The spirit of revival: The Duke of Richmond on the rebirth of Goodwood
The spectacular Goodwood motorsports events are back and bigger than ever. Their founder tells Tempus about his passion for the glamour and excitement of racing’s heyday – and why he is such a driving force for sustainability
I’d always been determined to revive the Goodwood Motor Circuit, which closed in 1966, but it was a long and complicated process. We brought motorsport back to Goodwood with the first Festival of Speed in 1993, and its success reassured me that Goodwood still meant a lot to people – not only those who had been to the circuit in the 1950s and ’60s but those who simply love historic cars.
My grandfather [Frederick Gordon Lennox, 9th Duke of Richmond] created the Motor Circuit in 1948 and, finally, in the autumn of 1998, we were ready to reopen it with our first Goodwood Revival. Staged entirely in period with cars from 1948 to 1966, the event was a step back in time to the days when all the great names of the sport raced here.
Then, the Members’ Meeting, an event exclusively for members of the Goodwood Road Racing Club, continued a long tradition of the members-only race meetings of the ’50s and ’60s for fans who’d joined the British Automobile Racing Club.
Since these early days, all three events have grown organically as we began to attract teams, manufacturers and competitors from all around the world, as well as commercial partners who have helped us expand and refresh the content. There were 25,000 fans at the first Festival of Speed and now we are entertaining more than 200,000 people each summer.
The Revival was incredibly well received right from the start, thanks in part to a huge interest in historic racing and the fact that the Goodwood Circuit is a truly classic layout, unchanged since the 1950s. There was also an enthusiastic response
to the theatrical element of an event staged in period, an opportunity to dress up and enjoy some of the romance and glamour of days gone by.
At its heart, the Revival has always been about reducing, re-using, repairing and recycling – we’ve got classic cars and vintage fashions that are brought to life at the event. Ultimately, it’s a celebration of a time when things were made to last. This year we introduced our new Make-Do and Mend area, showcasing a host of restoration projects with industry experts on-hand to share their insights. We also hosted our inaugural Car Boot Sale, encouraging shoppers to embrace circular rather than fast fashion but, of course, it was a Car Boot Sale with a Goodwood twist – with classic cars, cocktails and a vinyl-spinning DJ. For us, it’s important that these elements are interactive and encourage people to make changes beyond the Revival weekend.
The Festival of Speed is always challenging, simply because of the sheer scale of the infrastructure, building what amounts to a small town in Goodwood Park and ensuring that we meet the highest possible safety standards on the iconic hillclimb itself. Seeing the world’s greatest cars, bikes, drivers and riders back at Goodwood is a constant thrill, an everlasting source of excitement and pleasure.
This year we were given the government’s pilot event status for Festival of Speed, so it was a huge challenge for the team. We obviously had to minimise the indoor spaces, which meant experimenting with many new ideas, some of which we will take into future years such as an open-air Drivers Club and a more open space for Future Lab. I think we avoided all of the potential pitfalls successfully, and Festival of Speed 2021 had a very special atmosphere thanks to all those who responded so enthusiastically after a difficult year in 2020.
We have partnerships with many of the world’s major car manufacturers so it’s important that our events reflect the biggest changes in the motor industry. Electric Avenue, for example, brings electric vehicle technology centre stage between now and 2030 when fossil-fuelled cars will no longer be made. Over the next 10 years we will see a quantum leap forward in new technologies, whether that be with batteries or fuel cells, and the Festival of Speed will continue to showcase these developments with both Electric Avenue and Future Lab as well as the latest electric supercars and racing cars.
Most importantly, we must not simply react to circumstances as they unfold but must be proactive in our mission to stay ahead in a world that is changing so rapidly. This is not something new for us at the Goodwood Estate, as we have had a fully sustainable food chain from our organic farm for many years. The farm supplies food to our restaurants, hotel and all our events. More recently we have installed a biomass boiler for heating – just the first step towards using renewable energy across the entire estate.
As a family, we have been the stewards of our land in the South Downs for more than 300 years and we are committed to ensuring that we continue to innovate in order to sustain our businesses and events in the most responsible way possible.