AGR’s Top 10 from the 2017 Goodwood Festival of Speed

Impression rarely strikes when expected, and never is this more true than at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. Everyone at Goodwood speaks volumes of their own personal lists of five or ten or twenty cars, the ones that for whatever reason are their highlights of the event. In fact, when at the event in person it’s impossible to strike conversation with a friend or even a complete stranger and not delve somewhat into your list. These are the cars that cause you to gravitate trackside to ensure that their run is not missed, every time they go out.

AGR has already published a full post on the Goodwood Festival of Speed, which can be read by clicking here. Presented here are the ten cars that intrigued me most at the 2017 FOS, the ones that often caught me by surprise and held my attention for the longest. They are not necessarily the fastest or the oldest or the most expensive, but these are the cars that I found most interesting. The ones that I wanted to study in great detail, my personal highlights.

10) 2013 Audi R18 E-Tron Quattro

Goodwood events are characterised by historically significant cars, and for the most part they are quite old. For a person of my age (late twenties) we are usually familiar with these cars from photographs and books, but relating to them can be a little more difficult as we never experienced their heroics in person. Even more so coming from Australia, as the tyranny of distance results in us missing out on quite a bit. For example, the Group B rally era largely skipped us.

Seeing the R18 E-Tron Quattro in person was particularly poignant because I was there when it won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2013. Still resplendent in its dirt and battle scarred bodywork as it was that day, I was standing in the middle of a huge crowd of cheering (and drunk) Frenchmen right at the finish line and saw it take the chequered flag. It was Tom Kristensen’s last of his nine Le Mans wins before retirement, and was marred by the death of Allan Simonsen at the beginning of the race.

It’s likely just a sign of ageing, but this was the first time that I’ve seen an important car presented at a meet in a historic capacity (‘Audi Tradition’) and had memories of witnessing its victory in person. I’m sure this will only become a more frequent occurrence.

9) Kamaz T4 Dakar Truck

Have you ever seen a truck weighing 9.8 tonnes thrown around with such apparent disregard for the laws of physics? Every time this Kamaz was on the course, it was sideways. To give a little scale, I had framed this photo through some trees so that the car would occupy a clear space of the shot near the apex of the corner, yet the Kamaz is so physically big that it fills the frame and is even particularly obscured by those trees.

The entire concept of Dakar trucks is a fascinating one. Rules of the rally state that no outside assistance is to be given during a stage, and that only competitors can assist other competitors. It wasn’t long until car and bike teams began entering trucks in the rally; mobile workshops on wheels, filled with mechanics and tools and spares, all ready to assist ‘other competitors’ if required. It’s got to the point where these gargantuan behemoths have become finely honed racing machines in their own competition class, and this 2017 Dakar winning Kamaz was one of the most impressive machines I’ve seen.

The production cab holds three crew inside a full roll cage, the 17.2 litre diesel V8 sends 730bhp to all four wheels via a 16 speed ZF gearbox, the engine and transfer case are set back and low for better weight distribution, it carries just over a thousand litres of diesel and it rides on a set of what must be the biggest dual body remote-reservoir Reiger dampers ever made. And it drifts on tarmac – what a toy!

8) 1976 Ferrari 308 GTB Group B

Ferrari’s history in rallying is not exactly illustrious, but that’s not to say that they’ve never tackled the special stage. The most famous rally cars to bear the prancing horse were the 14 308 GTB’s built by Michelotto to Group 4 specifications, of which an unknown number might survive today. This 308 is not one of those. This striking yellow example left the factory as a standard road car, and was converted to Group B rally specs in 1981 by Tony Worswick who saw the potential in a light car fitted with a mid-mounted V8 engine. He even developed his own Kevlar body panels for it, years before Ferrari did. It was never going to beat the Quattro’s and 037’s, but this is still a legitimate homebuilt Group B rally weapon.

With support from UK importers Maranello Concessionaires and a few choice parts from Michelotto, Tony competed in the European Rally Championship from 1982-1986. The 308 was never crashed and remains in its original condition, fitted with its final mechanical iteration – a highly developed version of the Ferrari V8 featuring custom cams, fuel injection, Worswick Engineering slide throttle bodies and a Zytek engine management system that was good for around 440bhp.

