GALLERY: This Is What It’s Like To Be At Goodwood SpeedWeek
Photography by Will Broadhead
In the south of England, one of the oldest, and most original loops of tarmac was subjected to an enforced solitude, the paddocks deserted, the old structures sitting lonely and empty. The members would get no chance to play, there would be no Festival, and, despite a slow but sure reopening of motorsport activity after the summer months, it would come too late for Goodwood’s annual Revival.
There was a glimmer of hope though, an announcement that there would be a new weekend in the calendar, a combination of all three events packs into a single weekend that would give us all the hit of motoring adrenalin that we’ve come to expect from Goodwood. Of course, there would be a catch, with the “second wave” of the virus upon us, attendance would be kept to an absolute minimum, but the weekend’s action would be streamed to everyone around the world.
Though it would be nice to curl up at home and watch the events unfold from the comfort of my couch, being there in person is always preferable. My day began at 4AM, so eager was I to get into the action I arrived half an hour before the accreditation desk opened. When it did, I clutched my passes like Charlie Bucket before I made the familiar walk from the gate, across the circuit, and through the paddock towards the media center. It was like a stroll with an old friend, as I passed racing machinery under those distinctive awnings I could make out the familiar shapes cloaked in darkness, lying in wait.
In other parts of the paddock the silence of the early morning was already being split open as touring cars and NASCARs alike were being carefully warmed up for the first action of the day ahead. I allowed myself a few minutes of indulgence as I walked across the cold concrete between the stalls, going through the requisite recalibrating that happens each time I come face to face with the level of machinery drawn into the Goodwood orbit. As the sun rose one thing was missing from the memories I’ve made here, but despite the lack of the enthusiast crowd of car lovers there was still a hum of high energy.
So began the action, with the race groups and their stars that we have all come to enjoy at the Revival, and indeed the races shared the same names, the same trophies would be contested this year in spite of the best efforts of the pandemic to stamp out fun across the board. One event was renamed however, with the Kinrara Trophy now becoming the Stirling Moss Memorial Trophy, which came complete with a moving tribute to Sir Stirling, who passed away earlier this year. There were additions to the norm, too, track demos from cars that would usually only get to strut their stuff during the Festival of Speed, like a retrospective of 70 years of Formula One with cars from throughout the chapters of history right up to more modern kit.
It’s amazing to see and hear these cars during their Festival hill climb demos, but the noise of these machines accelerating down the Lavant straight, V12s and turbo V6s screaming through the gears before the the punch and bang of the downshift descent and application of brakes into Woodcote and the Chicane was something extra special, even if these laps were “speed controlled” behind a pace car.
The rally cars were carried over from the Festival as well, although sadly not on the days that I could attend and there was a section for the drift drivers to display their exceptional car control, seemingly making as much smoke and noise as possible in the process. Now I’m not going to pretend I fully understand the rules of the sport—first to pass the flag is what I’m used to—but I will say there is something uniquely compelling about the way the drivers pirouetted their vehicles around the makeshift course, engines bouncing off of their limiters all but constantly as the smoke pours and billows.
In addition to the racing and demos, there was also a circuit-based shootout, which seemingly was a direct transplant of the Hillclimb event from the Festival, but on the Goodwood Circuit. The idea is simple: Take a fabulous cross section of road and race cars, give each one a lap, and rank the times at the end. Basically a compressed version of Top Gear’s lap time leaderboard. As is also the case at the Festival, there were some cars and drivers that really pushed, and some that opted for a more “scenic” pace, but after coming to Goodwood for years now it was a treat to see this succession of cars from such diverse eras and disciplines on the track itself this time.
All told, there were certainly all of the best elements of the usual Goodwood meetings compressed into SpeedWeek (though it was more like a SpeedWeekend), all within the safety parameters of hosting events in these tricky times. It was an admirable effort, and in terms of the caliber of cars and action, no qualifiers are needed. This was the real deal, but still, it’s impossible to ignore the absence of spectators. I’m not just talking about the big hats and scratchy tweeds of the Revival cosplaying, but more so the kids on their dad’s shoulders, the car spotting to be done in the parking lots, and the general buzz of being around so many people who love the same things you do. That is all outside of Goodwood’s control, though. Neither the potent scent of racing fuel hanging in the air nor the full volume of the riotous stampede of cars can be enjoyed through a live stream, but the fact that this was put on at all is worth acknowledging and celebrating.
Some may ask what the point is, without the fans present. But they are present, they’re tuning in to watch in collective isolation, they’re still trading remarks, jokes, jabs, all the banter’s gone to a chat stream but it’s still there. Some of them may be reading this article, and I think it’s safe to say that all the fans who didn’t get to go this year would agree that even a limited-capacity version of Goodwood’s brand of motoring is important.
The momentum that Goodwood and places and events like it have built up over the years has strengthened the foundation of classic car passion, and the organizers deserve some recognition for delivering yet another remarkable weekend in spite of all the forces against them this year. I left on Sunday evening sated and rejuvenated, and looking forward to returning next year, hopefully among the company of thousands.