Goodwood Revival 2016: Has nostalgia lost its quaintness?

In motoring circles, the greeting of autumn is always accompanied by a pilgrimage to Goodwood Motor Circuit, for the Revival Meeting.

The event follows a similar pattern to Lord March’s other events. For one, it grows bafflingly quickly year on year, and is greeted with an unstoppable barrage of well-meaning from every corner of the press. So it should, of course! What a spectacular, kaleidoscopic orgy of well-spent money the Revival is, and long may it continue.

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Despite this deserved praise – and it is wholly deserved – I found myself in a curious place this time around.

For the record, this was my fourth Revival meeting. As a result, I knew my way around and I felt that little could surprise me. The thing about the past is that you can’t update it, and I found myself incredibly difficult to please.

Do not take this as criticism. The team at Goodwood once again put on a beautiful show, with typically astounding attention to detail. It really is something to behold: every blade of grass mapped out, tweaked if necessary, and polished to perfection.

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This is what rendered my gut feeling all the more peculiar. It wasn’t that I was bored – far from it – but the experience did little to excite me in the same way the Members Meeting managed earlier in the year. It took me a while to put my finger on it, but I narrowed it down to a couple of interlinked factors. Demand, and exclusivity.

The Revival, as I have just waffled on about, is ridiculously popular. Not in an “Ooh hasn’t Mr March done such a lovely job, it feels just like the old days” sort of way, but a “People are actually crossing the globe to get here” phenomenon that renders this section of Sussex immobile but infinitely richer for a weekend. Perhaps not in numbers alone, but in national prominence this is now larger than the British Grand Prix.

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Resultantly, it is both becoming a cliché, and harder to savour many of the more rarefied machines. With the majority of GT and Formula One cars shut off from the public eye, a portion of the wow factor has been lost.

This is a shame. I understand completely, as there are far too many people to be clogging up the narrow garages, but it leaves the event as a fancy dress party, not a motor race.

Subsequently, I felt, in my spoilt journalist way, a tad short changed when it came to mega-bucks machines. However, not one to loiter too long on a negative, let’s talk about the good stuff!

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Ironically, my personal highlight was the Austin A30 racing. I know that this contradicts my previous point, but witnessing a huge flock of established stars skid the living daylights out of a Wallace and Gromit-mobile was fantastic. It’s not an exaggeration to admit I would have chosen to drive an A30 over most of the junior sports and single seater cars. Epic, relatively unpretentious fun, in a paddock full of the obnoxiously rich.

Other gems included the gorgeous pair of Ferrari 500 TRCs. I don’t think I really need to explain why. They are flawless pieces of artwork, worthy of an event all of their own.

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I also have to mention the Earls Court Motor Show. I really think that this is an underrated corner of the paddock. In an event so hell-bent on the past, it is both refreshing and insightful to gaze at modern machines alongside their historic counterparts. The Lamborghini display was beautiful, bringing together a perfect array of significant Raging Bulls. The Muiras were, as always, my show-stealers, especially when arranged to form the Italian flag. Saying that, to have both a Gallardo Concept S and Reventon present was a grand effort.

Whilst I may have been a grumpy-boots about the increasing commercialism surrounding Goodwood, I was massively taken by the London Underground display. Without coming across as too much of a train-spotter, I thought it captured the strange romanticism that has grown around the Tube brilliantly. The busker singing ‘Sunny Afternoon’, and the ticket operators diligently answering dull questions about the quality of service in 1966 was a lovely touch.

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There are definite ‘pinch yourself’ moments. It is becoming tiresome to reiterate, but there really is no event like it. I spotted (stalked) John Surtees and Derek Bell, and they seemed to meld into the scenery without so much as a second glance.
Perhaps that’s fitting. This is their natural habitat, after all.

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The 3.0L Formula One display was glorious, especially as a Jim Clark worshipper, and the accompanying fly over (courtesy of a Lancaster, Hurricane and Spitfire) was no less life-affirming after all these visits.

The Goodwood Revival is healthier than it has ever been. I just hope that is a good thing.

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