Imagine for just one second, if you will. You’re at a bar; it’s bustling and busy and you can barely hold conversation over the collective cacophony of a thousand other conversations all happening at once. This imaginary bar is filled almost completely with car people, which means that pretty much all of the conversations are revolving around our favourite subject. Tales of great races past, of the latest supercars, of brushes with motorsport royalty. There are some pretty big names at this bar too, and they recall stories of winning world championships and of driving some of the most dangerous and brutal cars to ever be conceived.
The Goodwood Festival of Speed is that bar brought to life. An estate in rural southern England, filled to the brim for four days with thousands upon thousands of stories, and no matter how hard you try it is impossible to take them all in. A cacophony, maybe. But it’s the most glorious cacophony of simultaneous storytelling that you’ve ever heard.
Das Roten Sau (The Red Pig) is one of the first and arguably the most famous AMG’s, starting the marque’s classic combination of squeezing the largest possible V8 engine into a smaller Mercedes shell. Built as a one-off to go racing, the 6.8-litre from the 600 Pullman was fitted into a 300 SEL, netting first in class and second overall at the 1971 24 Hours of Spa.
This 1975 Lancia Stratos is a genuine works car that was driven in the 1975 and 1976 World Championship seasons by Bjorn Waldegard, and is currently resplendent in its livery and spec from the 1976 East African Safari Rally. It won the San Remo Rally in ’75 and ’76, and was second in Monte Carlo in ’76.
The stories don’t end. Gordon Shedden, dual BTCC champion in 2015 and 2016, warms up the 1967 Honda RA300 V12 Formula 1 while taking an iPhone photo of Senna’s 1991 World Championship winning McLaren-Honda MP4/6 as it slowly cruises past.
Timo Bernhard drives the Porsche 919 Hybrid that he won the 2017 24 Hours of Le Mans with Earl Bamber and Brendon Hartley, just a fortnight earlier. Both the second and third placing cars from the same race, the Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca’s, and the LMGTE Pro winning Aston Martin V8 Vantage, were also driven for the crowds.
In fact, almost every current super or hypercar is present. La Ferrari Aperta, Aston Martin’s Vulcan and Vanquish Zagato, Ferrari’s 599XX Evo, FXX Evo, FXX K, Honda NSX, Keonigsegg Agera RS, Lamborghini’s Aventador S, Centenario, Huracan Performante (x3), Lexus LF-A, McLaren P1 GTR, Lanzante McLaren P1LM, Pagani’s Huayra BC and Zonda 760RS, Porsche 718 Spyder (x5), Bugatti Chiron (x2), Bugatti Veyron (x8). They were all there, and more.
The metaphorically bustling bar that is the Goodwood Festival of Speed presents a constant din of history, of the latest and greatest, of the most famous, of the fastest, of the oldest, that is so loud that it would be nothing short of sensory overload to attempt to take it all in. At most events you make a point of studying the most important cars in detail, but that simply is not possible at Goodwood. There is just too much going on, there is just too much conversation in the bar, to properly appreciate it all.
When I was here last, in 2013, I tried and failed to take it all in. This time I came with a little experience packed in my bag, and the aim to physically see everything but to only go into detail on the things that particularly caught my eye. I found it a much more rewarding and richer experience – to only hear the stories at the bar from the people you really want to meet. This is the only approach for Goodwood, and one that without doubt gives every attendee a unique experience.
Nascar isn’t really my thing, so I didn’t spend much time studying that class in great detail. I’m sure if I were at a standalone historic Nascar meet I would find them fascinating and would revel in learning of their history, but at Goodwood I had no choice but to keep walking.
Instead I spent most of my time studying in great detail the sports, racing, rally and Formula 1 cars from the fifties through to the late eighties. Cars driven by heroes in the time when motor racing could still be classified as a bloodsport, when engine power and corner speeds were progressing a damn sight faster than what safety could keep up with.
From when the most advanced touring cars of the day still bore a very close resemblance to their roadgoing counterparts, to the point where it was possible to modify your street car with ex-touring car parts.
And then to be able to walk a few minutes to the side of the hillclimb course and watch these same cars being driven to their limit is what really solidifies the experience. To take in all of the static details, and then see them roar past as one moving assembly, is surely the greatest tribute to those who designed, built and raced these machines in the first place.
