The Goodwood Festival of Speed is one of my all time favourite motor racing events. Running from Friday through to Sunday, this motorsport event encompasses a vast variety of high performance
and motor sport related vehicles, usually based loosely on an annual theme, whether it be the Indy 500 for instance, Le Mans, or the mighty pre-war team battles such as those between Bentley and Mercedes before
the war. |
The first time I attended was in 1997, by which time the event had already established itself as a major International motoring celebration. I was lucky that year as I had recently made
acquaintance with a gent who used to be a team mechanic for a racing driver when the Goodwood circuit was still in operation, having attended the first race meeting there in 1948.
I'd met him after having advertised in Classic and Sportscar magazine for information regarding the genuine 1940s racing car transporter that I've got tucked away, progressing slowly
through what will be a lengthy restoration. He got in touch, and it turned out he used to drive this vehicle, and work on the ex-Nuvolari Alfa along with another mechanic during hillclimb and sprint
meetings during the postwar years.
Anyway, he put us up, living as he did near Southampton, and we attended the Festival of Speed for the first time in my old XJ12. A nice unexpected coincidence
occurred whilst we were dodging the rain, in the form of a shapely red Alfa Romeo. Unbeknown to us, the guy who now owns the Alfa had brought it over from California specially for this event. The
former mechanic I was with (Sten "Tammy" Aberg) hadn't seen the car at all for over 25 years, and certainly not running, as it had been laid up in 1955, so was as chuffed as I was to stumble across the actual car that my
lorry once carried. Whilst at the 3 day meeting, I also discovered the original Connaught GP car that this old driver (RD Poore) used to drive on occasion, and carry in my Dodge. Now all I need to do is
find the Aston Martin DB3 sports car that the old truck has also carried, the DB3S (63 EMU) that Poore raced at events such as Goodwood not (I think) ever having been on board my transporter.
But I digress (not for the first time!).
Whatever you own personal interest in fast cars is, chances are there will be at least one section
of the Festival of Speed that will appeal to you. Going right back to the early days of motoring, there are often
examples of vintage motor racing machines, including some of the fabulous aero-engined monsters of the 1920s and 1930s, these being some of my own favourites. Just standing next to the Napier Railton
for example when it fires up is an experience all of its own, and there are usually a goodly number of other aircraft-engined leviathons to drool over during the 3 days. These greats from the interwar period
can be found in the Goodwood ground to the left of the main house, in the fittingly named Brooklands Paddock, so named in memory of the epic motor races that were run at this historic racing circuit before the
outbreak of WW2 and the acquisition of the site for aircraft manufacture.
Spend time in the paddock and you will see some of the finest racing automobiles there are today, such as those from Alfa Romeo,
Maserati, Bentley, Mercedes Benz (who always have a good turn out of motorcars from their Heritage centre), Miller, ERA, Delage, Riley to name a few of the better known makes. Moving postwar you can rely
on seeing an equally stunning array of motor racing machines, with greats such as the Maserati 250F and 8CM, Ferrari 246 Dino, BRM V16 and any number of sleek Silver Arrows from Mercedes, often to be seen
piloted by drivers who themselves date back to competition during the postwar years.
Wander around the paddock and you will see greats such as Tony Brooks, Stirling Moss, John Surtees,
Roy Salvadori and Phil Hill wandering around between the timed runs up the hillclimb. Moving into the 1960s and this era is no less represented, the paddock featuring a great selection of restored historics
from fabled marques such as Lotus, BRM and Cooper, all ready to take to the hill and get the fastest time of day. Support from many manufacturers goes a long way in supplying antique racing cars, and the
1970s and 1980s paddock area displays this well, Alfa Romeo usually sending over cars from their factory collection, as do Renault too with pristine examples of their 1970s turbo F1 cars. With the success of the
TGP series for 1970s/80s era F1 cars, many cars once consigned to museums are now being dusted down and returned to the track, and a healthy selection is always brought out for Goodwood. Cars from
famous manufacturers will of course be there, such as from Ferrari (eg 312, 126C2, ex-Schumacher F310 in the past) and Mclaren (eg the M23 and M26), and examples from some of the more obsure Formula One manufacturers of the past, such
as Hesketh (for whom James Hunt drove for and won them a race), ATS, Beatrice and Surtees, while successful names who are no longer around will be well represented by team cars once run by Lotus, Tyrrell (eg the Alfa powered
fan car) and March.
Whilst on the subject of F1 cars, a good number of current teams make the effort to attend, usually with one or more of their current driver line up to do the demonstration runs, some of which are
truly spectacular. The Goodwood hill is not particularly wide, with little room for running wide due to various walls, trees and so on, which makes the spectacle of an ex-Hakkinen Mclaren doing 150 mph past the front
of the Goodwood House appear mighty impressive, piloted a couple of years back by now-Sauber driver, Nick Heidfeld, back when he was Mclarens test driver. Takuma Sato also put on a truly dazzling run when he
was test driver for BAR (British American Racing), the speed that he went up the main straight being truly awesome. Not to be outdone, Juan Pablo Montoya put on a good display in the Williams BMW, whilst Johnny Herbert
chose to celebrate his birthday by performing a number of (traction control removed!) full bore take-offs, covering the appreciative audience in clouds of blue rubber smoke. Heaven.
Jordan Grand Prix have been known to
make an appearance too, although not last year for some reason, their then Chief Mechanic taking the Jordan F1 car up the hill and stuffing it into a straw bale 100 yards from the start line, which raised a cheer!
