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.
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Rewind roughly 60 years and you’ll find yourself in a time when the Mercedes Silver Arrows dominated the world’s racetracks, from Formula One to the World Sports Car Championship. Though these Grand Prix racing cars are still delighting spectators today, their history stretches back to June 1934 and the début of the Mercedes-Benz W 25 at the Eifelrennen motor race held at the Nurburgring. Silver Arrow was the nickname given to the series of sleek silver machines produced by Mercedes, due to the colour of the cars, and undoubtedly the speed at which they travelled – by 1937 the W 125, for example, produced 646hp, a level that wouldn’t be reached again until the 1980s, and speeds often exceeded over 300km/h.
The 300 SLR Silver Arrow was the car in which the legendary Sir Stirling Moss won the 1,000 mile Mille Miglia. Moss, whose parents had foreseen a life of dentistry for their son, first took part in motor racing in 1948 when he entered Formula 3 with a Cooper 500. Moss took to racing like a duck to water – winning 12 out of 15 races. A year later he was racing in Formula 2 and became the British Formula 2 champion in both 1949 and 1950. A move to Formula 1 was the obvious next step, and Moss did so in 1954 in his own Maserati 250F. In a season that saw him finish in 13th place, the highlight was a head to head duel with Mercedes’ top driver, Manuel Fangio. For the final 12 laps Moss led the Spaniard until an oil line broke. Though Fangio went on to win, he paid tribute to the young Englishman as the real winner of the race. That same year, Moss signed for Mercedes-Benz for the 1955 season, driving the W 196 R Formula 1 racing car, and later the 300 SLR sports racer, taking fourth place in the first race in Argentina, as well as the chequered flag at the British GP at Aintree.
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