Goodwood Festival of Speed and Revival Classic Car Events

The classic and exotic car shows and historic races at Goodwood are top automotive events in the south of England near Chichester. The accompanying Bonhams car auctions often see very special cars and top prices too.

Bugattis at Goodwood
Racing at Goodwood © Goodwood Motor Sport

The Goodwood estate in the south of England is synonymous with classic cars and historic car races. Goodwood has one of the first post-war car racing tracks in Britain and the hillclimb is as popular now as it was in the 1950s. Twice a year – at the Goodwood Festival of Speed and the Goodwood Revival – motoring enthusiasts descend on the English countryside for the largest motoring garden party in the world. Current and former racing drivers are regulars with cars on display and racing ranging from vintage vehicles to futuristic concept vehicles.

The accompanying Bonhams Goodwood-Chichester car auctions often see the highest prices of the year for European sales and currently holds the record for the highest price ever achieved at a public auction for a car in the UK – the $30-million 1954 Mercedes Benz W196 Formula 1 racing car sold in 2013.

The Goodwood Estate near Chichester

The Goodwood Estate in West Sussex in England to the south of London is famous amongst motoring enthusiasts for its historic car racing circuit, a hill climb, and spectacular motoring extravaganzas. (The estate is also home to a horserace, golf club, and many further public and private events.)

The Goodwood Circuit is a 3.8-km (2.4-mile) racing track encircling the Second World War RAF Westhampnett airfield. Race meetings – including non-championship Formula One races – took place at Goodwood from 1948 to 1966.

Also at Goodwood – but on the estate nearer the manor house rather than at the circuit itself – is a famous hillclimb track that has been used for racing since the late 1930s. The current nine-turn track climbs 300 feet over 1.86 km (1.16 mile) and is considered very challenging. A further forest track is used for rally cars.

The two main motoring events at Goodwood are the:

  • Goodwood Festival of Speed – hillclimb and rally car racing, major exotic car exhibitions and shows, aircraft exhibits, and many further events usually held end June or early July. (Dates depend on Le Mans and the F1 race calendar.)
  • Goodwood Revival – historic car racing on the Goodwood Circuit in mid-September.

Both events are accompanied by important classic car auctions arranged by Bonhams.

Goodwood Festival of Speed

The annual early-summer Goodwood Festival of Speed describes itself as the largest motoring garden party in the world. At its core, the Festival of Speed is a hillclimb event but it is a true celebration of exotic cars and motoring sport past and present. It is probably the closest European equivalent to the Monterey Classic Car Week although the atmosphere is quite different.

The Goodwood Festival of Speed is hugely popular with current and former racing drivers who both participate in racing and attending the special events. Jackie Steward, Stirling Moss, Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button and Nico Rosberg are regulars.

Events at the Goodwood Festival of Speed include amongst others:

  • The hillclimb is the highlight with the final runs on the Sunday but practicing on three days. Around 300 cars race up the hill each day. The 41.6 seconds record was set in 1999 by Nick Heidfeld in a McLaren-Mercedes MP4/13. (Since then, modern F1 cars have been banned from attempting a fast timed run.)
  • Forest Rally Stage – rally cars race on a special off-road circuit through the forest on the Goodwood estate.
  • Moving Car Show – modern, mostly exotic cars are test driven (by prior invitation only) in the Goodwood Estate on the Thursday. An off-road driving course is used for 4×4 cars.
  • Goodwood Action Sports – two-wheeled action sports show for motorcycles and bicycles.
  • Cartier Style et Luxe Concourse – around 50 cars are on display and in contrast to standard concours d’elegance events not judged by car specialists but rather by artists simply on style, looks and beauty.
  • Aviation Exhibition – as the racecourse had an airfield at its center, aviation displays and flights are part of the show.
  • Car exhibitions – modern and historic cars including sports and racings cars from vintage automobiles to current F1 and modern racing series cars.

Admission to the Goodwood Festival of Speed is restricted to advance-purchased ticket holders only. Attendance is restricted to a maximum of 150,000 spectators per day and in recent years tickets sold out well in advance of the event. Tickets are not sold on site.

Goodwood Revival

Where the Goodwood Festival of Speed is a mix of the old and new, the focus at the Goodwood Revival in mid-September is very much on the historic racing tradition of the classic racing track. The only modern cars allowed even near to the track are safety and rescue vehicles.

At the heart of the Goodwood Revival is three days of historic races in period racing cars (1948-1966 or older) on the original Goodwood circuit without chicanes or too much safety railing. Many of the historic racing cars are raced by famous racing drivers past and present.

In addition to the races, many historic vehicles and related items are on show. Visitors arriving in historic vehicles park in a special area forming an impromptu classic car show. Air displays and aviation related items confirm that the Goodwood circuit was built around an airfield.

Although not compulsory, visitors are encouraged to dress up in fashions from the 1948 to 1966 period.

Admission to the Goodwood Revival is restricted to advance-purchased ticket holders only. Tickets are not sold on site.

Red 1954 Ferrari 375 Plus
1954 Ferrari 375 Plus at offer at the Bonhams 2014 Goodwood Festival of Speed Auction © Bonhams

Bonhams Classic Car Auctions at Goodwood

The Bonhams Chichester classic car auctions during the Goodwood Festival of Speed and Goodwood Revival are amongst the most important collector car sales in Britain and Europe. Bonhams usually has something very special on offer, especially at the Goodwood Festival of Speed when the cream of automobile enthusiast gathers in southern England.

1954 Mercedes Benz W196 Formula 1 Racing Car
1954 Mercedes Benz W196 Formula 1 Racer © Bohnams

At the 2013 Bonhams Goodwood Festival of Speed sale in Chichester, a 1954 Mercedes Benz W196 Formula 1 single-seater racing car sold for £19.5 ($30) million – at the time of sale, it nearly doubled the highest price ever paid for a car at public auction. It is still the most-expensive car ever sold in the UK.

In recent years, Bonhams has added a third Goodwood auction: the smaller Goodwood Members’ Meeting auction in March.