It is the Earl of March’s happy knack to transform the Goodwood estate into Utopia, and when the motor circuit roars back to life for the 2010 Goodwood Revival meeting, Goodwood is very heaven for lovers of classic cars. Styled in fashions of the Forties, Fifties and Sixties, they step back in time to celebrate the golden age of motor sport.
The retro fun begins in the car park, aka the Goodwood Revival Car Show, where row upon row of period vehicles gleam in the sunshine – driven here not to race but to bask in the glory of survival. A vintage Land Rover parks up, its passenger stitching the hem of her soignée New Look ensemble. Another visitor, kitted out in Second World War khaki, carefully immobil-ises his Alvis coupé. An optimist, he has in his sights a cluster of lovelies got up as Sandy from Grease until the cruel truth dawns. “Trans-vestites…” he frowns, excited nonetheless.
Overhead, the only Avro Lancaster in Britain thunders across the sky in legendary three-ship formation with a Supermarine Spitfire and a Hawker Hurricane to salute the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain. In 1940, this motor circuit was RAF Westhampnett, home to Spitfire and Hurricane squadrons.
Motor-racing has hitherto left me cold. But this Revival meeting effects a lightning-swift conversion. In the paddock, up close and personal, historic racing cars are deeply glamorous and sexy. When their huge engines burst into song, the sound is like a mating call. And then some. The engaging Murray Walker hears my confession and catches my drift immediately: “Have you heard the BRM V16?” he asks, explaining that the howl of this
ambitious, supercharged 1.5-litre beast is iconic. Raymond Mays founded British Racing Motors in 1945. His noble aim was to produce a world-beating British car, the V16 being a first attempt. “Bastard of an engine,” offers David Spreckley who had family connections to the V16’s funding but is now in thrall to his V12 Aston Martin Vanquish, the marque driven by James Bond in Die Another Day. BRM’s first Formula 1 victory came in 1950, right here at Goodwood, and the Revival delights fans with the world’s largest collection of BRMs, the majority in running order. Legends such as Jackie Stewart, who scored his first grand prix in 1965 driving a BRM P261, will brave the circuit once again.
Enthusiasm makes a mockery of Murray Walker’s 87 years. “Everyone is having a cracking time,” he says. “I cannot find the words to express my admiration and respect for Charles March. Goodwood’s Revival and the Festival of Speed are unique, archetypal English events, the like of which you’ll find nowhere else in the world. And they are done to perfection.”
Martin Grant-Peterkin runs the Historic Grand Prix Cars Association and distinguishes the Revival from other historic race meetings at circuits such as Brands Hatch, Nürburging or Spa in Belgium. “The Revival is an event unto itself,” he says. “A one-off. You have to be invited by Charles March to race here. So entry is free and the hospitality wonderful.” Historic racing is a broad church. “Some owners have the car looked after by professional mechanics,” he says. “These owners fly or drive into the race circuit, put on their overalls, climb into the car, drive it, say ‘thank you very much’ and go away. At the other extreme, various owners have their car at home, load it on to a trailer, tow it to the racetrack behind the family shopping car, drive it, then take it home and settle it for the next race.
“If an owner is the wrong side of 65 he may get an ex-professional racing driver, a friend or relation to drive the car for him,” he continues. “Or he may drive it himself, possibly having raced as a youngster, not necessarily as a professional. He enjoys the thrill of racing and everything that goes with it: the noise, the smell…” Grant-Peterkin, late of the Scots Greys, is misty-eyed. “I bought a racing car when I was quite young and went motorracing. And I started racing Formula 4s when I was posted back to England in 1969.”
Advancing age (he was 35) diverted him into historic racing – “until I had a very serious accident at Oulton Park and my wife pointed out this was no way to behave. But 10 years ago I bought back the Formula 4 that I had raced in 1969 and ’70 and subsequently sold, and now my son races it, which is rather fun.” Is danger part of the attraction? “Half a dozen times a year somebody gets hurt. But they are mendable,” he chuckles. “Rather like these, motor cars are mendable. Nowadays, if you have an accident in your old racing car, you don’t just throw it on the scrap heap. You are 99% certain to get it on the road again.”
