Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, the Goodwood Revival represents something that is really incomparable in the classic motorsport calendar. Set at Goodwood Estate’s circuit close to Chichester, which has been active as a race track since 1948 (and even before as the perimeter road of RAF Westhampnett during World War II), for three days in mid-September, the whole site becomes a living museum of the late-1950s and early 1960s.
What makes it such a special fixture, and so hard to replicate, is the completeness of the experience: from the outfits worn by staff and spectators alike (the latter of whom can take part in a best dressed competition), to the actors hired to play out scenes throughout the event, and the period shopping experience Over the Road, replete with a “drive-in cinema” featuring 1950s American cars to sit in, the attention to detail is really a spectacle in its own right.
While the main focus for most who attend is the racing and cars, it is not the only way to enjoy the weekend. There are many tales of visitors disappearing into one of the many drinking establishments on site as soon as they arrive and not leaving until last orders, or sitting on the banking for a picnic with friends, practically oblivious to the battles taking place on track.
Having attended the first running of the event in 1998 and many times since, it has been amazing to see Revival evolve into something bigger and more spectacular, while retaining all of its charm. The fields of cars and motorcycles racing has evolved over the years, each year retaining many of the most important pieces of automotive design from the 1920s through to the late 1960s, while curating the rotating cast of supporting actors that sometimes draw the spotlight in their own right.
Of course the likes of 250 GTOs, SWBs, DB4GTs, GT40s and equally unobtainable peers (for mere mortals at least) are highlights, it is the obscura that piques the most interest among the astute enthusiasts on site. Such gems as the Jaguar E2A (the foundation of the E-Type), Aston Martin DP212, well-patinaed Alfa Romeo P3s, a Vincent Black Shadow heavily modified for racing, BRM P261, Iso Grifo A3/C, the ex-Le Mans Jowett Jupiter, and Scuderia Ferrari liveried Lancia D50 were personal highlights this year, but there are so many incredible vehicles present that it is hard to remember them all.
Admiring these wonderful cars and motorcycles static in the paddock is one thing, but to see such historically important vehicles duking it out on track is another matter entirely. While the most irreplaceable cars are represented by something akin to a stunt double – made possible by the incredible spares situation for top-tier historic vehicles – it does nothing to detract from the drama that could previously only be seen with the assistance of a functional time machine. Witnessing the Ferrari 250 SWB “Breadvan” battling Aston Martin DB4GT, AC Cobra and Jaguar E-Types is something that words, pictures and videos do little justice to, and really needs to be seen in person, if only for the sonic fury of all of the cylinders competing to be the loudest.
Inevitably there is a connection between historic racing and watches, and Rolex have been title sponsor of the Drivers’ Club at Revival since 2004 (as well as presenting the Rolex Driver of the Meeting with a Datejust 41), which, alongside their relationship with the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, puts the brand firmly in place with two of the most prestigious automotive events in the world.
These sorts of partnerships prove a natural fit for such a storied manufacture, whose historic connection to motor racing stretches back to Sir Malcolm Campbell wearing a Rolex when he broke the 300 mph barrier in 1935, and on to the Daytona model that was introduced in 1963 and continues to be so coveted today.
For those planning on attending, the top tip is to arrive early, around 8am, to enjoy the relative solace before the crowds arrive from 11am, totalling around 150,000 over the three days in recent years. Some sort of ear defenders are a must as well as sunglasses for when the sun shines as it did so beautifully this year, or alternatively Wellington boots and an umbrella when the weather is less obliging, which can be something of a hazard in the UK in September.
General admission tickets are a great place to start, but they will not get you into the main paddock which requires a GRRC membership as a minimum, and to be in the pits means being invited by a sponsor. The most coveted access is to the aforementioned Rolex Drivers’ Club which is granted with something that looks remarkably like a medal, perhaps proving that those who are there have probably won already before even competing in any racing.
Truly a bucket list event made possible thanks to the Duke of Richmond and his commitment to motorsport, it really cannot be recommended highly enough to find a way to attend. Without further ado, see our pictorial record below if you need any more convincing.