For half a decade, friends and colleagues have said the Goodwood Revival in the U.K. is the single greatest automotive event of the year.
They are right, and it pains me to admit when Motor Authority Editorial Director Marty Padgett and Senior Editor Kirk Bell are correct.
Over the weekend I attended the 2022 Goodwood Revival. The best way to sum up Revival would be to call it the best cosplay party and racing crossover event imaginable. It’s where the classics congregate and celebrate—and sometimes, where they even collide.
This year, Goodwood’s organizers nearly shut it down at the 11th hour, when, on Thursday, Sept. 8, Queen Elizabeth II died. Her funeral would take place on Monday, Sept. 19; had it taken place on Sunday, Sept. 18, the Revival would have been canceled—as would be proper, as the whole country mourned its sovereign.
Goodwood’s director of sponsorship Mark Featherstone told MA that emergency meetings were held to determine whether it was appropriate to go forward with Revival. It was decided that the event would go forward as the Queen’s viewpoint on life was to maintain normalcy during a time of crisis, and she loved both Goodwood and the racing (both horse and automotive) that took place there.
Each day there was a short speech and then a video montage highlighting the Queen’s involvement at Goodwood, both in terms of motor racing and horse racing. Afterwards a moment of silence began and ended with a cannon firing. All flags were flown at half mast, and most European attendees wore a black arm band as a sign of mourning. One of the military displays also featured a memorial for Her Majesty.
Fit for all ages
From infants and kids to adults and grandparents, Revival is a family event fit for all ages. Extra points for the families with the period-correct strollers.
There were two pedal-car races both Saturday and Sunday morning for kids up to the age of 10. The (shortened) circuit even included a chicane. These kids have their own paddock within the paddock for their cars, mechanics, and crew members.
Witnessing the children obsess over their cars, including one that was insistent on cleaning their car before the race to ensure it shined, much to the chagrin of his mother (I see and understand you, young lad), was heartwarming for this neurotic dad.
Some parents were there dressed to the nines while others were racing later in the day and wore their race suits, but all were there supporting their young racers.
Dress to impress
Period-correct dress is “encouraged,” but it’s nearly a requirement. Those in t-shirts and jeans stood out like a sore thumb.
Nearly everyone wore clothes that would place them in the ‘40s, ‘50s, and ‘60s (some pushed into the ‘70s bordering on disco, but we’ll just call them forward thinkers).
From Navy sailor outfits and mechanics’ jumpsuits to three-piece wool suits (hi, it’s me, and yes, it was rather warm in that suit), it’s fun to play dress up and immerse yourself in the moment.
Seeing mechanics in grease-covered coveralls wearing a tie or ascot while wrenching on multi-million dollar Ferraris and Maseratis is just a normal thing at the Goodwood Revival.
An ascot or tie are technically required to enter the paddock, though I did see that rule was only loosely enforced.
A lineup of ERAs, classic Maseratis, Ferraris, Lotuses, and Cobras filled the paddock. But there was a sole Bugatti, a 1945 Type 37C, and I was told it refused to start on Saturday.
A 1952 BRM Type 15 Mk1 Chassis IV sat quietly in the paddock, but it was anything but quiet on the track. Powered by a 1.5-liter V-16 engine that put out over 450 hp and spun to over 12,000 rpm, the BRM was a screamer. When it worked. It didn’t complete the Goodwood Trophy race in which it competed on Saturday.
This is all before even addressing the white with a red hardtop 1963 Jaguar E-Type Lightweight, at least that’s what it looked like and claimed to be. Perhaps the most controversial car at Revival this year, impressions from those who saw it up close in the paddock ranged from, “that seems to have an awful lot in common with an AMG GT” to “this might have more in common with an F1 race car than it does an E-Type.” No one seemed to truly know what the entire running gear was, but figures like $20,000 per corner per shock were thrown around in discussion over drinks.
The parking lot
On Saturday people kept asking me, “Have you been to the parking lot?”
As a first timer, it was a confusing question. Why would I go to the parking lot instead of hanging in the paddock or watching the race? On Sunday, I learned why.
The parking lot itself is a car show. From a dirty, water-spot-covered black Mercedes-Benz 300SL and Aston Martin DB2, or Jaguar E-Types, Aston Martin Superleggeras, and Ferrari Dinos, the grass-covered lot you enter via a gravel road was chock full of rare, expensive, and eclectic metal.
People milled about the parking lot as if it were indeed a car show. Two gentlemen sat on the rear of a Bentley while sipping champagne while another group of friends held a picnic out of the rear of a Jaguar E-Type coupe.
