells, all of which can bring grown men close to tears. With the last international race having been held at Goodwood in 1966, anything up to and including that date is kosher. And I mean anything.
Spectators and participants, encouraged to wear period dress, embrace the concept with an enthusiasm that has you smiling as the most elegant styles imaginable emerge somewhat nervously from cars and then parade with increasing confidence and swagger towards the entrance.
If you arrive in a vehicle registered before 1966, there is a field reserved specially for you. The lines of gleaming motors in this car park stretch as far as the eye could see: hundreds of models and, guaranteed to be among them, the type of car in which you learned to drive - assuming you are of a certain age, of course.
The more senior citizens are to be found by the fence edging the grass airfield, grey heads turned skywards in silent reflection. The Goodwood Revival is not just about recreating the motor sport action of the Forties, Fifties and Sixties; it also pays tribute to the World War II squadrons based here when the fighter base was known as Westhampnet. To see a Spitfire parked on the grass in the September sunshine is a stirring sight itself, never mind when they put no less than 10 of them into the air, the mellow 'thrumm' of the Rolls Royce Merlin V12 stirring the blood like nothing else.
Seeing so many examples of these 60-year-old aircraft become airborne raises the obvious question: are they original? The answer is no; not completely. In simple terms, if you have the equivalent of the aircraft chassis plate, then you can more or less rebuild the 'plane around it. If you think about it, that's the way it has to be from an air-worthiness point of view.
With racing cars, the argument is slightly different because, of course, the car is not going to fall out of the sky if an elderly part begins to fail. And the question here is: how far can you go when recreating a racer from the past?
I took a look inside the Shelby American Cobra Daytona Coupe driven to victory by Kenny Brack and Tom Kristensen in the prestigious RAC TT Celebration race. The Cobra has been rebuilt from the ground up. It is mint. Immaculate. Show room condition. Not a scuff mark, stone chip or crazed piece of bodywork to be seen.
I much preferred to look around the AC Cobra driven by Gerhard Berger (that's before Gerhard stuffed it well and truly during practice) and see drill holes in the floor, radiator meshes that had been tapped reasonable straight and other indications that this car had been used.
I'm told the Brack/Kristensen car has provenance of some sort, which is all that matters at Goodwood. Unlike some historic events, the Revival is about spectators and providing the sight and sound of cars they might otherwise never get to see. The argument is this: okay, the bodywork of that Lancia D50 is brand new but would you rather have the fabulous sounding V8 and its transmission (which are original) sit silently in a shed in Italy?
But I do draw the line at ageing racing cars with roll-over bars. Some of them - and I won't mention names - look hideous, not to say deeply offensive to the eye of anyone who saw the original go racing. If you don't feel happy competing in one of these cars without a roll-over bar - then don't race it! Take it out for demo runs; have it sitting for all to admire in the paddock. But don't butcher it with the tubular equivalent of a matador facing a bull with polystyrene cubes on the end of its horns.
There was nothing contrived about Lawrence Auriana's Maserati Tipo 151 (entered by Briggs Cunningham in the 1962 Le Mans 24 Hours). This splendid car was driven brilliantly in the wet as Derek Hill charged through the field. The son of Phil (1961 F1 World Champion) would have finished second behind the Cobra Daytona Coupe had it not taken Hill and his co-driver, Joe Colasacco, 42 seconds to adjust the seat belts during change-over due to a dramatic difference in height between the two drivers.
Auriana is a Wall Street financier who, unlike many in his trade, uses his money wisely. I suppose I would say that when he spends some of it on motor sport - even to the extent of shipping to England his evocative and original ex-works Maserati race car transporter, simply to allow it be parked in the paddock and add to the sense of occasion.
Auriana and his team won the Spirit of Goodwood Award. It was an appropriate accolade given the infectious spirit infusing Goodwood from race track to paddock to airfield - not forgetting the pre-1966 car park sparkling in the distance. But if you're planning on coming next year, make sure you leave your designer labels and roll-over bars at home.
Maurice Hamilton , a freelance motor sport writer and broadcaster since 1977, is the author of more than twenty books and contributes to websites and magazines worldwide.
His weekly column for Grandprix.com was Highly Commended in the 2011 Newspress New Media Awards.