MAGIC OF GOODWOOD
LIKE NOWHERE ELSE
WORDS: JAMES FRENCH
PHOTOGRAPHY: JAMES FRENCH
Quiet, peace and tranquility is what you might expect to find in Sussex with it’s lush greenery, open spaces not to mention the rolling hills of the South Downs and indeed you would be correct. But if you listen closely, listen really closely you'll hear the rumble of engine notes growing louder and louder because nestled within Chichester is one of Motorsports iconic circuits, Goodwood. Home to the Festival of Speed, Members Meeting and of course the Goodwood Revival this mighty gem in the calendar provides some of the best historic motorsport you can ask for. With cars Invited from all over the world the weekend provides something more than a static exhibition and allows these priceless machines to race as they were intended, on the limit.
Since I can remember I’ve grown up around all things automotive and Goodwood has been a staple of my upbringing, we wouldn’t need an excuse to visit the circuit be it for a track day, sprint or breakfast meeting, quite often we would park up for a coffee just to see if anything was going on. The circuit provides the perfect canvas to photograph some great moments and for me the Revival always stands out, you know the day’s going to be good when a Spitfire flies low overhead before you’ve even parked. It’s probably one of the only events I can think of where if you don’t make an effort dress up in your vintage attire you stand out, allowing you to completely leave your current world behind, fully immerse yourself in the atmosphere and experience the golden era of Motorsport.
As you step into the circuit the first thing that hits you is the attention to detail with carefully themed re creation shop fronts, garages and actors nestled amongst the visitors it's difficult to know who’s who, oh and don’t forget the legendary riders and drivers walking amongst you with the likes of Rowan Atkinson, Jackie Stewart and the late Sir Stirling Moss in attendance. I think I was about 10 the first time we attended the event and I remember waiting patiently with my autograph book outside the drivers club to catch a glimpse of the driving stars I’d only ever heard of and see them in the flesh.
The paddock is one of my favourite spots to photograph, the Revival gives you great access with the opportunity to get up close to the cars without restrictive barriers. I love heading there first thing in the morning as the sun rises, mechanics carry out there final checks, engines fire up and the drivers get themselves ready to head out on track, everything suddenly comes to life, the atmosphere is electric. For me the people of Motorsport are as interesting as the cars themselves, they bring the images to life and provide context to the scene. Timing is everything and you have to foresee what’s about to happen and move quickly, it's one of those events where I’m on high alert all of the time because there is always something happening either on track or off it’s difficult to know what to do or where to go next!
The Grand Prix cars of the 1930’s are a personal highlight, not only are each of the cars incredibly individual in design but you’re able to see the drivers really work hard throughout a race in these open cockpit beasts. I admire the resilience of those competitors who stick to the period as much as possible with no seatbelts, no roll cage, timeless open face helmets, balaclava and goggles. The ERA’s stand out for me and having seen photos of them growing up it was only at Goodwood where I’d seen one in real life for the first time, I had no idea at the time they still existed let alone raced them.
In a flash the day draws to an end, ears ringing from engine notes, the sweet smell of clothes soaked in Castrol R fumes, face burnt and the track winding down it’s time to head home. The bright lights of the vintage fun fair light the way out with iconic Rock N’Roll providing the soundtrack and as the sun sets the day ends as it started all those hours ago with a spitfire flying overhead signing the event off for another year. Now the work begins and as I search through the thousands of images I’ve taken, I’m left buzzing for weeks after with memories that last.
Just imagine what it would be like to bring an old photo to life, to see cars from your childhood in motion, to smell the fuel, to feel the hum of that very same engine, which it ran from it’s heyday, rumble through your chest as it thunders past. Imagination is a powerful thing but to live it for real is like nothing else, that’s the magic of the Revival and that’s the magic of Goodwood.