Goodwood Revival: a reader's lap in a Ford GT40

Published: 29 September 2011

Preparations to attend the Mazda MX-5 Owners' Club national rally at the weekend were curtailed by an email out of the blue. I had won the CAR Online competition to win a VIP trip to the Goodwood Revival - including a lap in a classic car. Result!

So instead of heading for Northamptonshire it was off to the south coast for the weekend. Now I’ve been to the Festival of Speed many times but never made it to the Revival before. Knowing visitors to the event are encouraged to wear period costume, my wife and I tried to put something together, but it wasn’t a good look. Resigning ourselves to the fact that you need to put a degree of time and effort, or a visit to a fancy dress shop to get it right, it would have to be normal clothes for us.

The Goodwood Revival 2011: a reader's blog

The prize included overnight accommodation so we had a leisurely drive down to Sussex and spent the afternoon in Chichester.  This would also avoid the crack-of-dawn start one normally endures to attend any major motorsport meeting these days. We booked into the motel in the evening before heading back into town for something to eat.  The car park we used earlier that was full of cars was now resident to several groups of teenagers on rollerblades and skateboards. Always a worry when parking any car, especially a rag-top. 

But there at one end someone had the faith to leave a vintage Bentley, alongside it a classic Ferrari and a few other marques. A classic car show in a public car park no less! Our 11-year-old MX-5 looked quite modern in such company.

During the short drive to Goodwood on Sunday morning you realise what an international success the Revival is. The ‘sold out’ signs and a procession of veteran, vintage and classic cars, a surprising amount sporting foreign number plates. Walking in from the car park we are glad we aborted our half-hearted efforts to dress up. A lot of people have obviously put in a lot of effort and look superb. A bacon roll and cup of tea from the NAAFI canteen and we are ready for the day.

Our lap of the Goodwood circuit in a Ford GT40

The highlight of CAR's prize is a demonstration lap of the track thanks to the sponsor Johnny Walker whiskey. We meet our hosts from the Grayling media agency at the racing bar and I am told my ride is going to be in a cream Ford GT40. We make our way to the collection area via the VIP hospitality area and have a peek in to see how the other half live.

After signing on at race control we are in the area trackside where the cars and bikes assemble before going out. Two GT40s are sitting there being used as course cars. A cream-coloured limited edition Mk3, one of only seven, and a replica MK1 Le Mans race car. 

Things are running behind time but this is not a problem because we watch the Ford parade and two races from our privileged position. Eventually the time for my ride arrives and I am asked which one I want to go in. Decisions! I opt for the race car. Strapped in, it's far more comfortable than expected and there is plenty of space.  Mind you I am not wearing a helmet and this car is fitted with Gurney bubbles for increased headroom.

Apparently yesterday, Murray Walker was sat where I am chauffeured by Derek Bell. The 4.7-litre engine is fired up and the two GT40s line up behind the Aston Martin course car. He’s just picked up a couple of fire extinguishers to drop off at a marshal's post so it won’t be a continuous or hot lap. This still offers ample opportunity for the car's acceleration and braking capabilities to be demonstrated, accompanied by that glorious V8 soundtrack. My first look at the 2.4-mile Goodwood track and it’s from a race car. Superb!

All too soon it is over and we are sitting in parc ferme. The cars are a magnet for cameras and I can’t resist some regal waves.

Goodwood Revival vs Goodwood Festival of Speed

The rest of the day is our own and we spend it dodging between the attractions and the action on track. Like the Festival of Speed it is impossible to see everything in a day. We can’t view the cars in the paddock because you need to be in period costume or collar and tie to enter, but this leaves it very uncrowded  for those that can. 

We never got to see any of the aircraft other than the spectacular squadron of ten Spitfires in the air. You have to hand it to the organisers at Goodwood; they always seem to get things just right. Making our way back to the car I still have a silly grin on my face and a bottle of Black Label courtesy of Johnny Walker in my bag.

What a fantastic day, which even the rain showers couldn’t dampen.  I’ll certainly be back and will keep a look out in the charity shops for something to wear, a sports jacket and flat cap will do for starters. Many thanks to CAR, Johnny Walker, Grayling folk and Ford for the prize.