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6 February 2024

Goodwood Revival: Best Event In The British Social Calendar

So IX Magazine attended the Goodwood Revival again this summer and once again it delivered a sizzling slice of a glorious age, an anachronistic extravaganza, a fantasy of Britain from a bygone age, enhanced by imagination, wealthy sponsors and superb organisation.
The whole affair smacks of time travel, where 40 years of British style and fashion from its war time heyday are slammed together: twenties with thirties, forties with fifties, with a smattering of sixties scripted in. Like the cast of actors in films of different eras are all supping in the same cafeteria, spun together to reenact the greatest moments in classic racing and flying history. Lotuses, Ferraris, Bentleys, Rolls Royces, Aston Martins, Maseratis, Brabhams, Alfa Romeos, all the racing cars of legend roaring beneath the even more evocative flying classics of the world’s collective childhood, Spitfires, Dakotas, Mustangs, Austers, de Havillands etc. Not to mention the rarity of seeing two Ferraris 250 GTO’s next to each other, numerous Ford GT40’s and my personal favourites, E-Type Jaguars strung out in a line, like multi hued pearls.
The production of this event is admirable, it boggles the mind to consider all the work that goes into this three day bonanza. The priceless cars brought in from all over the world, with their racing teams and engineers. The stalls and fair rides, with all their attendants, the planes, their pilots and support staff. All living in caravans on the Goodwood estate during this entire brouhaha. A small city springs up for a few weeks to conjure up this alternate dimension in which England still rules the waves, with great British pluck, engineering and creative genius.
Charles Settrington, or Lord March as he is formally known presides over this with the keen eye of the detailed advertising photographer he once was. Continuing the racing tradition his grandfather, pioneering aviator Freddie March, started on the estate for fun more than anything else. This is a business, but like all the best businesses, fun is at its core, with a heap of nostalgia thrown in. I miss nostalgia, call me sentimental, but hankering for past illusions of greener pastures carries hefty emotions. The swish of a cricket bat, the clonk of wood on wood, the evening sun casting long shadows, sipping a Pimms while the ball flies over the green and past the club house. Moments of heaven, reality suspended. The inexorable speed of change halted as these magnificent classic cars roar around the track, no computer aided suspension or steering, merely the skill of experienced drivers, coaxing and forcing their purely mechanical monsters around hair pin turns, careering around bends, spinning off oil slicks and into the grass. Finishing first on guts and skill alone. I wipe a tear from my eye and dream of scrumping apples rather than hunting Pokemon.
I gaze skywards as a Spitfire roars overhead, followed by another, then another. I imagine back to the children watching as these planes fought off the might of the Luftwaffe in the Sussex skies, diving and shooting in a zero sum game of winner take all. Mechanical excellence piloted by men barely older than the kids watching in the fields below. These planes, redolent with so much history, are here to be admired, parked all around the revellers with their cane picnic baskets and tartan blankets. Authentic chariots of gods strewn around with gay abandon, no longer hemmed by museum ropes, but home where they belong, waiting to take to the skies again.
As I wander, a man in his eighties dressed as a second world war pilot offers to take my camera to photograph one of the more remote planes, happy to share his joy in these kites with me. I hand over my seriously expensive camera without a thought and we chat about his love of flying.
My son smiles at our exchange, blinking in the blazing light on this magnificently sunny day, elegant in his coloured striped boating blazer. Commenting expertly on the engineering marvels, more knowledgeable than I on each model and variation. Planes, cars, bikes and all manner of mechanical wonders sputter, roar and screech all around us. The pilot returns with close up pictures of the Spitfire and we chat some more, a camaraderie shared on similar interests and respect. He beams at my son as his wife returns with Pimms. I like this fairy tale land and the people in it. Particularly the ones that are here to share in this joint fantasy. There are those here to flash the cash, but like goblins and orcs at the market, they are part of the scenery too, and simply background. The real event here takes place in the evocation of shared memories, movies and adventure tales for boys.
Many of the older generation in their 70’s remember these races when they were not classic cars, but the latest tech, the engineering marvels of their generation. The Formula One of yesteryear. All the more exciting as there were no safety rules to speak of, a mistake cost the young adventurer his life, but first prize was fame, fortune and ladies. The excitement of pairing serious racing talent with experimental engineering. Risk all, win big.
The racing legends of the world come to Goodwood revival and you can stand next to them as they rev their classic cars, tuning these priceless marvels before so recklessly racing them around the Goodwood track, once again proving their superiority in speed and bravery to come first. Risking the vast sums invested in these classic legends.
Come with a friend for a romantic tete a tete, or bring friends and family for a giant picnic and spend all day watching the military brass band or the crooners as they weave their songs amongst the crowds. There is no other event quite like this, so quintessentially British, where you are part of this time spanning event, not merely a spectator, but an actor in this period play, which is why it is the greatest event in the English social calendar. So please dress up, it is worth it!

Category: Supercars, Travel