The Goodwood Revival Is Where Incredible Historic Cars Gather To Race: Photos

Who’s scared to run their multi-million-dollar classics? These people sure aren’t.

byKristen Lee|
Culture photo
Kristen Lee

If you owned a multi-million-dollar historical race car, I'd forgive you for being squeamish about racing it aggressively, on a circuit, against other multi-million-dollar historical race cars. But this is precisely what happens every September in the south of England at the Goodwood Revival. I was lucky enough to attend this year, and I've got some pictures to show you.

For background, the Goodwood Revival is an annual three-day motorsport and culture festival that takes place at the historic Goodwood Motor Circuit. Cars and motorcycles that would have raced at the circuit during its original operative years between 1948 and 1966 are welcome, so the vehicles all date from between the 1930s to the mid-1960s. Period-correct dress—fashions spanning between the '40s, '50s, and '60s—is also highly encouraged.

The No. 47 1964 AC Cobra. Kristen Lee

There are multiple races that take place throughout Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Races for sports cars with engines smaller than 2.0-liters that ran between 1948 and 1955, for 1.5-liter Grand Prix cars between 1961 and 1965, and for closed-cockpit GT cars that predate 1963. The fastest race of the weekend involves the prototypes, capped at 1966.

The Goodwood Trophy

Taking place this year on Saturday afternoon, the Goodwood Trophy race was a 20-minute event for Grand Prix and voiturette cars that raced between 1930 and 1951. Seeing the drivers hurl these little things around corners was a spectacle. Some were louder than others, but everyone's arms, upon approaching the right-hander I was posted up at, went mad sawing at the skinny wooden steering wheels. Plainly, these cars must be a handful to drive.

Also, what was safety in those days? There was none. Your head is literally the highest point of the car, so if you roll or if some debris comes flying at you, that's it.

This was one of my favorite photos I shot over the weekend, of the No. 93 1938 Alvis Goodwin Special with Alex Simpson at the wheel passing under a bridge.

Ultimately, first place went to Mark Gillies—of Volkswagen PR fame—in a 1934 ERA A-Type R3A.

The Whitsun Trophy

That fast prototype race I was telling you about? That's the Whitsun Trophy: a 25-minute affair. This is a good one to see because you get your Lolas, Coopers, McLarens, and an AC Cobra 427. Especially relevant to my interests were the eight (!) Ford GT40s that raced this weekend. Every single one is perfect and good and worthy of celebration.

Here's the No. 13 1965 Ford GT40 against the No. 58 1966 Lola-Chevrolet T70 Spyder. And the No. 16 1963 Cooper-Chevrolet T61 "Monaco." And the No. 37 1965 Ford GT40 streaking past.

You'll notice I pointed out above that racing officially stopped at Goodwood after 1966. That's because these cars proved to be too fast for the circuit, and founder Freddie March shut everything down that year. But seeing as the Revival exists as a bit of a time machine, we can pretend that didn't happen yet, and enjoy the glory of these 500-plus-horsepower racers.

The Royal Automobile Club TT Celebration

Sunday afternoon saw the Royal Automobile Club TT Celebration: an hour-long, two-driver race for closed-cockpit GT cars and prototypes, meant to capture the essence of the RAC Tourist Trophy races that took place in 1963 and 1964. This is where you see treats such as a Ferrari 250 LM, Jaguar E-Types (including two of the Lightweight models), Porsche 904 Carrera GTSes, a TVR Griffith 400, a few Chevy Corvette Stingrays, and more AC Cobras than you can count.

The race started with Jenson Button in the white 1963 Jaguar E-Type Lightweight at the front of the pack and within what felt like three laps, he'd already come close to lapping the last car. So smooth was his driving and so tidy were his lines that he made the rest of the drivers—which included Jimmie Johnson, Dario Franchitti, and Tiff Needell—look crude in comparison.

Unfortunately, however, the car broke shortly after Harrison Newey took the wheel, and the team was out.

Easily the most entertaining cars to watch were the Cobras. They sounded so deep and guttural, so big-displacement V8y, it was awesome. They hurled down through the straight just to brake for the chicane and then launched themselves back out again, rear ends squirreling from all the power. There's no way these are easy cars to drive.

Two favorites to pick out from this set: First, this trio smacking dirt on exit, and then the split-window Corvette.

In fact, I thought the split-window was the best-looking rear of the bunch, so here are more photos of it.

The Jaguar E-Type (No. 32, a 1961 FHC "Semi-Lightweight" version driven by Craig Breen) will remain one of the most iconic silhouettes ever designed, and it's always great to be represented by cars like the No. 4 1964 Chevy Corvette Stingray. USA! USA! USA!

The No. 86 TVR Griffith 400 was a real treat to see, too. Hey, where is that modern TVR Griffith we were promised, anyway?

My favorite entry of the TT Celebration race, though? The No. 44 1965 Porsche 904 Carrera GTS. Against the giant, honking V8s, the Porsche just couldn't keep pace. But it was easily the best-looking car there, and the coolest-sounding one, too. You can win first place without actually winning first place.

It's truly an event like no other. To step into the Goodwood Revival is to step back in time. Modern-day companies and their advertisements are noticeably absent. The Revival aesthetic has done a fabulous job of shutting out everything that's contemporary—but this year was a little different. Everywhere you looked, flags were at half-mast and people sported black armbands out of respect for Queen Elizabeth II. It was the first time I'd ever seen the Revival acknowledge a current event outside of its own time bubble. But seeing as we were living through a historic event while attending a celebration of historic events, it was fitting.

Definitely try and attend the Goodwood Revival at least once in your life. The raspy sound of old race cars, the smell of aged engines—it all hits on the senses that nothing we have here in the United States can even come close to touching.

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