Automania by Dr. Iain Corness

The Goodwood Revival

Carnaby Street in the 60’s

Words and pics by Simon Panton (
British motor sport enthusiasts have a particular reason to be grateful to the Second World War. The outbreak of peace left a surplus of airfields and their perimeter roads just looking for something useful to do. Part of the Goodwood Estate had been commandeered by the War Department as an overflow airfield to RAF Tangmere, becoming RAF Westhampnett for the duration. On 18th September 1948, Lord Freddie March opened Goodwood Motor Circuit by driving a lap in a borrowed Bristol 400.

Stirling’s forgotten his helmet again!

Fifty years later to the minute, on 18th September 1998 his grandson, Lord Charles March recreated the moment, again in a borrowed 400. This time, as he completed the lap he found Ray Hanna flying toward him in a Spitfire at “an altitude of nothing very much”. At the time, I was standing alongside the pit straight, about two meters above the track surface, when the Spitfire flew past with the wing-tips at nose height, a couple of meters away from my face. Not the kind of experience a boy forgets in a hurry. Apart from Ray receiving a terrible telling-off from the authorities, that set the tone for the future of the Revival Meeting. The circuit had been restored to look as close as possible to its original format while having been discretely bought up to FIA safety standards with run-off areas and buried tyre-walls, but that was about the only concession to the modern world. The meeting would only feature cars which would have raced during the track’s original period of 1948 to 1966, and spectators would be encouraged to dress appropriately to that period.

Mr Bean

This has led to a very strange, other-worldly, theatrical atmosphere embracing the weekend. Dressing up and being dropped into a make-believe setting seems to encourage old-fashioned courtesy and manners among spectators, while racing also adopts behaviour not seen in modern “sports”. Perhaps encouraged by the absence, in many cases, of roll-over hoops or seatbelts, there won’t be any deliberate crashes on lap 14. But make no mistake, this is proper racing. The Mille Miglia might these days be a mere procession of rich old people in valuable cars, but at Goodwood the racing is hard but fair and you will see real damage to priceless motors.

Lwt E-Type and out of shape Ferrari

This year’s Revival meeting celebrated Sir Stirling Moss’s 80th birthday. Stirling contested - and won - his first race, the day after his 19th birthday, at Goodwood’s first ever meeting in 1948. The circuit was also the scene of the accident that ended Moss’s career in 1962 and left him in a coma for more than a month. Yet he still considers the circuit to be his favourite for the atmosphere it had in its original period and has again now.
The Freddie March Spirit of Aviation concourse was judged by guest Buzz Aldrin, flown in on a Huey helicopter and transferred to a 1961 Indy 500 Pace Car T-Bird, to make his own speech in the Stirling Moss tribute.

Jackie Stewart in Prince Bira’s ERA Remus

St Mary’s Trophy, the ever-popular saloon car race alternating each year between ‘fifties and ‘sixties cars, was this year for Minis only, to mark the car’s 50th anniversary. The two-part race was between ‘star’ drivers such as Jackie Oliver, Stefan Johanssen, Rauno Aaltonen and Christian Horner (and most points in between), for the first leg, followed by the cars’ owners for the second leg. Another part of the Mini’s 50th birthday celebration was a parade of Minis - Minisprints, Radfords and Wood & Picketts, the Outspan Orange promotional vehicle, a Wildgoose camper and on and on. Tragically, there was also the chronically unfunny Mr Bean’s Mini being ‘driven’, we were supposed to believe, by Rowan Atkinson from an armchair on top of the car (and not by somebody in the back seat, disguised as a bucket, honest).
The RAC TT Celebration is another star-fest, featuring such drivers as Marc Gene, Jean-Marc Gounon, Emanuele Pirro, Bobby Rahal, Danny Sullivan… And the cars! The value of the 30-car grid must have exceeded $100 million, including six E-Types including three lightweights, five Ferrari SWBs (if you count the ex-Count Volpi ‘Breadvan’), and four GTOs, half a dozen Cobras…
The turnout of rare and staggeringly beautiful cars is stunning every year, but there are only so many cars in the world appropriate to the period and types of competition of the Revival Meeting. Every year I expect to see nothing new and every year I’m surprised. Lotus 25 R4, for example, with which Jim Clark won his 1963 World Championship with wins in Belgium, Holland, France, Britain, Mexico and South Africa, raced for the first time in 40 years. Most astonishing, for me, was a Ferrari 156 ‘Sharknose’, of which none exist! This was a recreation, based on an original engine, transaxle and other parts, of Olivier Gendebien’s chassis 0002, which ran for the first time to spontaneous applause.
Each year I struggle with the dilemma - is it right to join in with the dressing up and pretend it isn’t yet 1966? Shouldn’t a meeting like this be able to stand on its own merits without such gimmicks? And each year I go along with it, a little reluctantly, only to find that it’s the most fabulous weekend of the year. The attention to detail is meticulous, from the Walmington-On-Sea Home Guard platoon from Dad’s Army to the Earl’s Court Motor Show, and from the ‘fifties garage workshops to bumping into Groucho Marx in the paddock. Every year we meet people who clearly have never been to a motor circuit before, with their wide-eyed children obviously enchanted by the noise and the spectacle. If only a small fraction of those people, or their children, are sufficiently bitten by the bug to go racing again, then the theatre behind this meeting has provided a valuable gateway. Motor racing needs more friends in order to stand up to the ‘mentalists who consider our sport wasteful, or polluting, or too loud as is happening at Spa-Francorchamps at the moment. Welcome aboard, even if you do look ridiculous in that hat.
(Thank you Simon for the detailed report on the Goodwood Revival. To all our readers, think about next year’s.)

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I asked who designed Germany’s first V8 for the N.A.G. company? It was the designer Paul Henze. First correct answer was Ivar Hoyem from Norway!
So to this week. Which British Queen drove an electric car around the grounds of Sandringham House?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]
Good luck!