It’s not as if you don’t look at anything else or even appreciate it, far from it. It’s just that every one of the hundreds, if not thousands, of cars at the Goodwood Festival of Speed are filled with details and stories and tales all waiting to be discovered.
When this is combined with millions of individual sights and sounds and smells it can become overwhelming. Finding the top cowl to Lauda’s 1974 Ferrari 312/B perched up on a hedge is something that could only happen at Goodwood, and it’s all more than one person can take in over a single four day period.
The theme for 2017 was ‘Peaks of Performance – Motorsport’s Game Changers’, and celebrated cars that revolutionised their championship or the sport as a whole on their launch. Cars like the Group B Lancia’s, the technologically advanced Benetton B193, the STP turbine Indy cars, the exotic Mercedes W125, the aerodynamic Chaparral’s, the banned before it was launched Group S Audi Quattro, the F-Duct McLaren-Mercedes MP4-25 and the turbo era Formula 1 cars.
You read about all of these technologies and the political reasons for their introduction in the brilliantly researched event guide, and then go and inspect the actual cars in detail. You stand next to the turbocharged Renault RE40, watch the mechanics carry out the warmup and startup procedures, block your ears as they warm the engine, wince as your eyes begin to water from the certainly leaded race fuel, and then watch it being driven at speed up the hillclimb. It really is history brought to life.
A favourite game changing story is the one of the 1994 Mercedes-Penske PC23, the car that won that years Indy 500 in the hands of Al Unser Jr. It’s the classic tale of spotting a loophole and exploiting it to full advantage. At that time the Indy Car rules assumed that teams would run modern multivalve engines, but there was an odd caveat that allowed old-tech pushrod engines to remain competitive by allowing them larger capacities and higher turbo boost pressure. Realising the advantage, engine builder Ilmor, Team Penske and Mercedes-Benz spent hundreds of thousands developing, in top secret, the most advanced pushrod engine possible. They knew it would be banned straight away, so planned to use it just once to take victory at Indy. They had over 200bhp more than anyone else, and in the race lapped the entire field with 15 laps remaining. All pushrod engines were subsequently banned as expected, but the biggest race in the world had been won. They changed the game, on that one day at least.
Other hillclimb classes celebrated 70 years of Ferrari sports cars, 70 years of Ferrari single seaters, the 120th anniversary of Brooklands, the Delage 15 S8, a class for the the pre-war 750kg maximum weight formula that gave rise to the crazy supercharged Mercedes’ and Alfa’s, a motorcycle class celebrating the Dunlop family, a class for full-size replicas of eighties Tamiya remote control cars, a drift class featuring Chris Forsberg, Vaughn Gittin Jr, Baggsy Biagioni and Mad Mike Whiddett, a class celebrating the career of Tom Kristensen, a tribute class for John Surtees, and a celebration of the Lotus 49, amongst many others.
The iconic Gerry Judah sculpture on the Goodwood House lawns this year celebrated the career of Bernie Ecclestone, housing five significant Formula 1 cars on and around the 35m tall steel structure. The cars hoisted in the air are the real cars, held by straps around their wheels (with safety cables just in case). The five cars represent the ‘five ages of Ecclestone’. As driver himself, he attempted to qualify the Connaught for the 1958 Monaco Grand Prix, Jochen Rindt’s 1972 Championship winning Lotus 72 represents his time as a driver manager, Nelson Piquet’s 1981 championship winning Brabham BT49 represents his time as team owner, Michael Schumacher’s 2001 championship winning Ferrari F2001 is there to represent his impresario era as he built F1 into the monolith it is, and Nico Rosberg’s 2016 championship winning Mercedes F1 W07 represents the legend that Ecclestone has become.
Sure, there some cars that are too historically important. And for some aero and ground effects cars and those geared for 400km/h down the Mulsanne, the hillclimb course is too short and narrow to even get up to speed, but these are certainly the minority.
You usually only see vintage cars puttering slowly to and from shows, and you tend to forget that they were driven every bit as hard as race cars are today. At the Festival of Speed they still are, and this 1903 Mercedes 60HP attacked the hill with nothing less than full commitment on every run. Can you imagine the nerve and skill required to slide and drift a 114 year old car up a hillclimb course? I think that those fire suits should be swapped for motorcycle leathers.