7) 1990 Porsche 911 Targa reimagined by Singer Vehicle Design

There is little more to add to the Singer 911 discussion that hasn’t already been said, but the basic concept is simple. To backdate an early nineties Porsche 911 and fit the biggest possible engine. Simple? No. Singer’s Luxemburg Commission was present at Goodwood, and it would be my first time seeing one in person.

The devil is in the detail, and in Singer’s case it is the chase of absolute perfection. Perfect is a word that can rarely be truthfully used, but it is completely accurate in this instance. There is not a single unresolved detail to be found anywhere on this car.

The custom body panels are all motorsport grade pre-preg carbon fiber, the targa hoop is nickel plated carbon fibre, the 4.0-litre engine makes 390bhp and propels the Targa to 100km/h in 3.3 seconds (quicker than a new 991 Turbo), the bespoke dampers are made by Ohlins and the brakes are Brembo.

Each commission is built to the every whims of its owner, which explains this example’s rather bright colour combination, and little details such as interior switches that go to ’11’ rather than ’10’ (refer Spinal Tap). I’d never be brave enough to spec a car like this myself, but it works exceptionally well.

It’s only in person that you can truly appreciate the details, such as the tartan effect created by woven leather and the fact that there are no screw heads or clips left exposed. It shows where the better part of a million Australian dollars can go when you’re chasing these levels of performance and perfection.

6) Mad Mike Whiddett’s ‘RAD BUL’ Mazda MX-5

Yes, the so-called RAD BUL is a drift car. And a drift car made it into my top ten, but for good reason. The MX5’s ability to turn its rear tyres into a storm of white smoke is nothing short of impressive, but it’s the under bonnet specification that is truly astounding. I’m not sure what’s more surprising – that Whiddett attempted it build it, or that it actually runs.

Modern drifting requires serious power, so for reliability and cost effectiveness most top level drift cars are fitted with Chev or Ford V8’s. Not so for the bewigged, Rocket Bunny equipped ND MX-5. A PPRE built quad-rotor 26B Wankel fitted with twin Garrett GTX40 turbochargers is somehow shoe-horned into that tiny engine bay, producing around 1200bhp on its exotic diet of E85 and pre-mix jungle juice fuels. Forget the drifting – the noise from this thing is worth the price of admission alone. Never in the history of cars has anything sounded so close to complete explosion, even just at idle.

You’d have an expression like this if you were to attempt a drift run in this thing, too.

5) Aston Martin Vantage V8 GT4

It seems so obvious. Take an AMR factory built GT4 specification circuit racer, and just turn it into a gravel rally car. Have Francois Delecour drive it and be awesome.

That’s exactly what the Finnish workshop Mäkelä Auto-Tuning have done, preparing the once dedicated circuit car for WRC competition in the FIA’s R/GT category. Relatively minor modifications were all that was required – the fitment of bespoke Intrax gravel dampers, fabrication of underbody protection, the design and installation of a hydraulic handbrake setup, design and construction of the light pod and fitting of a co-drivers seat.

The result is nothing short of spectacular, and the GT4 sounds louder and angrier in the forests than a Vantage has ever sounded on the track. I’m sure it makes no financial sense to embark on a build like this, yet even still the result is a master stroke.

4) Mercedes-Benz W25/W125 

Irrespective of era, it is a universal truth that governing bodies need to carefully consider the consequences of their rules, because engineers will almost certainly find a way to overcome their intent. In 1934 in a bid curb cheating and to simplify, Grand Prix racing’s governing body mandated that the only rule would be a 750kg maximum vehicle weight. They naively assumed that this would naturally limit vehicle speeds, and would force manufactures to make smaller cars with smaller engines.

They never really counted on Grand Prix racing being turned into such a display of industrial strength by the German government, and the result was an ever escalating use of exotic materials, unaffordable aerospace technologies and laboratory concocted fuels. The pinnacle of this madness was the Mercedes-Benz W125 (above), a racing car with over 650bhp and capable of more than 300km/h. In 1937!

This is really a two-part point, for the cars themselves were a highlight of the Festival. Indeed, I was quite surprised to find myself fascinated by all of the pre-war cars in general, but the silver arrows were a clear step above the rest. I’ve got no idea what fuel they run but I can tell you that it is not healthy to breathe those fumes. The noise is another level again, with a volume so loud that it makes even the warmup procedure painful without ear plugs. Even compared to newer cars the W125’s still looked physically fast; they would have been positively frightening in 1937.

