The highlight of the fall classic racing scene is the Goodwood Revival held at the old Goodwood Motor Circuit (www.goodwood.co.uk) each September in Sussex. The original circuit was adapted from part of the RAF Tangmere WWII fighter aerodrome in 1948. Along with Silverstone, it became the premier British motor racing circuit until closing in 1966 due to poor road access and noise complaints from neighbouring villages.
The Dukes of Richmond have owned the estate since 1697. The present Duke established the Goodwood horseracing track, home of the week-long Glorious Goodwood. His son Charles, the Earl of March, is the force behind both the Goodwood Revival and the Festival of Speed, which is a speed hill-climb using the main drive of Goodwood House.
The Festival of Speed takes place every June with an attendance of 150,000, and is certainly the best-attended historic automobile event in the world. Part of the Festival's appeal is its access-all-areas policy, which allows any visitor into the pit and paddock areas with no exceptions-no matter how famous the driver or expensive the car.
The Revival uses the old race circuit exactly as it was in 1966, including a period restoration of the buildings, with the exception of grassy banks to contain the noise and allow better viewing. Close to the main entrance is a special car park for pre-'66 cars. Within the circuit, all service vehicles, parked tow cars, and transporters have to be pre-'66.
When I first attended in 1998, a jacket and tie was essential to enter the paddock, but now almost all of the 100,000 visitors dress in vintage clothes. Many dress up in outfits that have been in their families for years
On this occasion, I arrived early in my '64 Corvette convertible, dressed in a madras jacket I had worn in August 1967 when photographed with the first '68 Vette on East Jefferson Avenue in Detroit.
Goodwood is a place to meet old friends, but it was a treat to find Karl Ludvigsen signing copies of his latest book, The V12 Engine. Karl, who has lived in England for many years, was previously technical editor of Sports Car Illustrated and then editor of Car and Driver. He wrote the first significant book on the marque, Corvette, The Star Spangled Sports Car: The Complete History in 1973, which is presently under revision for republication by Bentley Publishers. My distant cousin, Ryan Falconer, gets a mention in the book for his 9.8L V-12 version of the Chevrolet small-block, one of which is installed in a C4 and is on display at the Bowling Green Museum.
I visited Goodwood to see Corvette racing, especially Adam Ruddle in his Cunningham Le Mans replica. He finished in the top ten in the Fordwater Trophy after enjoying a tremendous dice with a TVR Grantura.
When I tracked him down in the paddock afterwards, he had already changed out of his racing suit and was dressed as a pre-'66 U.S. Army sergeant. Adam had phoned me two years ago, looking for a cheap car to make into a Cunningham '60 Le Mans replica.
Two days later I heard about a local, abandoned project with a missing interior, and put Adam in touch, which resulted in an immediate purchase. With his father, Norman, he built the car in six months and was invited to drive it at Classic Le Mans in 2004. Another race at Donington Park led to an invitation to Goodwood, where American cars are always popular.
His is a convincing replica from a distance, looks spectacular on the track, and-unusual among historic Chevy racers-actually runs a genuine 283 block, identified by its crankcase ventilation behind the distributor
In the Fordwater Trophy, the car was matched against other '58-'62 production-based sports cars, including AC Ace, Austin Healey 3000, Daimler SP 250, Lotus Elite, and Porsche 356. All those cars are lighter and most have disc brakes, but the acceleration of the Corvette more than made up for its fading drum brakes.
After an authentic lunch of bangers and mash with Yorkshire pudding and gravy while watching a display by the British Spitfire and a Curtiss Hawk 75, it was time for the Royal Automobile Club Tourist Trophy Celebration race. This hour-long, two-driver race features early-'60s GT cars, and on this day, had five '63-'65 Corvette coupes racing against Cobras, Aston Martin DB4 GTs, Ferrari 250 GTs and GTOs, and special lightweight Jaguar XKEs.
The Corvettes were all co-driven by star drivers and were spectacular in the early part of the race. British historic racing is close and competitive, with little respect for the value of the cars. The guest drivers, most of whom had never driven their Corvettes before, were some 5 seconds a lap quicker than their co-drivers. First to retire was the French-entered '65 big-block driven by Henri Pescarolo, which blew a motor. Previously an F1 driver, Henri has won Le Mans four times, and this year his own team cars were the fastest in practice and led the race for the first two hours of the 24-hour race.
Next, ace club racer John Young in his '63 split-window was out due to problems with his left rear tire. Then Swiss F1 driver Marc Surer and his '65 427 suffered gearbox problems. The same transmission problem sidelined Pete Brock after 30 laps of amazing car control in his red '65 small-block.
The best finish came from French F1 driver Rene Arnoux in Ted Williams' '65-the only Corvette driven by the owner.
As I watched from Goodwood's Woodcote Corner, all the Corvettes took this particular bend with the inside front wheel in the air. Marc Surer said afterward of Roddy Felden's '65 big-block, "I have never driven a production car with so much power and so little grip!"