Goodwood Festival of Speed

Goodwood Festival of Speed by Colin White

Planning or thinking of a trip to the UK in early summer?  Interested in cars and motor sport ?  (Of course you are or you wouldn’t be reading this)!   Well, you really shouldn’t miss the Goodwood Festival of Speed at least once in your life.

Peter Bland and I had both planned to be in the UK in June this year(2007), and so decided to meet up and go to the 3 day event.  It is held on the Goodwood Estate in West Sussex, which is the family seat and home of the Earl of March who must be one of the wealthiest petrol heads in the world!

Despite the weather not being the best (it bucketed down all day on the Sunday) we had a fantastic 3 days and were both absolutely blown away by the scale of the event, the amazing variety of historic and latest cars, bikes, and well known drivers, riders and other motoring celebrities past and present from all around the world.

The Festival caters exclusively for the most significant cars in the history of international motor sport, such as famous Grand Prix cars; successful Le Mans, Indy and CanAm cars; important rally and touring cars; plus some of the world’s most famous competition motorcycles.

The main event is a 1.16 mile hillclimb track in the grounds of Goodwood House. This track is very narrow with some treacherous bends and a high rock wall towards the top.  Imagine Lewis Hamilton in his latest FI car up this track, in the wet, with wheels spinning!

There are a number of grandstands along the track which give superb close views of the action, and public viewing areas which were extremely crowded.  Our entry and grandstand seats for the 3 days cost about 150 pounds, and had to be purchased in advance – no tickets for sale at the gates.

Around the start of the hillclimb are four Paddocks where all 350 of the cars and bikes are based and worked on during the event. There is completely unrestricted access for the public throughout the Paddocks so you can get up close and personal with all the cars, bikes and their drivers and mechanics.  Wandering around these Paddocks we saw so many beautiful and famous cars and bikes – too many to list, but I took some 300 odd photos.  However, be warned it is crowded, particularly on the Sunday.

We watched the main action on the hillclimb from our grandstand seats.  So many, many exciting runs by fantastic cars and bikes along with the stunning smell and noise of the cars and bikes – too many to list them all but  …… particular highlights were :-

Chris Pfeiffer, World Stunt Champion performing amazing stunts on his BMW F800S bike.

Rowan Atkinson driving the John Cobb World Land Speed Record Napier Railton Special
Troy Bayliss World Superbike Champion riding his 999FO7 race bike.
Emerson Fittipaldi in the Gold Leaf Lotus 49B.
Lewis Hamilton wheelspinning his McLaren Mercedes F1 car up the hill in the wet.
Nick Mason (Pink Floyd drummer), in the 1930’s works Auto Union Type D.
Sammy Miller, the world’s greatest trials rider riding a Gilera Quattro.
Stirling Moss driving the Mercedes Benz 300SLR (in which he won the 1955 Mille Miglia) and the 4WD Ferguson-Climax F1 car.
John Surtees riding the Honda RA301.
The Group C Le Mans winning Silk Cut Jaguar XJR6, 9 and 12 endurance racers.
White vans (support vehicles) racing up and down the hill at the end of each event carrying drivers, celebrities and who knows what else…..!
and Mark Webber on a bicycle in the Organic Cycle Race!

Other events or attractions that were going on at the same time that we managed to see  were:-

The Rally Special Stage, which is a 2.5-kilometre loose-surface rally stage, cut into the wooded area close to the hillclimb finish line.  Around 30 historic and current rally cars gave a thrilling demonstration of sideways driving throughout the stage.  We saw Paddy Hopkirk in a Monte Carlo Rally Cooper S (rolled it!), Petter Solberg and Chris Atkinson in works WRC Imprezas, Colin McRae in his own design McRae R4 rally car, Stig Blomqvist in the famous Pikes Peak Audi Quattro, and many others.
The  Cartier Style et Luxe, a concours event featuring some of the most beautiful and exotic cars ever built – this year featuring 5 stunning Bugatti Royales out of only 6 ever built (the last one sold for 5.5 million pounds in 1987!), and many other fabulous original restored cars.  Others I fell in love with were a beautiful 1935 Triumph Dolomite 8C and a 1936 Jaguar SS100.
The cricket ground which had been converted into a recreation of the Bonneville Salt Flats with a stationary collection of 12 famous land speed record breakers including the rocket powered Blue Flame, the Spirit of ’76, and MG’s EX181.
The FOS-TECH pavilion which featured future design and technology in a number of concept performance cars of the future, and a robot!
A huge area of trade stands featuring most of the performance and supercar manufacturers right down to individual accessory and souvenir sellers.

Things that we didn’t get to because we didn’t want to miss the action on the hillclimb were a display of Ferraris in the courtyard of Goodwood House marking their 60th anniversary, the Bonham’s auction which was actually held on the Thursday before the event started, the Porsche SUV and LandRover driving experience where you could drive yourself off road, and the Sunday Times Supercar paddock featuring about 20 of the latest supercars in the world. Most disappointing of all, we didn’t get an invitation to the big celebrity party held by Lord March in Goodwood House on the Saturday night – apparently quite a rave-up!  We just had to console ourselves with the thought that the lack of our company was their loss!

Peter and I pre-booked our tickets on the net through the Goodwood website which is well worth having a look at anyway.  We also arranged B & B accommodation in Petersfield, which was about 15 miles from Goodwood, about 20 minutes drive via back roads.  Parking at Goodwood was free, in fields on the estate, and very well organised with temporary road boards laid so that exit even on the very muddy Sunday afternoon was no real problem.

The biggest problem with the weather on the Sunday was that the public areas became a quagmire of slippery mud. Unfortunately for me when I was leaving the grandstand at the end of the day I slipped and fell flat on my face in 6 inches of mud and was covered from head to toe! I managed to clean most of it off my face, specs and jacket, but had to drive 3 hours home to Stratford in my sister’s car with my shoes and trousers covered in mud! She was not impressed with the state of her car!

To wrap up, I reckon the next event to go to is the Goodwood Revival meeting of historic racers which is held on the Goodwood Motor Racing circuit which is separate to the hillclimb (there is a horse racing circuit as well!). However I’ll need to do some sweet talking indoors for that!

Colin White

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