Let’s go racing
There are few events that have 1934 ERA A-Type R3As racing around a track at 125 mph one moment and a 1963 Ford Galaxie pushing probably over 600 hp screaming around the track the next. Revival does.
The former was driven to victory by MA friend and Volkswagen of America spokesperson Mark Gilles during the Goodwood Trophy race on Saturday. The latter was driven to victory on Saturday during the St. Mary’s Trophy Part I race with NASCAR super star Jimmie Johnson behind the wheel.
Witnessing the massive, heavy, white Ford–which we believe had a worked-over 427–gap everything else on the track as it thundered down the straight was a sight to see. It was Jimmie’s first time racing at Revival.
But he participated in a number of races, including what might’ve been the most exciting race, the hour-long Royal Automobile Club TT Celebration.
Jenson Button started the hour-long race behind the wheel of the controversial white 1963 Jaguar E-Type Lightweight. From the moment it hit the track it expanded its gap ahead of the pack of AC Cobras, Jaguars, and Corvettes until it started lapping the cars at the back of the pack.
Until about lap 20 when driver changes began it almost appeared like an unfair race and the modified E-Type was going to walk away with the trophy without even trying.
Then disaster struck.
After Harrison Newey swapped into the driver’s seat–yes, son of F1 racing legend Adrian Newey–the white E-Type pulled to the side of the track onto the grass just past pit lane with smoke coming from under its hood. Featherstone told MA Button had gone too hard during the first half of the race, which “ended up cooking the car.” Perhaps that’s better than if it had collided with another car—which happens often at the Revival, and usually ends only in a polite ¯_(ã)_/¯ from the owner as they mull over afternoon-tea options, without a worry about the car’s eventual repair.
The one part of the show that almost no one has access to is the custom-built driver’s lounge. Situated to the side of the airfield and manned by two guards at the gate that ensure no one gets in that shouldn’t be there, it’s built as a getaway oasis for the drivers.
Featherstone noted the drivers get mobbed when they are out and about around the grounds. The crew builds this makeshift building out of balsa wood walls and it all comes down after the event. “It’s like a mirage,” Featherstone said. “Smoke and mirrors.”
Driver’s get access to the lounge and are each given four passes to give to friends and loved ones.
Each year the lounge exterior is given a theme. Featherstone said this year’s theme was Egypt, and specifically, King Tut’s tomb as a not entirely apologetic acknowledgement of Britain’s colonial plundering in Egypt.
Inside there are leather couches, time sheets and standings, food, cots to lay on, and this year the 24 Hours of Le Mans trophy, which Featherstone said was no easy feat to make happen.
Jimmie Johnson spoke with us in the lounge and said friends have been trying to get him to race at Revival for years, but the timing simply never lined up. Having raced in multiple events over the weekend the driver noted Revival is indeed unlike anything else. He’ll be back.
While the entire event is a throwback in time, Featherstone said it’s hard to ignore the future.
There won’t be modern electric cars or supercars racing at Revival (that’s what Festival of Speed is for, right?), but the team found a way to integrate what’s going on in modern times into the event.
Inside the Sky Cinema building adjacent to Earls Court Studios is Earls Court Motor Show.
Featherstone told MA the team’s incorporating the future by relating it to the past.
Automakers set up a handful of booths that pair their original model next to their latest model. BMW had a first-generation 7-Series parked in front of the new i7, Range Rover placed a first-gen SUV adjacent to the latest model, Mini had their original and latest, and Aston Martin had a DBX and Valhalla along with a classic DB model.
There were also new cars that had no past to look back at including the Polestar Precept concept, which previews the Polestar 5. The electric Deus Vayanna was also on display along with an electric Mustang from the startup Charge. Pininfarina and Porsche were displaying their wares as well.
From a small carnival complete with a ferris wheel and carousel to vendors, a hair salon, an airfield full of classic airplanes, and live music with a dance floor, there is an activity and entertainment for everyone.
Racing is only part of the fun.
Experiencing is believing
I had been told about Revival, seen the Revival online and on social media, and via TV. I’d written about Revival and talked about Revival.
But nothing can come close to actually experiencing the event itself. From the smell of the classic rubber and methanol to the ground shaking as the engines rumble by, Revival must be attended to fully grasp.
I’d recommend putting it on your bucket list and start planning today. Dress tastefully and just embrace its cosplay. You won’t be judged—well, only if you’re not dressed in something retro.
Subaru paid for travel and lodging for Motor Authority to sweat in a three-piece wool suit to bring you this firsthand report.
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