It’s endurance racing versus Formula 1 versus NASCAR, and these guys are racing hard.
It’s a battle for third place in the first of two 25-minute races for saloon cars “of a type that raced between 1950 and 1959.” Nine-time Le Mans winner Tom Kristensen is at the back of the group in a 1956 Austin A90, seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson is flogging a 1959 Austin A40, and 2009 F1 champion Jensen Button is trying to hold them off in a 1959 Alfa Romeo Giulietta TI.
The battle means nothing other than bragging rights, but these drivers are going at it hard, sliding through corners, running the spirited old race cars on the ragged edge, and using all the track and sometimes choice strips of grass.
This is the kind of excitement you can see at the Goodwood Revival, held annually in September at the historic Goodwood Motor Circuit in southern England built on a wartime Spitfire base. Put simply, this is the best car event in the world, in part because of the legendary drivers, in part because of the classic race cars doing what they were meant to do, and in part because of the people who dress up in period costume as a show of respect for the valuable vehicles on hand.
The 2023 Goodwood Revival, held Sept. 8-10, featured 16 races for race cars from the 1930s through 1960s, along with a variety of parade laps and other exhibitions to celebrate the likes of Carroll Shelby, Jackie Stewart, the 75th anniversary of Lotus, the 75th year of the track itself, and vintage military aircraft.
Highlights of the event included action on the track and the sights and sounds of the cars and people in attendance. In the aforementioned saloon race, noted endurance racer Romain Dumas beat a field of accomplished pros teamed with gentlemen drivers. His driving skill teamed with a 7.0-liter V-8 to take the win despite the fact that his 1959 Ford Thunderbird dwarfed the little European cars in the event.
The Lavant cup race was especially exciting, with its field of 19 Ferrari GT cars from 1960-1966 that had to boast a total value in the many hundreds of millions. Pro driver Rob Hall won the race in a 1964 Ferrari 250 LM despite starting last, spinning, and tapping a wall.
A race for 1930-1951 grand prix cars ended in a photo a finish that marked a hard charge from more than two seconds behind. Almost every race had a variety of off-track excursions that only punctuated how hard these guys race for the simple joy of it.
Rain affected the outcome of the Royal Automobile Club TT Celebration, which pitted AC Cobras against Jaguar E-Types, and included a number of Corvette Stingrays. The Cobras had the advantage in the dry conditions, but the E-Types were more stable in the wet and went on to win.
Off the track, the event had more vintage iron than the eye could take in. Roaming the pits gave onlookers a chance to study the race cars up close. The parking lot could have been Europe’s best car show on its own due to the sheer number of petrolheads the event draws from all over Europe.
Motor Authority was on hand to take in the heady atmosphere and go into sensory overload over the amazing amount of racing history gathered in one spot. Each of these track cars has a racing pedigree and the numerous classic cars in the parking lot each has a story of its own.
America has great vintage historic racing, concours, and car shows of its own, but if you ever get the chance to go to England or the Revival, you’ll come away with a new respect for racing history, especially if you can catch top drivers from the best racing series in the world go at it for the sheer joy of driving.
Check out the accompanied photos—some taken by me, others provided by pro photographer Michael Shaffer, to get a feel of the Goodwood Revival.
Subaru paid for travel and lodging for Motor Authority to bring you this firsthand report.
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