September 21st, 2010

The Antiques Road-Show – Goodwood Revival

It was a just another club meeting to the spectators on a cold March morning at Goodwood in 1960. But for one 26-year old multiple motorcycle world champion, it was his first ever car race. John Surtees lined up on pole position in an unpainted Formula Junior Cooper, eventually finishing second to the works Lotus of Jim Clark.

Those spectators had witnessed the beginning of a career that would enter the history books for John Surtees went on to drive Lotuses, Coopers and Lolas before landing himself a works Ferrari Formula One drive in 1963. He took the F1 World Championship for Ferrari one year later – and, in so doing, became the first and only man to be a world champion on two wheels and four – won the inaugural CanAm Championship in 1966, and after driving for Cooper, Honda, and BRM, founded his own Formula One team in 1970.

It was this remarkable career that was celebrated at the thirteenth running of the Goodwood Revival Meeting last weekend, which also featured celebrations of the legendary Formula One team BRM winning their first race 60 years ago (coincidently at Goodwood), and the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.

Like Goodwood’s other event – the Festival of Speed – the Revival Meeting is an event of international acclaim. But unlike the hill-climb in Lord March’s front garden, the Revival is the only event in the world that for one weekend only returns to an era where the sports jacket and Cliff Richard are seen as ‘current’.

Throughout the three days spectators are transported back to the circuit’s heyday (between the circuit’s opening in 1948 to its closure in 1966) and to a setting that even John Surtees would think was March 1960 all over again. No vehicle after 1966 is allowed within the perimeter of the course, and if you want access to the paddock you have to don your best retro clothes.

But it’s the attention to detail that astounds the crowds year after year. For this year’s event Tesco erected a full-size supermarket of the type that popped up in virtually every British High Street in the ’50s. And in the infield, a stylized frontage of the Earls Court Motor Show was open for visitors to see cars of the then- present and 21st Century cars were also on display branded as ‘Cars of the Future’. Glance skywards and braces of Spitfires, a Hurricane, a Mustang and a Bearcat carried out sorties and reminded visitors of Goodwood’s vital role in World War II. Prior to 1948, Goodwood was known as RAF Westhampnett with only the service road later giving Goodwood its racing circuit role.

The ‘cultural’ side naturally plays second fiddle to the motor racing. From 1930s racers, ‘60s F1 cars, TT-legends, and ‘50s saloons, right to classic BSAs and Manx Norton motorbikes, the Revival is a racing reverie. Though the sight of riders hunkering down on their 3½ - inch width tyred bikes along the straights, and MKVII Jaguars lumbering through the chicane is a marvel, the Royal Automobile Club TT Celebration was the crowning glory of the event – and deservedly so. The one-hour, two-driver endurance race was made up 30 entrants in cars that, when added together, was worth £100 million.

As the Union Flag fell, Justin Law’s pole-starting Lister-Jaguar leapt from the line with the AC Cobra of Rob Hall and Bobby Verdon-Roe’s Ferrari 330 LMB alongside. By the first corner, the Cobra and the Ferrari had dumped the Lister-Jag and had charged into the lead, but fifth-starting Peter Hardman in his ex-Graham Hill Ferrari 250 GTO/64 was working his way through the field and, by lap 5, was in third with barely 2 seconds covering the three of them. Half-way in saw Verdon-Roe crashing out in the Ferrari at Fordwater corner and Derek Bell’s E-Type running into the back of Anthony Reid in the Lister-Jag he had just taken over from Justin Law. But that didn’t stop Reid, as the Scotsman fought back to third behind Nick Minassian in Rob Hall’s second-place AC Cobra, and Jean Marc Gounon (after taking over from Hardman in the 250 GTO/64) in the lead. With minutes to spare Reid brushed the Minassian Cobra aside and chased after the GTO; the predominant sound in the Sussex Downs being the screaming Jaguar straight-six. But the Ferrari was just too far in front eventually taking the flag, with the Lister-Jag of Law/Reid snatching second, followed by the Hall/Minassian Cobra in third.

The last race saw sports cars between 1955 and 1960 doing battle, with the likes of Aston Martin, Ferrari and the odd Lister-Chevrolet ‘Knobbly’ closing the event. As the sun set over the Sussex countryside, the gates closed on Goodwood locking-in the period charm ready for next year.

Words: James Batchelor

Photo Credit: James Batchelor, Matt Sills, John Colley

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