Reflections on the 2021 Goodwood Revival
“A magical step back in time.” We’re all familiar with the best historic racing event in the world’s strapline. This year, after a race meeting closed to all spectators in 2020, the words had new meaning.
Not only was the circuit and race-card a throwback to the glory days of the circuit until its closure to modern racing in 1966, this year the organisers dialled into the public mood and came up with a more egalitarian event than in recent times, one more in keeping with the ethos of the first Revival held in 1998.
Big changes to the layout made a difference. A new footbridge across the start-finish line relieved congestion in the two main tunnels, allowing spectators to travel easily from the paddock to the first corner, Madgwick. The Rolex Drivers’ Club (above, left) was relocated away from the inside of Madgwick to near the Pilots Club at the back of the paddock, clearing choke-points around the collecting area.
The development of a new infield area on the Lavant straight, served by quality catering, with a very good retail area nearby, was another plus. By using the adjacent spectator tunnel a walk around the circuit – essential, even for the footsore – was made so much easier. The spot itself, relatively uncrowded on Friday and Saturday, made a good location for viewing, with screens either side of the track.
And while the event is expensive to put on, needing sponsorship and upscale exclusive hospitality to pay for it all, the vibe this year was less corporate; this was the time for the people, deprived of so much after 18 months’ lockdown. “Not another bloody fashion show?!” – well, there was a bit of that, but less so than before and unbranded (or if it was, it passed this observer by). Others can judge whether donning a modern polycotton boiler suit and topping it with a fancy-dress shop trilby was really dressing in period; at least the comedy Beatles Yellow Submarine and Teddy Boy outfits remained mostly unsold in the pound store.
On the track, the action was better than ever, with grids packed with stars such as Karun Chandhok (above, right) who co-drove a Mini Cooper S in the John Whitmore Trophy.
Martin Brundle was there in 1998 as a 39-year-old semi-retired professional driver, up against Stirling Moss (69) and John Surtees (64) reinvigorated for the occasion and driving like the champions they were (or should have been). Now 62, Brundle gave everyone a lesson in the Friday evening GT race – the new ‘Stirling Moss Memorial Trophy' – on how to steer an E-type totally on the limit. Mechanical failure led to Brundle father-and-son retiring Gary Pearson’s car in that race, but in-car video of the 1980 Le Mans winner using fingertip control of the sliding Jaguar when dicing for the lead was revealing. The fact that eventual winners James Cottingham and Harvey Stanley in the DK Engineering E-type kept the Brundles at bay for so many laps says a lot. Well done, DK.
Former F1 World Champion Jenson Button was a Revival debutante and maintained a scorching pace in the TT driving one of the 11 Cobras on the grid before the car’s retirement. He will be back, no doubt. Unlike, perhaps, the more interesting and über-valuable cars of the early years: the GTOs, Cobra Daytona Coupés, Aston Project Cars and original Lightweight E-types. That era has probably passed, as has the participation of period Goodwood drivers, an exception being the evergreen Richard Attwood, 81 years young this year and driving several entries including – naturally – a Porsche (904).
Like the cinematic, fairy-tale ethos of the event, many cars were not what they appeared, but the modern professionals and talented owner-drivers were the real deal. For the record, the outright circuit record when the circuit closed in the ’60s is 1min 20.4sec set by both Clark and Stewart in the 1965 Glover Trophy. This year, Joe Colasacco at the wheel of a Ferrari 1512 F1 recorded a race lap time of 1min 23.3sec in the modern equivalent. In 1964 Dan Gurney blasted a Cobra Daytona Coupé round Goodwood in 1min 27.2sec; the Romain Dumas/Bill Shepherd Cobra captured pole position in 2021 with a time of 1min 25.8sec – given improvements in tyres and circuit surface, not so different. And the Cobra team was there to pick up Championship points that year, not make a point...
Continuity with Revivals past was maintained by Sam Hancock driving the wheels off the little Ferrari 246 S Dino in the Sussex Trophy. The car has won the race many times in the past, but generally only after a slow start compared to the big-capacity Lister Jaguars and D-types. It comes into its own later in the race, benefitting from fine handling and better tyre wear. The popular driver gave it his all but ran out of time in the end, finishing a fine 2nd, setting a time just 0.011sec off that of the 3.4-litre winning Tojeiro-Jaguar. They were the only two drivers in the 1min 25s. The fact that the little Dino maxed out at 137.7mph, the Tojeiro 150.1mph, underlines the feat.
Brexit and Covid did take their toll on the Revival. We spoke to a European collector with restoration business interests in the UK where his cars – pre-Brexit – are normally based. The process of bringing several valuable entries from the European Union to Goodwood was a logistical and administrative nightmare, though most made it with help from the Goodwood Events team. Late hotel booking was surprisingly easy, as visitors from outside the UK found it hard to travel. Those that did encountered delays at the Channel Tunnel entering the UK and a clogged motorway network once through.
Sadly, strict restrictions on flying displays have meant that the aerobatics of WW2 fighters and 1950s jets, once such a feature of the meeting, are now consigned to history. The static display was worth a visit – and it was near several bars, bathed most of the time in Indian summer sun.
Wrapping up, it was another fantastic Revival. Saying ‘best ever’ is easy, but it underplays the immense effort the organisers, entrants and spectators made to make 2021 so special in such extraordinary times. Roll on 2022.
Photos by K500