Goodwood Revival via 2013 Subaru BRZ
Armathwaite Hall, where the hat search begins
You can wear something simple and get away with it at the Goodwood Revival, a self-proclaimed time capsule broken open each year to celebrate the postwar, pre-psychedelia heights of racing at the old Goodwood course. Tribal tattoos and tank tops are enough for handfuls of the day trippers, but for the equivalent of Disney backstage passes--our "mess hall" tickets, little octagonal badges looped around shirt buttons or boutonnieres--the full Goodwood regalia is de riguer. According to the tag, "jacket and tie are required for gentlemen." Broad assumptions made, check.
The perfect Goodwood ensemble requires a hat. Blazer and argyle in hand, I started the search for that hat back at home, without any luck. EBay, you are no friend to 7 1/2-size heads. Trilby hats, you either. Choices winnowed down to a fedora with a small brim -- the shape's good, the fit's right, it's just so--I banked on better luck in England.
Finding a good fit in the BRZ was much easier, at least in front. With bucket seats a little deeper than the ones I remember from my Miata, it took maybe two minutes to find a two-day seating position, one in perfect reach of the snicky shift lever, one where it'd be easy to modulate the longer clutch uptake. Like the Miata, the BRZ's four-cylinder's always present and accounted for--only here it's a 200-horsepower flat four, with its own hammertone vibrato that we choose instead of dire English radio as we take a course for the Sun Hotel, a quick lunch, and a path due north into the English Lake District.
Subaru's sports car comes together as the road unfurls between stone walls and grassy berms. And sheep. Ever wonder why lamb's so popular here? Just on the road north into Cumberland, within spitting range of Scotland (we suggest no spitting--they're testy), we could barely keep count without....dreaming.... Or of the lamb served nightly at dinner, or daily at lunch. There's an inverse theory at work here. A feast for the glutton, not so much for the mutton.
Where were we again? The Subaru. The steering talks back through your fingertips, winding up without lingering. The fluid rear-drive feel of that little Mazda's in there, upsized in scale a little--room inside for a helmet, we're promised for tomorrow. Or for a hat, if I could find one at any of the firmly closed shops along the way.
It's also growing on my eyes. Not the sheep--not that lonely. Not yet. If it weren't for the Subaru stars on the sheetmetal, you might even mistake it for that other brand's car--or for something slightly more exotic, with its pert rear and sculpted door divots.
It's less of a striking contrast than I'd pictured, as we pulled into Armathwaite Hall, a "cottage" dating back as far as the 11th century, now overtly billing itself as a wedding factory. It's a handsome pile of stone with a warm wooden parlor, a well-stocked bar, and a cool snap in the air before the next dawn that made for some numb hands during what passes for a "sunrise" photo session in the early fall in these latitudes.