The Goodwood Festival of speed is nirvana for petrolheads, an oasis in a world full of speed vans and city cars, where trivialities such as fuel efficiency and boot space are discarded and horsepower, thundering engines and burning rubber reign supreme.
Last weekend I had the chance to take in two days at the Goodwood, located on part of the 12,000 acre Goodwood Estate managed by the Earl of March in Sussex. The festival, which has been held every summer since 1993, has been described as the ‘world’s largest automotive garden party’, featuring over 600 cars and motorcycles across the weekend in a celebration of the history of motoring and motorsport. Each year a sculpture, created by Gerry Judah, is placed outside Goodwood House, commemorating a different automaker every year. For 2016, BMW was chosen in the year of its centenary. The arching sculpture, rising 40m into the air, illustrated BMW’s sporting success throughout the years, featuring Gordon Murray’s Brabham-BMW BT52, the Le Mans-winning V12 LMR and a 328 Mille Miglia Roadster.
To say there was a vast swathe of vehicles on display would be an understatement, from hypercars and rally beasts to racing motorbikes and the best of vintage Formula 1 which, despite some heavy downpours, drew a crowd of over 200,000. Aston Martin had their Vulcan, Lexus, their LFA, alongside innumerable Ferraris, Lamborghinis (including a special edition Aventador, in honour of the Miura) McLarens and Porsches, Maseratis and several delicious Mustangs.
Fans of motors and motorsport through the ages weren’t left disappointed either. Among the exhibitors and racers was the Mille Miglia-winning BMW 326 Touring Coupé from 1940, a Ferrari 375 ‘Grant Piston Ring Special’, the revolutionary Renault RS01, Peugeot’s 205 T16, the Mazda 767B, several of James Hunt’s competition cars and a handful of Renault Alpines – to name but a few.
A Legend Returns
And there were plenty of well known names out and about over the four days. F1 stars Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button and Nico Rosberg (behind the wheel of the Mercedes F1 W05 Hybrid) all took to the track, as did Ken Block and Mad Mike Whiddett, while actors Patrick Dempsey and Keanu Reeves were on hand to sample some tasty motorsport flavours – the former debuted the 2017 Porsche Panamera on the track, and later, not too long after clinching second place in the GTE-Am class at Le Mans, behind the wheel of a 470hp 911 RSR, while Reeves drove the Arch v-twin KRGT-1 motorcycle, which he had a hand in developing.
Perhaps one of the biggest names, however, was 86-year-old Sir Stirling Moss, who climbed the hill in the beautiful Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR. Moss, described as “the greatest driver to never win the World Championship” is a true legend with motorsport, a member of the International Motorsports Hall of Fame alongside the likes of Enzo Ferrari, Henry Ford, Ayrton Senna and Carroll Shelby.
“It’s a fantastic place. The enthusiasm of the crowds and everything, I mean take today for instance; it’s a really awful day and it’s packed. I’ve never seen anything like it,” he told the Chichester Observer. “I’m amazed every time I come down the road to look up on the hill and see this mass of cars.”
One of the biggest stars of the show, unsurprisingly, was Bugatti’s Veyron replacement, the 1479bhp Chiron (apt, given the festival’s theme, Full Throttle – The Endless Pursuit of Power) which Lord March himself test drove on Sunday morning, the first non-professional driver to do so. The Chiron, which replaces the outgoing Veyron, features a W16 engine, and costs around £1.9m. Only 360 models will be built. Speaking about his trip up the hill in the Chiron, Lord March was full of praise for the 8-litre monster.
“In terms of an overall automotive experience, that was at the very top – unbelievable power, yet unbelievably drivable. It was a full rush for all the senses,” he said afterwards.
Lord March, otherwise known as Charles Henry Gordon-Lennox, comes from a line of petrolheads. Motorsport at Goodwood first began back in 1948 by his grandfather, Frederick Gordon-Lennox, a racer in his own right who won the Brooklands Double Twelve in 1931 and was the founding president of the Guild of Motoring Writers (he also designed and flew his own aircraft, and served with the RAF during WWII). Though Frederick closed the Goodwood Circuit to racing in 1966, his grandson later reopened racing at Goodwood on the estate, beginning with a one-day event in 1993, growing to four days by 2010.
As all good things must, the show came to an end on Sunday evening in a keenly contested shoot-out on the hill. In a manner befitting the festival’s theme for 2015, Olly Clark claimed the top spot for the second year in a row, with an incredible 46.29s in his Subaru Impreza ‘Gobstopper II’, crossing the finish line at 225.6 km/h. Full throttle indeed.