Convincing councils and building banks – planning the first Revival
It was always my dream, from the moment my grandfather closed it in 1966, to revive the motor circuit and I began to seriously work on the project as far back as 1991.
It soon became clear that the process of opening the track for racing again would not be easy and take much longer than we had anticipated. We started the Festival of Speed because we couldn’t move forward on the circuit and I thought it would be good to try the idea, and see if people still had a connection with Goodwood and motorsport. The success of the FOS proved that there quite definitely was.
The challenge was that a noise abatement order had been in place at the circuit in the 1970s. Now we needed planning permission to build the banks that would reduce the noise which - in turn - would enable us to get the noise abatement removed. So, very much a catch-22 situation... and we also had to comply with safety regulations, while not changing the layout of the circuit.
Our original application to Chichester District Council sought permission for 21 days of racing and, over a period of almost seven years, we were finally granted permission for five days with no noise restrictions.
In the background we had received valuable support from a swiftly formed action group known as the Goodwood Supporters Association or GSA. A small band of local racing enthusiasts had enlisted nationwide help from many well known figures in the sport who campaigned tirelessly for the revival of the circuit. At the crucial council meeting, when votes would be cast, the public gallery was a sea of green GSA sweatshirts. Planning consent was given, safety improvements were agreed, and now the task of refurbishing and rebuilding began. A deadline of September 1998 was set and, while still staging the Festival of Speed, we set about bringing the famous motor circuit back to life.
I did not see this as a victory as I never considered this was some kind of battle, rather I saw it as the result of some careful and detailed negotiations with the District Council, the motorsport authority and the local community. We knew it would take time, and a lot of work, but I always believed that the revival of thecircuit would not only benefit the community economically, but also bring a new kind of motor racing event to all the fans who had supported the plan.
This has all been about the planning and the process of what was a significant investment for Goodwood, so when the cars and motorcycles came out to practice on the opening day in 1998, it was a very special moment. I remember taking some time to soak up the atmosphere, the sound, the smells and the pure theatre of it all. I think my Grandfather would be pleased that we have managed to revive what he created back in 1948 although, in the beginning, he might have thought we were mad to take on such a complicated and tricky project. This year, as we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Revival, it will be the sheer enthusiasm and passion of the crowd, along with such great racing, that has made it all worthwhile."
Photography courtesy of The GP Library and Motorsport Images