Goodwood Revival 2013 - Some Reminiscing

Written by Kurt Schleier | Saturday, 19 October 2013 17:40

rsz img 0763Perhaps stating the obvious, this year’s Goodwood Revival was a rather extraordinary event. It generally is. The Revival never disappoints in terms of cars of course, it can’t really disappoint seeing the selection of cars that turn up on Goodwood’s tarmac every year. Although, the line up of cars might have been a tad less eccentric than at last year’s edition; who could forget that grid full of 1930s Silver Arrow Grand Prix cars? There was no Auto Union or Mercedes-Benz to be seen this year. Instead, crowds were offered several Ford GT40s which, is a great organisational feat of course, but frankly, they don’t really float my own personal boat. Though, for me, the drivers more than made up for it with some splendid racing.

Perhaps it should be said that this edition was even more about the people than previous editions. All the people that flock towards Goodwood either as drivers, mechanics or spectators, with most of them in immaculate period attire. Dressed in a flowery dress or suited up in tweed spectators elegantly made their way along the track and into the paddocks, until the rain arrived that is. Which is inevitably did, as it’s England of course. Friday was rather wet to start with and an extra challenge for the drivers to find their limits, their cars’ limits and the track’s limit. It seemed as most balanced right on the edge of going quick or messing up a lap in their efforts to drive smoothly and return to the paddock safely. Friday also saw a fabulous array of cars originally driven by Jim Clark taking to the track. As competitor Lorraine Gathercole, driving a Lotus 18 Formula Junior, reminsced:

“Before qualifying I was taking part in a Jim Clark Tribute Parade, a collection of more than 30 cars that had been driven by Jim Clark during his illustrious career. This all went to plan and I shared the track with cars as varied as the Lotus Elan, Elite and Cortina to Formula One Lotus 18, various specs of Lotus 49, and a Lotus Turbine powered Indy car. We left the assembly area behind a safety car and formed up on the grid for a press photo opportunity. We then set off for a lap (no overtaking allowed) and came round to see the chequered flag and round again for an ‘in lap’. At this point you should note that I had been loaned the original helmet of Mary Wheeler, Founder for the BWRDC which had been used in the 60’s by Mary. I had not used an open-face helmet before, but now know how uncomfortable even a little rain is – it felt like hail stones!”

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The Revival is about theatre too, of course theatre on the track, but along the track too. And above the track; the selection of World War Two fighter planes were perhaps the only bright bits up there in the sky (at least on Friday). Flying perfectly in formation the pilots navigated their Spitfires over the track for various shows between racing. Other than that, Laurel and Hardy, for some reason, turned up in a pre-war car, a midget clown added some more drama while lots and lots of nice acting ladies were available to be photographed. You might wonder at this point where my photographs of these ladies have gone and rightly so, but honestly, I don’t know, I blame the cars, I just got distracted by the machinery. So, returning to the theatre on the track, it should be clear I don’t mean so much carnage on track, but rather splendid and respectful racing. It was quite clear that most competitors at the event took on this mindset. At the very least because of the consequences if you didn’t behave, as Lorraine Gathercole related: “We were left in no doubt that bad driving would result in no further invitations to the event, and that the future of the event lay firmly in the hands of the drivers.”

Historic racing events usually appear to serve up a plethora of mostly British racing cars, with the odd car from another European country or the USA. The Revival proved a different experience. The Glover Trophy for 1.5 Litre GP cars for example offered a Ferrari 1512, it stood out from the pack with its spine-tingling V12 engine noise. Yes, it really was as good as you imagine it was! It didn’t do terribly well racing-wise, finishing just twelfth. While, inevitably (seeing the number of Loti/Lotuses) Andy Middlehurst in a Lotus-Climax 25 finished first. The Richmond Trophy for front-engined GP cars saw some more exotic machinery featuring a Scarab-Offenhauser, a Ferrari 246 and Ferrari 500. That is not to say the other cars were not exotic. You don’t see a BRM Type 25 everyday (finishing first) nor an Aston Martin DBR4 (failing to finish).