Even in the
few years I've been attending, other contemporary drivers have taken time out from their schedules to attend, including, in addition to those mentioned, Damon Hill (Jordan), Eddie Irvine (Jaguar), Rubens Barrichello (Ferrari and an
ex-Senna Mclaren), Alex Wurz (Mclaren) and Jean Alesi (1990 Tyrrell). Many former drivers are tempted out of retirement to make this event a success, and the public are afforded a rare opportunity to see and possibly
speak to their heroes from a few years back, with celebrities such as Emerson Fittipaldi, Mario Andretti, Parnelli Jones, Dan Gurney, Martin Brundle and others all having a go.
Of course if F1 isn't you thing, then there are
plenty of sportscars to gaze at, going right back in time through to current examples from this years Le Mans 24 hours, and a healthy turnout of recent competition models being brought from the Porsche museum. Rally fans won't
be disappointed either, as throughout the weekend big names such as Colin Mcrae (Ford), Richard Burns (Peugeot) and Michele Mouton will be out to prove that whatever the open wheeled racers can do, they can do better!! And if the hill is damp, a Group B
short wheelbase Quattro at full tilt most probably will beat F1 cars up the hill.
I cannot recommend this event enough to anyone who has a hint of petrol running through their veins, it really is a great long weekend! If you get tired
of looking at cars all day, there are plenty of sideshow attractions to look at, with trade stalls and exhibitions by current manufacturers to take in, and often rides in rally cars and tanks. And even if this
is too much for your eardrums, make sure you don't miss out on the gravity racers, a soapbox style challenge, with competitors from leading names in motor sport and other high profile companies competing in a downhill
competition, where the only motive power is gravity. If you want to acquire some model cars or memorabilia, perhaps related to the cars displayed at Goodwood, you can find an interesting range of items over at Motorsport Memorabilia UK.
Update: 17th July 2002. Review of the 2002 Goodwood Festival of Speed.
Well another Goodwood Festival of Speed has been and gone, and once more
Lord March's team succeeded in scouring the planet for some truly
awesome machines, dating from the late 1890s right through to the thundering
F1 racing cars of today.
Renault was the key supporter of this years
event, an event which has confirmed itself as the #1 international motoring
festival during its 10 years of running. Le Regie supplied all manner of
cars this year, from both road and track, and from all manner of different
disciplines. Rally cars were well represented, with example of Alpine, R5
R20 Safari car, F1 turbo cars and even their own F1 prototype, unusual for a
Renault in being in its original all-over black colour scheme.
examples of the French manufacturer's Le Mans entries to complement their
Grand Prix efforts, along with a healthy selection of Renault-powered
Grand Prix Engineering racers.
Of course there were plenty of other car
makers in attendance. Contemporary Formula 1 representatives were
by Ferrari, BAR Honda, Mclaren Mercedes, Williams BMW and of course Renault,
with Jensen Button sticking around for all 3 days to demonstrate their
latest world championship contender. Ralf Schumacher ran the Williams BMW on
the Saturday, with Marc Gene (test driver) taking the reigns for the
remaining runs. Alex Wurz and Darren Turner alternated in demonstrating the
Mclaren Mercedes, whilst Fukuda demo'd the BAR as their latest test driver
signing. The F2001 Ferrari was driven throughout the weekend by an
ever-exuburant Luciano Burti.
Other well known drivers/personalities from
numerous other arenas of
motorsport made guest appearances in various machines over the weekend.
These included Hannu Mikkola (Audi Quattro), Mike Gasgoine (Renault R5
Ricardo Patrese (Williams), Alan Jones (Williams), Tony Brooks (Vanwall),
Stirling Moss (Mercedes 300SLR and Jaguar XK120), Jack Brabham (Cooper),
Emerson Fittipaldi (JPS Lotus), Erik Carlsson (Saab 96), Derek Bell
(Ferrari) and John Surtees (Honda) to name just a few.
Despite rain on the
Friday, the runs were still as
spectacular as ever, even with cars on 20 year old slicks. Older Grand Prix
cars were much in evidence, with cars such as James Hunts old Mclaren M23
a number of Tyrrells (including the P34 six wheeler as part of a tribute to
Ken Tyrrell) being given a good run, with Jackie Stewart to be seen piloting
ex-Francois Cevert 002 on the Saturday. Lotus was represented with a great
variety of models from their F1 days, with one of the more spectacular
given by Geoff Farmer in his ex-Jo Siffert Lotus49B, recently restored after
a lengthy period of inactivity.
Other attractions over this long weekend included the Gravity racers,
effectively a downhill run of hi-tech lightweight soap box racers made by a
high profile companies, for instance Prodrive and Rolls Royce.
team go to great efforts to ensure that the younger members of the crowd are
suitably entertained, the highlight of which is the ever-growing list of
Wacky Racers that are to be spied running up the hill in full flight, with
Dick Dastardly &
Muttley in hot pursuit of Peter Perfect et al. Mercedes were there as usual,
with another glistening array of vehicles from their historic collection, as
representations from Alfa Romeo (Alfetta 159 for instance) and BMW
(including some fine 1970s Gp2 racing cars).
The main display over on the cricket pitch was a first for Goodwood, in the
shape of the history of British dragsters, with a good number of historic
machines on display, from out and out top fuel cars, to fully bespoke
dragsters that bear a passing resemblance to a one time road car, witness
the Austin A30,
Mk1 Ford Cortina, VW Beetle and Aston Martin Virage (!) based examples.
Crowd numbers were as high as ever, encouraging you to arrive early and stay
late if you were keen to get unobstructed photos of the cars on display
that they weren't under cover still!).
If the feast of cars on display, and
running up the hill, wasn't enough for you, then there were plenty of other
attractions to keep
you (and your offspring) interested, such as the aerial display performed by
the RAF Tornado and, late on Sunday, a stunning performance against clear
from the RAF Red Arrows display team, rounding off what once again had been
a memorable and enjoyable 3 days.