On Sunday, I made my annual pilgrimage to the Goodwood Circuit in Chichester for the Revival, the world’s most faithful recreation of a historic race meeting. However, trying to explain to someone who has never been to the Revival is actually not quite as easy as it sounds. Yes, it’s a motorsport event but actually there’s so much more to it than that, something more all-encompassing.
Although the action on the race circuit itself is undoubtedly the main attraction, the density of sideshows and attractions, theatrical moments and tableaux taking place all around you lets you hop through different moments in history like you’re crossing stepping stones. One day at the Revival is barely enough to see and do absolutely everything you want to.
One moment you’re at the scene of the Great Train Robbery, recreated with a full-size Royal Mail liveried train carriage complete with investigating policemen dusting for fingerprints, just along from an imagining of the hideout at Leatherslade Farm, with robbers sat amongst hay bales and tractors, surreptitiously counting bundles of used banknotes. Wander a little further and you’re looking across a vast area of snowy mountainous terrain, the base camp of Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, as they prepare for their quest to become the first people to reach the summit of Mount Everest.
On the track on Sunday, there were a number of key races and parades, each with their own distinct theme and vehicle designation, including the Royal Automobile Club TT Celebration (a one hour, two driver race for GT cars from 1960-64), the Gordon Trophy (a twenty-five minute race for Formula and Formula 1 cars from 1956-1962) and The Jim Clark Memorial, a two lap parade featuring a variety of the key vehicles driven throughout his career, with a host of celebrity drivers behind the wheel. Clark is also joint fastest circuit lap holder along with Jackie Stewart, completing the lap in 1 min 20.4 seconds in 1965.
I mainly spent my time between peering down the start/finish straight from the roof of the pit garages, or in the assembly area adjacent to the track, where drivers get into their vehicles and fire them up before driving out onto the track. This is the place for press photographer to tussle to get up close to motoring legends such as Jackie Stewart, Sitrling Moss, John Surtees and Derek Bell, a range of more current drivers such as Jean Alesi and Dario Franchitti, and broadcasters including Tiff Needell, Rowan Atkinson and Chris Evans, as they prepare themselves mentally and physically for the track.
For something a bit different to the motorised transportation, there was also a two lap Tour de France parade, celebrating the history of the world famous endurance cycling event which began 110 years ago. Also wowing the crowds with pedal power were the spritely young entrants of the Settrington Cup, a firm favourite with Revival regulars, that sees an annual competition between drivers of Austin J40 pedal cars that were popular from 1949-66. These miniature marvels even get the benefit of their own mini paddock garages. The entrants all adored the appreciation of the crowds and there didn’t seem to be a single child in the crowd that wasn’t tugging at their parent’s sleeve to ask where they could possibly acquire an Austin J40 pedal car, and whether their age group was eligible for entry next year.
Although there was warmth and sunshine for most of the event, spectators received a drenching on Sunday afternoon around 3:00pm, prompting a rush to find shelter wherever they could, causing an exceptionally busy spell at the popular Tesco store on the Revival’s retro high street. The store is a fantastic recreation of a 1960’s store, 1,700 sq ft complete with all the famous goods of the time filling the shelves.
One of the great things about the Revival is the willingness of everyone that attends to get involved with the spirit of the event. It always brings a smile to my face that the effort of each person taking part adds to the collective enjoyment of everyone. Turn up to Revival in jeans and t-shirt and you’ll be the one that looks out of place.
Even the collection of spectator’s vehicles in the reserved parking area for tax exempt cars is a mini motor show of its own, and it means that the Revival experience begins for their owners the moment they reverse off their driveway. For those that don’t come fully prepared, there are plenty of vintage retailers offering great items to add to your outfit, or you can complete the look with a visit to the Goodwood Barbers and then savour a genuine hand rolled Cuban cigar or have a drink at one of the many retro styled bars dotted around the event.
You can also wander along and browse the vehicles on display at the Earls Court Motor Show, complete with art deco style façade, or the March Motor Works showrooms, including its beautiful yellow Rolls-Royce set in a sumptuous showroom. Even the skies above echo to the sound of propellers from vintage aircraft circling above, landing at the airstrip in the infield of the racing circuit, to join the Freddie March ‘Spirit of Aviation’ display area. And you simply can’t fail to crack a smile at Laurel and Hardy, who spend their time driving around the Revival in an apparently random fashion. Fate is a wonderful thing to have brought together two people who look so incredibly like their characters.
If you’re into classic cars and you’ve never been to the Revival then I cannot urge you strongly enough to try and go next year. As I said, for me it an annual pilgrimage but everyone with the faintest drop of petrol in their veins should go at least once. Even if you’re not really that into cars but fancy suspending reality for a day or two and indulging in the Revival experience it’s certainly well worth attending. All that’s required is a little imagination to immerse yourself in the elegance and sophistication of it all.