A car may be crashed and repaired to the point where the single original feature is, say, the steering wheel. Yet it remains an authentic historic car if it can boast a traceable history; provenance also decides its monetary value. “Remus”, the famous ERA built in 1935 for Prince Bira, is such a car. Raced and crashed without mercy from 1959 onwards by the Hon Patrick Lindsay and his sons, it came to market in 2010. Discreet auctioneer Adrian Hamilton laughs, “We were asking £750,000…” and adds, tellingly, that the market is buoyant. “I sold a 1955 Mercedes Benz grand prix car for $20 million back in 1990 in Europe, but the big ticket cars tend to end up in America.” In a recent private sale a 1935 Bugatti Type 57SC was acquired by an American collector for $30 million to become the world’s most ex-pensive car. Collectors and racers are different animals but the growing clout of cash dismays racing’s traditionalists. Racer and mechanic Richard Ames says, “Relatively speaking, this is a rich man’s sport. But it doesn’t have to be – if you are able to prepare the cars yourself.”
Ames details his current obsession. “I’m restoring a car that was crashed in the 1980 Macau Grand Prix. It was deemed unrestor-able but I’m halfway to having a 1970 F2 car that will be worth about £80,000.” Weighed against the forensic joys of restoration, profit is as nothing. “I’ve talked to the original owner and everyone concerned with the car; got all the results, the photographs. Everything.” Mike Harting paid £25 for his car – albeit a Dinky replica of his 1951 front-engined HWM primed for Ian Nuthall to drive in the Richmond Trophy race. Such is Harting’s charm he can hold my attention with talk of triple 45 DCOE Weber carburettors. “We were gentleman garagistes – we
raced for fun.” In truth, HWM – a hoestring operation lasting just seven years – pioneered Britain’s post-War international success. “We were the first team to race and to win in Europe after the War,” he recalls. “Stirling Moss was driving for us: he won his first grand prix in an HWM. Then it got rather expensive and we started building sports cars. There’s one racing here, actually.” Could there be a higher accolade?
Hamburg’s Thomas and Suzi Steinke are accessorised with a 1949 Maserati 4CLT. “I’m only the driver,” laments Thomas, the owner being businessman Wolf-Dieter Baumann. “Cars are much expensive. This is worth perhaps £700,000 and some of the owners employ a professional driver. Like horse-racing, when you put the car on the first starting grid, it’s worth a little bit more money.” Suzi chips in with, ‘Thomas is so professional and passionate. I’m so proud of him.” Steinke’s company prepares historic racing cars and the family girdles the earth on the historic racing circuit; Mexico comes hard on Goodwood. It is a close-knit community, Steinke says, “a very, very special way of life.” Richard “Dickie” Attwood, victorious at Le Mans in 1970 in a Porsche 917 and now behind the wheel of
a BRM, takes up the theme of camaraderie. “In the old days, it was important. There’s a certain due respect be-tween drivers.”
Attwood, born in 1940, was “without a bloody clue what to do in life,” when he left Harrow. “My father had garages, so I had always been around cars. He had done some Brooklands races before the War, so it was in the blood. Essentially, he became my sponsor.” Sport’s celebrity circus had yet to be invented. Attwood sold his winning Porsche: “it was my pension fund!”
Two months ago, in his first Classic Le Mans, again in a Porsche 917, he finished sixth out of 64. “It was a serious race,” he says. “The car is hugely fast and still as dangerous as it was as far as protection’s concerned.” Why does racing consume him? Modest to a fault, he says: “In life, you quite like doing something if you know you’re halfway decent at it.” I put the same question to Sir Stirling Moss, possibly Britain’s most famous racing driver. Aged 80, he is driving his 1956 OSCA FS372, and relishing this “difficult” circuit. His reply is poignant. “Motor- racing has been my life. It has given me a tremendous amount of pleasure, and therefore the idea of stopping… I would miss it too much.” Ian Nuthall, his co-driver today, re-ports, “When he jumps in a car it knocks 20 years off him.” Sir Stirling topped and tailed his career here with a win in 1948 and a crash in 1962. “I like the place,” he says. “I like the people and the atmosphere.”
His career spanned Formula 1’s evolution from amateurism to hard-nosed professionalism. Is it the same sport? “It is no longer sport,” he says with feeling. “It’s a very, very successful business. For instance, if Lewis Hamilton wins a race, he has to go and talk to his sponsors. If I won a race, I’d go and chase a pretty girl.”
The Revival meeting encompasses passion, derring-do and fair play. Sir Stirling Moss, the quintessential sportsman and a true gentleman, epitomises its very spirit.