Goodwood, fully revived
Long known for Goodwood Revival and Festival of Speed, Tempus explores the new facilities, culture and opportunities set to define the spirit of Goodwood all year round
It has been some years since I last visited Goodwood to enjoy both the horseracing at Glorious Goodwood and Goodwood Revival – the renowned classic car meeting – so I was thrilled when the opportunity arose to take a closer look at the estate to discover what new delights have been developed by The Duke of Richmond and his team.
Today, The Duke is the purveyor of some of Britain’s best-loved and most imaginative gatherings to inspire every stratum of mechanical enthusiasm. Set in 12,000 acres of countryside in the South Downs, the estate is best known for three of the biggest events in the calendar – the Festival of Speed, the Qatar Goodwood Festival (known as ‘Glorious Goodwood’) and Goodwood Revival – but also comprises an impressive annual Members’ Meeting, and the new Goodwoof (a celebration of man’s best friend). All this, along with an organic farm and restaurants, two 18-hole golf courses, health club and aerodrome, means this is the place to be to see everything from a Sinclair C5 to a working Spitfire.
Since his father’s days with the Goodwood Estate’s full focus on equine speed, power and beauty, The Duke has successfully expanded the estate’s reach and interest to mechanical horsepower, with pedigree beasts no less beautiful and desirable than the champion race horses of his father’s era.
The road to greatness is seldom linear and The Duke has faced his fair shares of challenges over the years in pursuit of his dream of expanding Goodwood’s events. “As we embrace the future and Goodwood continues to grow and evolve, we have bold ambitions to continue to take our estate beyond its historic roots in the English countryside where our sporting heritage began,” The Duke said. “Already recognised around the world for our flagship events… we want to be known as the home of exceptional luxury experiences.”
A DESTINATION FOR ALL SEASONS
Goodwood stands in a beautiful part of the world, dominating the rolling hills between Chichester and Midhurst. The drive is pleasant and within easy reach of London, far enough away to be an adventure and close enough to make a day of it – or a short break away if you have time to enjoy the excellent facilities dotted across this picturesque part of West Sussex. Indeed, Goodwood boasts a newly refurbished hotel of its own, which is the perfect base for learning more about the variety of year-round events, enjoyed by an ever-growing base of enthusiasts of everything from motorsport and aeronautics to horse riding and hiking in the picturesque South Downs.
It is this spirit of common interest that, for me, sets Goodwood apart –and the Goodwood Hotel is a perfect example of this. Somehow, even passing people in the corridors is a more personal and cordial experience than many destinations, as you know that you are all there with a common interest and single purpose, even if as diverse as Goodwood itself.
The hotel boasts some well-appointed rooms and Farmer, Butcher, Chef – a lovely, intimate restaurant serving local, seasonal food – much of it sourced from the estate’s farm. The spa complex offers everything from tranquil relaxation to more energetic workout sessions, and beyond that the golf courses and conference facilities make this a versatile and enjoyable location from which to explore whatever your interest may be – from two wheels to two wings, or four wheels to four legs, Goodwood has it covered.
Of particular interest to me was the Goodwood Road Racing Club (GRRC), which I thought would be a small, happy band of hard-core enthusiasts, burnt-faced from year-round open-topped motoring. I was delighted to be proved wrong, as I arrived at Goodwood Motor Circuit to begin my experience. It was a stunning day and I, too, had opted for the roof-down experience in an aging but well-performing Aston Martin Volante.
Upon arrival at the historic circuit, I was immediately struck by the stunning restoration of the control tower, pits, stands and ancillary buildings straddling the race track itself. From the last time I had seen it, racing this circuit some 20 years ago, it was a massive and very pleasurable shock with every detail recreated or restored to bring Goodwood’s vibrant racing history back to life. Equally impressive was the organisation. An army of stewards – dressed in white or orange period overalls to add to the historic feel – managing traffic and answering questions to an ever-increasing presence of enthusiasts.
I joined my fellow motoring enthusiasts at the new Aerodrome Café for some sustenance, and a brief on the day’s GRRC Regional Drive. Our journey would take us through the West Sussex countryside on preselected roads, delivering spectacular scenery, challenging driving – and many waypoints where participants could undertake a pitstop for a refreshing beverage or two before rejoining or remapping the circuit – to exactly meet our needs for a great day out. The plan seemed a good one and the route well thought out.
It was a marvellously sunny day, and the Aerodrome Café was a great point to start to begin building excitement, thanks to views over the aerodrome where historic Spitfires regularly rotate from the grass airstrip.
The road trip was great as my fellow drivers and I took it easy with a wide spread of about 100 cars, from modern Ferrari’s to race-modified 1929 Ford Model Speedster and everything in between – far from the handful of bobble-hatted enthusiasts I had first imagined, this was an interesting group of people with diverse backgrounds and interests, all brought together by a common love of motoring, and enjoyment of the strong social network and friendships that develop to cement the palpable feeling of inclusion and camaraderie.
BEST IN CLASS
Even more impressive was the attendance at the Goodwood Road Racing Club’s Breakfast Club the following morning – a show and tell of all things motoring. Goodwood opens the circuit for this event, and the cars are lined up along the racetrack, creating a communal museum of every type of car and genre, from hot hatches to old classics and everything in between – the sight of Morris Minors and Sinclair C5s took me back to my youth.
With more than a thousand cars at the event, and a waiting list for available spaces, I was blown away by the support and reach of this organisation, which holds similar events up and down the country (and even abroad). Highly organised local “hubs” for the club offer regional events in addition to those based at its spiritual home at Goodwood. GRRC membership already sits at 7,000 (with an astonishing 10,000 Fellows) and is climbing fast – and I can see why.
Offering several membership tiers and exclusive event access that caters for every motorist’s taste, with the backdrop of Goodwood’s new facilities, combined with meticulous planning and accoutrement, this is a well-established and prestigious members’ club that supports and enjoys Goodwood all year round.
Far from a venue that thrives on flagship events alone, Goodwood and its many devotees can enjoy unbridled mechanical voyeurism combined with a strong social element at its core that showed me why, from facilities to events, Goodwood is definitely fully revived.