The style and glamour of the Goodwood Revival

Matthew Partridge talks to a motor-sports legend about the appeal of the Goodwood Revival car festival.

When it comes to classic car events, the Goodwood Revival simply has no equal. It is held over three days in September on the Goodwood Motor Circuit, which has over the years hosted racing, testing and track days and even non-championship Formula One events, and brings together great cars and vintage style to create one giant festival. Held every year over the last three decades, it fell victim to Covid-19 in 2020, but has returned this year.

A producer of legends

The original Goodwood hosted several motor-sports legends, including Graham Hill and Stirling Moss, to whom this year’s festival was dedicated, but three time Formula One world champion Sir Jackie Stewart has had the longest association with the track. As Stewart told me in the Rolex Drivers’ Club, his first experience of Goodwood was at the age of 14, when he accompanied his elder brother Jimmy, who won a trophy racing a C-Type Jaguar.

Jackie Stewart

Sir Jackie Stewart

© Rolex/Guillaume Mégevand

Later, the younger Stewart would himself race at Goodwood. He got his big break when testing a car at the track, catching the attention of Ken Tyrrell and an eventual place in Tyrrell’s Formula One team. So it’s not surprising that Stewart has a soft spot for the Revival. “No Grand Prix circuit in the world brings as many different types of cars, or different types of people, to one place,” he says.

The core of the Goodwood festival is a large number of races (15 this year) involving everything from Mini Coopers to Grand Prix racing cars. Goodwood may no longer be the fixture on the professional circuit that it was in the 1950s and 1960s, but, as Stewart emphasises, the contests produce plenty of “hard driving” from “up and coming” young drivers and veterans alike, including 2009 world champion Jenson Button.

Goodwood: the family-friendly car event

But the point of the revival, says Stewart, “is not necessarily to highlight the driver, but to demonstrate the quality of the cars”, as well as creating an atmosphere that celebrates the “style and the glamour” of Goodwood’s heyday. 

“Goodwood is the ultimate family-friendly event,” adds Revival regular Neil Stephens. “Even those who aren’t big car fans can’t fail to enjoy the vintage clothes and the other entertainment.” Period dress is only required in a few places, but let’s be honest here, who would want to miss the opportunity to dress up as an American flying ace, a 1950s Teddy Boy or 1920s moustachioed gent?

The carnival continues even after the last chequered flag is waved: the aerodrome is filled with vintage planes and military equipment; the “Over the Road” section hosts a huge sale of period memorabilia, with free screenings of classic films and a large bar. On the journey back to the train station in an open-top bus, we were buzzed by a Spitfire silhouetted against the setting sun, a perfect end to the day.

The best place to stay 

The Revival isn’t the only major event that takes places at Goodwood. The motor track also hosts the Festival of Speed, held during the summer. The 12,000-acre estate also contains the Goodwood Racecourse. The most elegant way to experience all the attractions, especially if you’re attending for more than one day, is to book a room at the Goodwood, a 91-room four-star hotel. 

Goodwood Hotel

The Goodwood: an elegant and prestigious hotel

© Goodwood Hotel

It has all the amenities you’d expect at such a prestigious location, including access to a gym, pool and the adjoining health club. It also has two restaurants: the Goodwood Bar & Grill, for informal dining, and the Farmer, Butcher, Chef, which sources ingredients from the estate’s farm. The designers brought in by the Duke of Richmond (who owns Goodwood) have worked hard to develop a “country-house feel”, says the manager, Miguel Abellán van Kan.

Complimentary vintage taxis shuttle you to the events at Goodwood and the hotel is lauded for such attention to detail. Indeed, van Kan expects the venue to become increasingly popular for corporate away days as the era of Covid-19 and Zoom change the emphasis from quantity to quality. He adds that several families have booked whole wings of the hotel in order to enjoy a traditional country-house Christmas experience. I don’t blame them at all.

Rooms at the Goodwood Hotel start from £150 per night.

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