The second point is the sheer professionalism of the Mercedes-Benz classic team that travel with and run these cars. The vehicles themselves are immaculately presented in full running order, prepared exactly as they would have been back in the day. Take for example that wooden crate shown in the photo above. The W125’s need to be warmed up before each run on colder plugs that are swapped out once the engine is fully warm, and the team have a specially designed box for just this purpose. This is a two-man job – one hands and takes the plugs, the other removes and installs them. The box sits perfectly on the W125 and houses both sets of plugs in a straight-eight alignment so they can be taken out and installed in the same order each time. The lid closes on top of the plugs revealing a toolbox compartment to house the plug spanner and a rag, meaning that everything required for this particular task falls easily to hand. There are similar but differently designed boxes for each regular job that takes place at an event, and they all stack into a large rolling toolbox for transport. How very German.

3) 1963 Maserati A6GCS Pininfarina Berlinetta

Taught, muscular, aggressive yet reserved. There are few sports cars that manage to be all these things, and still look as stunningly proportioned as the Maserati A6GCS.

Nevermind that under its Pininfarina penned and hand beaten aluminium body lies the heart of a purebred competition car designed to take victory at events such as the Mille Miglia, the one-of-four A6GCS would have become an icon on its looks alone. It is the archetypal Italian sports car of the early sixties, a vehicle capable of winning national races, touring the countryside and arriving at dinner, all in the same day. In modern times the Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus SCG 003 is probably the only car to match this, yet it is nowhere near as graceful.

In that racing fuel filler mounted through the B-pillar and the side pipes, the A6GCS has some proper hot-rod touches yet it somehow avoids looking tacky or trite. I guess this is the mark of truly genius design.

2) Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Competizione

Whether in road or race trim, in Maranello Concessionaires or Ecurie Francorchamps livery, the 365 GTB/4 Daytona is the consummate GT car. One that can swoon the highways of seventies France or Italy, and with some minor modifications win its class at Le Mans in ’72, ’73 and ’74.

Both examples at the Festival have Le Mans history and remain in remarkably original condition, especially the yellow car. To see them up close and inspect their fine details, and then hear the scream of their V12’s racing up the hill, was a definite highlight.

However, it was something a little less anticipated that proved to be a standout experience of the weekend. This is the original interior, as raced in period at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and it still smelt like an old Italian car should.

Both cars were parked with their drivers window down and you could smell that unique combination of leather, fuel and whatever type of plastics or glue they used emanating from within. It’s a smell unique to almost every Italian car of the era, from Fiat to Ferrari to Lamborghini. To think that a car that won its class at Le Mans 45 years ago would still smell like it did back then, and then to be able to take that aroma in, was a pretty special moment.

1) 1911 Fiat S76 ‘Beast of Turin’

  Fiat manufactured a pair of S76’s in 1911 to break the land speed record, which they did at 186km/h. The story goes that a few days later they significantly broke their own record, but a tram driver would not reopen a crossing which prevented them from making the return run within the allowed time. 186 is pretty fast today, but it would have felt lethal in 1911.

All that fire and brimstone comes from a 28.5-litre inline four making around 300bhp. An engine so tall that its drivers must peer around the sides to get a glimpse of the road ahead.

And yes, the open exhaust. Sometimes with bursts of flame, always with heat haze. There’s no special effect on that image, that is the view of the passenger who is routinely roasted on every drive.

The best part is that the Beast of Turin is somehow road registered and is usually driven the 150 miles to Goodwood each year, singeing the eyebrows and melting the polyester jackets of pedestrians in the villages it passes through.

 This example is an amalgamation, a complete car made from parts sourced from the two S76’s built. The chassis was found in Australia, minus the bodywork. Fiat had an original engine in their museum, but no body or chassis. The argument as to who should sell and who should end up with the complete car could have dragged out, but the owner managed to convince Fiat to sell their engine. He built a new gearbox from original drawings and a new body from photographs, and united it all into a complete S76. What a project, what a car!

Words and photos by Andrew Coles

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