By Rob Mullner; photography by the author and Andy Tyacke
If you are a car fanatic there are a handful of major events at the pinnacle of motorsports ecstasy. The Indy 500, Pikes Peak, Monterey Historics and Pebble Beach Concourse, Sebring 12 Hour, Le Mans 24 Hour, Monaco Grand Prix, Daytona 500, Detroit Auto Show, Monte Carlo Rally, Isle of Man TT, Long Beach Grand Prix, Woodward Dream Cruise—these are nirvana-like, real car (and motorcycle) guy events. While the list is long and diverse, virtually all of these events are one-dimensional; revolving around a time/distance race or pretty cars parked somewhere.
Fantasize for a moment about the ultimate car event—what kind(s) of racing would it feature? Would you have a car show? If so what era would you cater to? What about star power? Would you have the mojo to pull in the big name drivers from disparate racing series from around the World? Any new cars? Luxury lifestyle appeal? Car guy shopping? How about ride and drives? Top notch food and drink?
Well, I’m here to tell you that someone had read all of our minds like comic books and car parts catalogs assembling our daydreams into internal combustion powered reality and it’s called the Goodwood Festival of Speed. As the finale of the UK Tour (please see the story in this issue) Andy Tyacke at England Specials arranged for our group to attend Goodwood on Friday and Saturday, June 22 and 23.
I have read many reports about Goodwood and most focus on the hillclimb aspect of the event. While this is the centerpiece there is so much going at Goodwood you barely know where to begin looking. Imagine the Superbowl and Woodstock happening at the same time and place; that might give you a better grasp on the magnitude of this event. It is simply the best car event I have ever attended.
To give you more perspective on how this happened, let me share a little history before we get into the good stuff. Back in 1936 the 9th Duke of Richmond (who won the Brooklands Double 12 race five years before) held a private hillclimb race through Goodwood Park which led to the opening of the Goodwood Motor Circuit in 1948. The Duke’s grandson, the Earl of March, is a motorhead and decides to re-introduce the hillclimb in 1993. The first event was attended by 25,000 and the event has grown into a full-fledged monster with attendance topping 150,000 over three days.
What makes this event so awesome is how multi-faceted it is, catering to every kind of motoring enthusiast—do you love rally cars? Great; head over to the Forest Rally Stage to see the likes of Paddy Hopkirk, Michele Mouton, Colin McRae and Stig Blomqvist doing their thing on a custom built course carved out of dense forest on the Goodwood Estate.
Oh, and they added a jump this year—just a little jump.
Cars of all sorts were zipping through the forest and some of my favorites were the earlier rally cars like a TR7 V8 and a big Healey.
As if that wasn’t enough you could roam the paddock and get right next to the cars and the drivers—I couldn’t help but get Paddy and Stig to sign my grandstand ticket. Goodwood affords the average fan incredible access to the cars and the drivers.
I had watched WRC on SpeedTV (before they went all NASCAR all the time) and enjoyed it, but being here just a few feet away from the action was completely different. I was hooked!
With so much more to see I reluctantly pulled myself away from the rally stage and headed over to take in the hillclimb.
With 23 classes and 350 competitors, the breadth of cars and motorcycles running up the “Earl’s Driveway” was breathtaking. Drivers leave the start line and run up a narrow paved path snaking 1.16 miles through the Estate, past the Goodwood House and the adoring crowd in the grandstands. By the way, the standing record set in 1999 is 41.6 seconds to the top of the drive, set by Nic Heidfeld in a McLaren-Mercedes F1 racer. People are stacked cheek to jowl along the course with hay bales and well placed marshals keeping the cars and spectators barely separated. On Friday the cars practice at one minute intervals for non-stop action. Each car was allowed two runs up the hill on Friday and after the cars go up the course at speed they come down at a leisurely pace, affording another chance to see even more.
While most cars are there to compete for an official time, some are just there to wow the crowd and the assortment is incredible, beginning with the century-old Panhards, Delages and Bentleys from the dawn of racing to the brand-defining cars from Jaguar, BMW, Porsche to the most current, exotic, swift and expensive carbon fiber clad Formula One rockets and everything in between. What made the hill climb so cool was that the drivers were enjoying the spectacle as much as the crowd. Goodwood is hoon heaven and big smokey burnouts and wheelies abounded.
And yes, there were a few crashes.
From the Hillclimb I moved over to the paddock, getting up close to just about every great racecar known to man. The paddock areas are laid out in clusters with cars of like era and pedigree sharing space. I began with the Brooklands Giants display and took in the lunging beasts that conquered that famed circuit 100 years ago. From there I moved to the Classic Endurance Racers to see the long distance runners from Aston Martin, BMW, Ferrari, Jaguar and Mercedes-Benz that took on the Mille Miglia, Carrera Panamerica, Le Mans and Sebring races.
The paddocks stretched on, each one holding treasure after treasure. The Evolution of the F1 section illustrated just how far design and technology have evolved over 25 years of intense competition. Developments like stressed aluminum skinned monocoques, ground effects, composites and the incredible Cosworth DFV engine were imagined and perfected in this era. Drivers including Jim Clark, Graham Hill, Jackie Stewart, Niki Lauda and Mario Andretti drove these cars to greatness and set the stage for the modern F1 cars with their massive amounts of power and engineering.
I had to see all the cars the way a greedy kid wants every confection at a candy store, figuratively pushing my nose on the glass and pointing at these great cars that I had seen from afar. I moved from paddock to paddock in a sugary stupor, taking in Group C prototypes, then Pikes Peak climbers and onward to American Stock Cars, International Racing Saloons and Can-Ams. It was the most extensive collection of great racing cars and motorcycles ever assembled. That might seem like a big boast, but I haven’t thought up a better way to put it.
As the weather often does in England, Saturday saw a tremendous downpour which briefly stopped the action on the track. Fortunately there was a vendor midway featuring all of the new car brands in elaborate temporary displays usually reserved for International auto shows. So I took shelter in the Toyota Motorsports exhibit while thunder and lightning rang out.
Since Goodwood is all about beautiful horsepower in every form, it made sense that the Royal Air Force aerobatic team, The Red Arrows, would flyover and put on a show for the crowd. Although briefly postponed due to weather, when the Red Arrows were cleared to fly they put on an amazing display–swooping, diving, twisting and spinning their way across the grey sky. The audience loved it.
After the clouds cleared I made my way past the MG-laden Bonneville Salt Flats display and started shopping among the purveyors of car art, die-cast models and accessories that had descended upon Goodwood.
After an hour of perusing I had barely scratched the surface of the myriad of automobilia offered. My wife would have loved the designer jackets, blouses and purses mixed in with all of the car gear.
As my Saturday visit began to wind down I made a mad dash past the Earls House to the Cartier sponsored concours area overflowing with amazing iron from all over the world. A stop by the Ferrari cars and art display celebrating their 60th Anniversary was impressive.
Ferrari had commissioned artists to depict their finest racing moments on canvas. Finally I sauntered through the Supercar paddock featuring every modern dreamcar available and a few I had never heard of.
On the way back to the carpark to catch the bus back to the hotel I realized that I had seen a lifetimes worth of cars and racing in just two days. Every car guy must go—I’m looking into chartering a plane for next year—any takers?