A serious crash at Goodwood ended his stellar career back in 1962 – but 50 years on and motor racing legend Sir Stirling Moss still loves the circuit as much as ever.
Now in his 80s, the man known as the greatest living Englishman was among a long list of star drivers who joined in the fun as the Goodwood Revival got under way yesterday.
Sir Stirling said: ‘All my life this has been one of my favourite places. I’ve always felt so welcome here. The atmosphere is something other races would love.’
He was joined by F1 world champions Sir Jackie Stewart and John Surtees plus ex-Ferrari pilot Jean Alesi and American hero Dan Gurney for what is now the biggest historic race meeting in the world, which recreates Goodwood’s heyday from 1948-1966.
Meanwhile, the modern grand prix scene was represented by Red Bull F1 team boss Christian Horner, designer Adrian Newey and Sky F1 commentator Martin Brundle, who all donned their overalls and got behind the wheel.
The world of entertainment also got in on the act, with actor and comedian Rowan Atkinson showing he’s no Mr Bean in real life by expertly driving a 1952 Jaguar.
And there was action on two wheels as well, with the bike world represented by champions including Wayne Gardner and Troy Corser.
Tens of thousands of spectators, many of whom had made a real effort with period outfits, filled the grandstands and lined the track near Chichester to watch a mouthwatering array of racing cars from Ferraris to Maseratis and AC Cobras do battle around this former wartime airfield perimeter road.
The smell of Castrol R and the unmistakeable sound of revving engines combined to take drivers and fans alike back in time. German ex-F1 and Le Mans racer Jochen Mass said: ‘Goodwood is special because it touches your soul.
‘It’s a reminder of your youth and has a charm that is just wonderful.’
Highlight of the opening day of the three-day sold-out Revival was an evocative demonstration ‘race’ featuring all-conquering Silver Arrows cars from Auto Union and Mercedes that dominated grand prix racing in the 1930s.
For enthusiasts, this weekend is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see these priceless cars taken out of museums and run together at speed. Drivers entrusted with them include Le Mans winner Frank Biela and Pink Floyd drummer and renowned car collector Nick Mason.
Official practice was fast and furious, with rain making conditions challenging until the track dried out.
‘There was plenty to see in the sky too, with impressive displays by Mustangs and Spitfires recalling the Battle of Britain when Goodwood was RAF Westhampnett.
There was also a collection of period aircraft in the Freddie March Spirit of Aviation concours d’elegance.
Away from the track, Dads’ Army went on parade, workmen had a tea break, bobbies apprehended felons and Mods buzzed around on scooters as RAF chaps with handlebar moustaches chatted up Audrey Hepburn lookalikes.
Period music got people dancing and a recreation of a 1960s Tesco supermarket brought back memories of once-familiar food brands.
After last night’s first race saw headlights blazing in the dusk, today and tomorrow features a packed programme with the highlight being Sunday’s RAC TT Club Celebration featuring £100m of closed-cockpit GT cars in wheel-to-wheel combat.
Stars set to join the party include Hollywood actor Ewan McGregor and singers Katie Melua and Sophie Ellis-Bextor.