The weekend culminates with a timed shootout that is streamed live around the world. Entrants can nominate for their times to be included, and a qualifying session is held on Saturday to determine the start order for the Sunday afternoon shootout. Competing cars stretch the full range from pre-war, to classics, to eighties Le Mans winners and contemporary racers, and the competition is fierce. Mark Higgins, driving the Prodrive built Subaru WRX STi that he used to smash the Isle of Man TT car lap record, finished in third place with a 48.25 second run.
Jeremy Smith finished second with a 46.22 second run in the 1993 Penske-Chevrolet PC22, the very car that Emerson Fittipaldi drove to victory in the 1993 Indy 500. You’d think a car like this would be relegated to a museum somewhere, but at the Festival it’s raced up the hill with complete commitment and demonstrated exactly as intended.
The word ‘festival’ is often thrown about with abandon to the point where it is loosing its meaning, however the event at Goodwood is truly a ‘Festival of Speed’. Whilst the hillclimb and the world’s most incredible assortment of competition vehicles is certainly the highlight, there is so much surrounding activity that you can happily spend a day or two without actually seeing any of those. Just take the carpark for example.
There would have been at least twenty Lamborghini’s, including at least four examples of the limited run Aventador SV and a Huracan Performante. La Ferrari, Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione, and a Lotus Carlton. It didn’t end.
The Cartier Style et Luxe concours celebrated all things automotive at a much more relaxed pace, spacing the entered cars around the lawns in such a manner so as to encourage you to stop for a moment and take the details in.
To give an idea of the span of cars exhibited at the Style et Luxe, 43 cars were entered across seven classes; 120 years of the Stanley Motor Carriage, The Fabled Ferrari 250, Rolls-Royce’s sublime Silver Ghost, The bespoke DB Aston-Martin, The intercontinental Maserati GT, Genesis of the Hypercar and 60 years of the Fiat 500.
Style et Luxe judges included Gordon Murray, Nick Mason, Ross Brawn, Jaguar design chief Ian Callum, industrial designer Marc Newson, Genesis guitarist Mike Rutherford, Rowan Atkinson, Wallpaper magazine editor Tony Chambers and Foster + Partners founder Norman Foster, amongst others. The overall winner was judged to be the 1957 Ferrari 250 GT Pininfarina Cabriolet.
Most major manufacturers are represented at the Festival in such a grand style that it is fast becoming a reincarnation of the now defunct British motor show. The big ones, like Jaguar Land Rover, Audi, Ford, AMG and BMW all construct gargantuan temporary structures that surely eclipse many of their permanent showrooms for sheer scale.
Inside, their regular production models are joined by a range of concept, race and historic vehicles as the manufacturers try their best to draw links between their past greats and the current lineup. Jaguar Land Rover’s structure encompassed an entire tree. Inside sat their current range, the first public showing of the Range Rover Velar, the Jaguar I-Pace concept alongside the brand’s Formula E single seater and the public launch of the limited edition XE Project 8. Built outside on one end was an expansive Land Rover Experience off-road course…
… complete with manual transmission! The display car was fitted with the optional carbon bucket seats, making it physically impossible not to sit in the car and pretend to go driving. The tactility of that manual shifter as it clicked and clacked into each gate, even sitting stationary, was something special to behold. The Porsche Experience also featured a large, open and muddy field, attacked with Cayenne loads of people sliding in huge sideways drifts, mud flinging off all four wheels.
In the middle sat the first McLaren to be painted the now iconic papaya orange, the 1967 M6A/1 which won that year’s Can-Am Championship. It’s a pure recipe for success (or death) – a stonking great V8 and a huge fuel tank nestled in a steel tube chassis, wrapped in fibreglass.
Set to one side was McLaren F1 XP-5, the fifth experimental prototype, promotional press vehicle, and still current holder of the world’s fastest naturally aspirated production car record (386km/h, set by Andy Wallace at the Esra-Lession proving ground in 1998).
The most Instagrammed car at the McLaren stand was likely not the Can-Am winner or the F1, but the rather aptly named ‘720S Lego’. Built on a real 720S rolling chassis, there’s not a huge chance that it will be put into series production anytime soon.
Apart from the elaborate structures and often kitschy competitions, most manufacturers had something of interest to see. In BMW’s case, it was their current BTCC 125i M Sport. What an awesome looking little racecar.
