Respect your elders. It's a phrase that's been repeated throughout history. No doubt cavemen had their own version daubed as images on rock walls to make sure this message lived forever. Why respect our elders? Because they've lived. They've pushed the boundaries so we might enjoy a world of flappy paddle gearboxes and nine-speed automatics. They alone can share wisdom to help shape our future decisions. Like, "Should I own a stripped-down race BMW 2002 tii or spring for a '67 Porsche 911 S?"
The Goodwood Revival is an annual homage to such conundrums. What would Daimler have done without Benz? What would Enzo have done without Alfa? Why the hell did the Italians love and hate Carroll Shelby so damn much? All answers can be found in the Goodwood paddock.
For many in attendance, the thought of dressing in fashions of the 1940s, '50s, and '60s is attractive. For me, it's an opportunity to slip into a fresh mind-set. The chance to forget about hybrid hypercars, flame-throwing Aventadors, and early-morning parking lot meets. This is how mechanical obsession began for many of our forefathers: a walk among the machinery, drivers and team owners as they shouted, hammered, and revved their way into immortality.
Yes, seeing a vintage Bugatti navigate a chicane, hearing historic Formula One cars raise their oil temperatures, and witnessing Le Mans GT racers rumble in the paddock is euphoric. When you roam the grounds of Goodwood and see the fans in all their regalia (it's hard not to look up from the row of D-Types every now and then to appreciate the time and effort these wonderful women put into their fashion research), then you begin to respect the dedication of owners and racers, ensuring the next generation understood what they were up against. Adjustable suspension? Why bother? Sequential gearbox needed? Hell, put a dog box in there and hammer it home out of the kink like Thor. The rear end faster than the front? Countersteer, dummy. The back half has the right idea.
Take a lap
It's easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle at the main entrance. There really is so much to see: vendors, private clubs, beer stations, and the vintage taxi service area. The amount of detail that invades the senses is overwhelming. Lord March and his team have gone above and beyond to offer a truly time-warping experience.
I took a walk with my friend and main reason for my attendance this year—Justin Jurgens, co-owner of British Sports Cars in San Luis Obispo, California—to see if we could find a worthwhile vantage point. We did.
After cutting through the vintage motorcycle paddock on the east side of the track, we walked across a live airstrip. Goodwood isn't just a playground for machines on the ground, it also hosts a magnificent display of craft from various periods of aviation history, most notably World War II fighter planes (from both the Allied and Axis sides).
Emerging from runway nirvana, we entered the back straight stands. The racers erupt out of a sweeping corner and rip down the straight. Formula Junior cars shatter eardrums and TT-class cars reorganize innards. And the aforementioned 18 D-Types were pure aural bliss.
Once we had our fill of wide-open throttle elation, we made our way to the opposite corner of the track. It's here that we found the S-turn and camped out for the next several hours. It conveniently featured a beer and food station without a line. A miracle in itself. A few British bitters and a proper ice cream cone with a chocolate Flake, and we realized we had stumbled upon gold. This is where the battles are fought, where engines and suspensions make or break the racers. Here is more passing, more fire-spitting, and more oversteer action than on any other part of the track. This alone justifies the price of admission.
Right of passage
For Americans, the initial journey may not be easy. First, renting a car is expensive. Then driving on the right-hand side will take some getting used to. Third, the roads in the U.K. aren't what you would call "road trip-friendly." They duck, dodge, and veer into all sorts of chaos if you miss your turn. Simply exiting and turning around aren't always options. So take a co-pilot to share the stress of getting back on the right track. What England lacks in conventional urban planning and organization, it makes up for in amazing driving roads with breathtaking scenery.
Chichester, the nearest town to Goodwood, is roughly an hour away from London's Heathrow Airport (Gatwick is closer). The city of Portsmouth is about 30 minutes' drive southwest and the best place to find a deal on hotels; the Red Lion Hotel is a good choice. But it's worth noting the need to book at least a few months in advance. And beware, tickets for the event sell out faster than the hotels.
If you do all three days, finding an appropriate outfit for the weekend requires planning and budgeting. Stroll in with modern clothing (e.g. jeans, T-shirt, and sensible footwear) and you'll feel like an outcast. The point is to make the event honest, and it's worth doing right. Women like a man in a decent three-piece suit who will cut a rug in the champagne-fueled swing dance hall.
The Goodwood Revival ranks among the top destinations for automotive aficionados, whether rich in passion or pounds Sterling. Every car races the same track, every team is given the same amount of paddock space, everyone has the opportunity to stand next to their heroes. It's all about celebrating a glorious era and its magnificent machines.