Show Review: Goodwood Revival 2005

For three days each year, Goodwood steps back fifty years as owners and drivers the world over bring their historic cars face-to-face in sixteen consecutive races. With participants and spectators alike dressed in tweed and fur, the post-war atmosphere is utterly convincing and quite unique, and brings battles on the track that Bernie Ecclestone can only dream of. Located in southern England, the circuit was originally used as a military air base during World War II, before being used as a racetrack until 1966. After 32 years spent slumbering, it was awakened in 1998 by Lord March, who also hosts the Goodwood Festival of Speed - a hill climb event. But while the Festival has become a race for commerce as much as cars, the Goodwood Revival is default for fanatics.

Following Friday's raucous qualifying, races begin on Saturday with the Goodwood Trophy featuring Grand Prix cars from between 1948 and 1954, Ludovic Lindsay winning in Remus, his ERA B-type. The sight in the third race of seven Ford GT40s charging round the track was seconded only by the engines' screams, as they gnashed at Ferraris and Lola-Chevrolets, making the recent Ford GT seem somewhat stilted. The day also included a parade of 'Letter Cars', Chrysler's classic jocks, to celebrate 50 years since the first of the influential 300 series was launched. The 300 ignited the horsepower race as America's first muscle car, each model moving a letter up the alphabet until 1965's 300L, sales now slackening after designer Elwood Engel amputated the fins.

Displayed between the Rolls-Royce factory, also on March's estate, and the circuit, were the Aston Martin V8 Vantage and Jaguar XK, their surfaces gilded by sun rather than spotlight. Aston's Chief Designer Marek Reichmann was also present, tussling against other '50s Formula Three cars in his Emeryson-JAP before retiring on the last lap from a mechanical failure. His supportive design team were not the only creatives there however, as designers from Fenomenon, GM and Volkswagen were also found lurking in the paddocks to admire the sparkling flesh of yesterday's supercars. The inspiration for Jason Casterbridge's Pininfarina Birdcage from the Geneva Motor Show was also present: the Maserati Tipo 60/61. Like a bathtub with arches, the original Birdcage derived its nickname from the intricate tubular structure that comprises its chassis, whose 200 separate pipes allowed a kerb weight of just 600kg. After Reichmann's combat came the increasingly popular St Mary's Trophy that pitches 31 David and Goliaths of Sixties production cars head-to-head. Drivers flock to compete in this enthralling race, Sir Stirling Moss challenging current F1 driver Narain Karthikeyen in Lotus Cortinas while comedian Rowan Atkinson borrowed a Mercedes 300SE to thrash. Despite a grid fronted by American anvils such as Ford Falcon Sprints and seven-litre Galaxie 500s, the four Mini Coopers were never disgraced. While Jackie Oliver won the race in such a Yank Tank, it is the sheer spectacle of the Minis dancing around the track, defying their deficit and snapping at the others' heels, that earns the most cheers.

The true legends of motoring history rolled out after this, with Babs, a 1923 Thomas Special, racing competitively for the first time since 1926. It was exhumed in 1969 after its burial for killing John Parry-Thomas on his attempt to break the 200mph barrier in 1927. Now restored, Babs has a scarcely believable 27,000cc engine, in a line-up that puts it alongside automotive mosquitos such as the three-wheeled 1260cc Morgan Super Aero. Those hoping for an apt return to glory were saddened when Babs was promptly lapped before having to retire, gushing fluids. More action in this race came from the pair of Frazer Nash cars that make do without rear differentials and so drift instead, slithering through the long corners. Duncan Ricketts eventually won in a Riley Dixon Special, but it was the other giant of the race, the 24 litre Napier-Bentley, that impressed most, crowds gasping at its snorting engine-mounted exhausts, these diarrhetic cannons punching out flames on downchanges into the chicane.

With such valuable cars on the track, one might be forgiven for thinking that these races are merely a parade, but when they start flying into gravel pits and tyre walls at the rate of two per lap, these suspicions are quickly dismissed. This happened during the Glover Trophy, featuring F1 cars raced during the transition period from front- to rear-mounted engines before 1966's introduction of aerodynamic aids, before the last race of Maserati 250F's chasing Jaguar D-types and Aston Martin DBR1's.

The long weekend coming to a close, remaining spectators drew together on the pit straight for the award ceremony, fronted by Lord March dispersing magnums of champagne amid ripples of applause. Next to the orange light of dusk smudging long shadows across the asphalt, the Frankfurt Motor Show appears abrupt and cold. Goodwood remains an antidote to this and resounds in its romance to capture a charm and passion not found elsewhere, nourishing a lust for cars beyond design.

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