Renault’s display was rather interesting. Mixed in amongst their usual everyday transportation was the new Alpine A110 sports car on static display, joining another example being punted up the hillclimb course rather enthusiastically.
As a side note, the Renault Classic team made use of one of the coolest ever service trucks in the paddock, supplying tools and spares for the Formula 1 cars and Le Mans winners they were also running.
Whilst on the subject of service trucks, the Renault Sport truck was strongly challenged in the coolness/practicality stakes by a pair of eighties Volkswagen trucks wearing complete Audi Sport liveries. Never have commercial vehicles been so exciting, but I digress.
There were hundreds of other stalls filled by smaller manufacturers, tool makers, memorabilia collections and car dealers. Many went to a great deal of effort sourcing the best possible display cars to reinforce their message.
There was strong representation from the aftermarket industry, with the likes of Milltek, Twisted, Dymag and Alcon all having a presence. I really dug this M-Sport Transit van towing an M-Sport Fiesta R5 rally car. The perfect weekend combo?
There’s a lot to see, and it’s spread out all over the estate which means there is a fair bit of walking. I estimate I walked at least 15km per day, but it isn’t much of a chore when you’re walking through beautiful woods to get around. This one led to the forest rally stage, located right at the top of the hill near the hillclimb finish line.
Like those running in the hillclimb, the rally cars are usually driven hard as they were designed, often by well known drivers. The cars all have impressive histories – this Sierra RS Cosworth competed in the full 1989 British Rally Championship and wears its original livery.
There were two of the original works Mini Cooper S rally cars from the 1964 season in attendance, and the famous Monte Carlo winning car was driving again by Rauno Aaltonen on the forest stage. The Healey 3000 Mk3 is an original works car too, and won the 1961 Alpine Rally. The Mk1 Escort is a proper Lotus Twin Cam, also a works car, and the Austin Maxi next to it competed in the 1970 London to Mexico Rally. Many decades later its original driver, Bronwyn Burrell, tracked it down, restored it and drove it again in the 2009 London to Lisbon rally.
This Peugeot-looking vehicle sounded like a Formula 1 car and captivated attention up and down the hill whenever it went out. The rear is Peugeot 205, the front is Peugeot 306 Maxi, and its tube chassis houses a mid mounted triple rotor!
Bugatti came with a pair of the 1103kw, quad turbocharged, W16 powered, 420km/h Chiron’s – one to run up the hill, and one for static display. I’m not completely enamoured with what the Chiron stands for, but you can’t help but be awestruck by the engineering, plus it looks worlds better than the Veyron. It’s good for 0-100km/h in 2.5sec, 0-200 in 6.5, and an astonishing 0-300 in 13.6. A true unlimited top speed run has not yet been attempted, but the estimated figure sits at around 460km/h.
Lanzante, the outfit behind McLaren’s semi-factory 1995 Le Mans victory, entered their P1 LM – a road converted version of McLaren’s track only P1 GTR (also in attendance). As well as being road registered it somehow has less weight, more power and more downforce than the GTR, which was used to great effect when Kenny Brack set a 6.43.20 around the Nordschleiffe in this car, shattering the road-registered lap record by nine seconds. And what’s more, it was driven back to the UK on the public road right after its record breaking run.
An unexpected highlight joining the supercars was the Eagle Low Drag GT, a modern interpretation based on an original E-Type taking inspiration from the Lightweight racers of the sixties. It’s utterly spellbinding in person, especially in the company of so many modern supercars all shouting for attention.
Part of going to the Festival of Speed is the acknowledgment that you just can’t see everything, but taking pleasure in appreciating what you do see. It is truly unlike anything else in the motoring world.
This article hasn’t even really scratched the surface, and I’ll follow it up shortly with another post containing my top 10 cars from the weekend. They are not necessarily the most important or advanced cars, but the ones that really grabbed my attention and held it every time they went out.
All of the photos and website posts and live streams are brilliant, but the only way to truly experience the magic that is the Festival of Speed is witness it in person. To walk amongst the cars and the drivers, to listen to the tinking of cooling metal and appreciate the unique aroma of burnt race fuel. To be fascinated by cars and drivers that you never would ordinarily have taken an interest in, to learn the history of the sport in realtime.FOS #Goodwood #Goodwood Festival of Speed #Goodwood Festival of Speed 2017