Goodwood's genius doesn't stop when the sun goes down

| 19 Sep 2011

As ever with Goodwood, it was all about the detail. While I certainly heard some mutterings during the day about over-commercialisation (albeit incredibly tastefully done) of the trade areas – "too many novelty coffee bars and cigar shops" was one comment I overheard – I reckon that there must be pretty few dissenting voices among the 120,000-odd visitors who revelled in yet another glorious weekend.

Yes, doing Goodwood properly can be fiercely expensive, but we must all remember that there is nothing quite like this event anywhere in the world, however many people try to 'Goodwoodise' their own festivals. Part of that is simply that Goodwood as a setting lends itself uniquely well to being the ideal canvas for Lord March's vision.

But a sizeable portion is down to that vision and the most astonishing attention to detail, not just from Lord March and his team, but also from the visitors who 'get it' and their incredible efforts to blend into the theatre.

The Revival Car Show was better then ever and, personally, the more household brands that are desperate to compromise their present to fit in with Goodwood's past, the more it brings a smile to my face.

We are forever hearing of the might of Tesco in the high street – and rarely in complimentary terms – yet this juggernaut of businesses bends over backwards and pulls out all the stops just so that it looks and feels appropriate at a Sussex classic car show and race meet.

And that is the measure of Goodwood's power and the inspirational effect it has on people. Goodwood is no longer simply the highlight of the historic motor racing season, it is the highlight of The Season, the English summer essentials that include the Henley Regatta and Royal Ascot.

I am always reticent to talk about the evenings at Goodwood, the heightened experience enjoyed by the privileged few (well 1500 or so people) when the vast majority of the public have felt the gentle draught of the gates closing behind them, but I will make an exception this year because it illustrates a point.

If you think the details are good during the day, they just get better at night. First and foremost, there is the best, lowest aerobatic display. Actually, you don't need to be privileged to experience that: just don't leave until the last race is done and you'll still be in the car park queue so will be able to watch it.

After that, however, is the ball: an amazing spectacle for competitors, sponsors, guests and others. Housed in a giant tent/hangar on the infield, it is an event in itself, in fact a competition in itself as people compete to arrive in the best, coolest, car. Each year there is a theme and this year's was 'space age', with a heavy debt to Barbarella.

Not too many Jane Fonda lookalikes, sadly, and mercifully few Durand Durands, plus only a brace of brave shivering Pygars that I spotted. Inside, the room dressing was predictably perfectionist, like wandering around the USS Enterprise, and throw in a mesmerising laser light show, acrobats, a David Bowie impersonator (Starman, Space Oddity etc), fireworks (yes, indoors) and some rather scrumptious grub and everyone went away feeling very important and happy.

Naturally, despite all this, it was a small, much ignored in the rain, just peering out of the gloam detail outside of the actual party that captivated me and summarised the greatness of Goodwood. Lord M's team had subtly and without fanfare lined up a trio of 'space age' car designs for the likes of me to drool over.

Seeing as those who weren't at the ball probably didn't see them (I didn't spot them anywhere else over the weekend), I just wanted to share them. Hell, whoever identifies all three correctly first can have a prize of some sort, so get guessing and post your answers below.