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The ‘lower’ formulae had some interesting stuff to offer too of course. The Chichester Cup for Formula Junior cars for example. With an array of interesting cars racing, most of which I had never heard of, probably for a good reason as some were desperately slow compared to the more established Elvas and Coopers. Determined (or could I say ‘ballsy’) drivers like Chris Drake or Andrew Wilkinson battled it out for the win, further down the order we find Lorraine Gathercole racing her Lotus 18 again. Saturday proved a challenge, as Lorraine puts it:

By 4pm it’s time to start getting ready. Warm the engine, change from 1960’s dress and hat in to race overall’s and helmet, and down to the assembly area. There was a drivers’ briefing just before the race, where they reminded us of the Union Jack start procedure and to have a good race. Then it’s time to go out of the assembly area and on to the grid Row 8 on the outside. 3 minutes, 2 minutes, 1 minute – start engine, thumbs up to David, 30 seconds – slip in to 1st gear, 5 seconds – 7000rpm, but oh no, the driver of the car 2 rows in front of me has both arms raised, flag goes up and immediately down and off we go, I successfully navigated past the stalled car, only to discover another 2 rows further up! Safely past that too and away, very well considering I hadn’t started a race in this car for 3 and a half years. At the end of the first lap I was up to 14th, not that I had any idea, although I obviously knew I had had a good first lap. I hung on for 4 laps until, I don’t know why, I span at the Chicane ending up on the very wet grass with the car stalled. Yellow flags waving frantically I turned her off, then on again and restarted her (on the third attempt she obliged!) I squirmed back off the wet grass and back onto the track. Totally out of position and feeling confused by what had happened I focussed on doing what my original intention was – to finish. I finished 18th, disappointing from where I had been but up on my hope of top 20. So smiles all round, but no time to enjoy the moment – we have a Ball to go to!”

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In terms of celebrity racers, the RAC TT, provided much spectacle too. It has been mentioned elsewhere that this was possibly the best race the Revival has ever seen with a surprising victory for Wolfgang Friedrichs and Simon Hadfield. The, inevitable, wet conditions led to a chaotic end of a race that had already been chaotic from the start. Leader Jean Alesi in a Ferrari 250 GTO was penalised for a jump start, the safety car was deployed to make repairs to the chicance, journalist Chris Harris stormed into the lead in a Lister before having to pit halfway through the race and seeing the safety car appear on track again after Tom Kristensen ended up in a gravel trap. Enough action on track you might think, but then the rain set it and it saw the Lister, now driven by Ex-BTCC star Anthony Reid, struggle to the point where the Aston Martin Project 212 driven by Hadfield sailed, literally, past and into the lead to win a spectacular race under appalling conditions.

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Sunday saw more racing action, eventful especially for Lorraine Gathercole, who not only won the ‘Goodwood Revival - Fastest Lap by a Lady Driver’ prize but also noted another experience she had made to me:

“No rush for Sunday morning as I only had the Jim Clark Tribute today, but with so much going on I just couldn’t sleep in, so back up ‘Everest’ for breakfast. The weather was not so good today, colder and more predominantly wet, but the show goes on and we enjoyed looking around some of the trade stands and at the Vintage aircraft, oh and we watched some daredevil motorbike riders in the Wall of Death! The Tribute today was at lunchtime and at the drivers’ briefing I was in the most illustrious company. I was going to be on track with Sir Stirling Moss, John Surtees OBE, Tiff Needell, Tony Brooks, Jackie Stewart & Dario Franchitti – I just couldn’t believe it. Unfortunately, time was running short and they had to cut the time down to an out and an in lap, but what fun, waving to the enthusiastic crowds all the way around this magnificent track, again wearing Mary’s helmet, and again it rained! But it didn’t stop me smiling, and it still hasn’t.

That is, arguably, the spirit of the Revival, one has the opportunity to relive a by-gone era and enjoy the virtues of that era. And despite coming with a heavy price tag and guaranteed rain, it can’t fail to put a smile on one’s face. Moreover, people have the opportunity to bump into motor racing royalty with very little effort. That said, the smile on my own face did disappear eventually, even though I took  a rain coat with me, the rain ended my weekend early sadly, I think it’s the soaked trousers and socks that did it!

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All the racing results of the Goodwood Revival can be found here.