2023 Goodwood Revival: A Time Machine to the Best Racing in the World

Showing up at the Goodwood Revival means you're ready to race, and race hard. No garage queens here.
Michael Shaffer

It’s easy to understand why car collectors often turn their prized vehicles into static monuments. After all, Ferraris, Porsches, and Mercedes-Benzes of a particular vintage have outpaced nearly every investment portfolio over the last few decades, making their already-wealthy owners more money than they ever imagined. As a result, we live in a society where car-crazed one-percenters salivate at the thought of buying the rarest barn find or the newest ultra-limited exotic purely as investments. Luckily, you won’t find any of these people at the Goodwood Revival.

Throughout the first half of the 1900s, cars and motorcycles were seen as new and innovative tools of escapism. Acquiring one for the sake of admiration or financial gain would’ve been considered wasteful, especially in the years following World War I and WWII. As two- and four-wheeled machines evolved through the ‘30s, ’40s, ‘50s, and ‘60s, vehicles became faster and more capable, giving back their owners a fraction of the happiness and excitement they’d been robbed of during years of military conflicts. Driving didn’t just become necessary throughout those decades; at some point, it also became fun. And auto racing became all the rage, especially in England.

It’s this sense of joy and appreciation that floats in the air at the Goodwood Revival, one of two iconic events put on by the 11th Duke of Richmond at his Goodwood Estate in southern England. The other is the Goodwood Festival of Speed, which features machinery from all time periods racing up the famous hill climb. The Revival, however, focuses specifically on the ‘40s, ‘50s, and ‘60s. It takes place on the Goodwood Motor Circuit, which started out in life as a mere service road that looped around grassy airplane runways used by the Royal Air Force and other allies during the war.

The Duke’s commitment to authenticity is second to none, so there’s a dress code for attendees that strongly suggests period-correct clothing, and even mandates ties and jackets in certain areas. This commitment isn’t limited to people, as the parking lots are also organized by model years. Pre-1965 vehicles get preferential parking, giving you the illusion that you’ve really traveled back in time as you walk up to the gate. This applies to airplanes too, which there are plenty of due to the track’s military beginnings.

Michael Shaffer

The most important aspect of the Revival, however, is the racing itself. This is perhaps the only event in the world where vintage Porsches are relegated to the smaller, less exclusive paddock at the back of the property. The reason for this is that there are simply too many other historically rich cars that deserve better treatment. So while this year you could find a dozen 1965 Porsche 911s in the alternate paddock, you could also drool at the 10 Ford GT40s with Le Mans provenance in the primetime paddock, including some Le Mans-winning examples.

You could also attempt to keep your jaw off the floor as over a dozen Ferrari 250 GTOs shared a common roof, each one a different color or variant of the dizzily expensive Prancing Horse. Everything from Lussos to SWBs, LMs, and even one Breadvan were in attendance this year for a single-make race. With each car valued at a minimum of $40,000,000, the GTO competition was quickly dubbed the “billion-dollar race.”

This leads me to my last point: Goodwood doesn’t want your garage queens. You’d think that the price and rarity of these vintage cars would be enough to make the drivers take it easy on the track, but it’s actually the opposite. Even in the case of the Ferrari 250 GTO-only event, it was non-stop action as soon as the flag dropped, and one of the cars went up in flames. Now that was an expensive oopsie.

See, if you’re lucky enough to get invited by the Duke, you better come prepared to race and race hard. This is why the roster of guest drivers is simply phenomenal—and this year it was even better due to the event’s 25th anniversary. I witnessed F1 champion Jenson Button engage in a multi-car battle against nine-time Le Mans winner Tom Kristensen, NASCAR legend (and also IndyCar and Le Mans driver) Jimmie Johnson, and even former racing driver and Fifth Gear host Tiff Needell. They banged their little Alfa Romeos, Austin A40s, and A90s together as they executed magnificent passes on each other. World-class drivers at the top of their game racing for fun and not points or sponsors, in the purest cars imaginable. It’s the kind of stuff you don’t see anywhere else.

Michael Shaffer

Three-time F1 champ Jackie Stewart even braved the hottest September day on record for the U.K. to lap the iconic circuit in his former championship-winning F1 car, the stunning 1973 Tyrrell-Cosworth 006. Other big names like Rowan Atkinson, Derek Bell, Romain Dumas, Dario Franchitti, Johnny Herbert, Jacky Ickx, and Karun Chandhok also took part in the event.

Here I am chatting with former Formula 1 driver Gerhard Berger during last year’s event. Jerry Perez

The Goodwood Revival has perfected the formula of traveling back in time, and by doing so, it’s also shown me what car culture is really all about. You can go to The Quail, Pebble Beach, or just about every other Concours d’Elegance around the world, and you’ll see fantastic cars with incredible backgrounds. You’ll also hear the outrageous lengths owners go to to make sure those cars are kept in meticulous conditions in first-class garages. Driving them, let alone racing them, is a scary proposition to most of these people.

But if you want to see automobile history in action and really just the best damn auto racing in the world, head over to England for the Goodwood Revival.

Email the author at jerry@thedrive.com