July 8th, 2010

Variety is the spice of life

Some say that the variety is the spice of life. If that is the case, the Goodwood Festival of Speed (FoS) is a full spice rack. Every year Lord March invites anyone who has an interest in cars to his Goodwood estate for a massive motoring garden party. Over 175,000 visitors attended the Festival of Speed this year and we want to give you a roundup of what went on at the world’s best car show.

This year Alfa Romeo were the party organisers as they were celebrating 100 years of the clover leaf and Italian flare. The theme wasn’t a toga party, instead ‘Viva Veloce! Or translated into English ‘The Passion for Speed’. This covered speed in all forms including, motor racing, road cars, supercars, bikes and fighter jets. But it wasn’t just Alfa Romeo blowing out the birthday candles as Goodwood was also celebrating 60 years of the Formula One World Championship. With a gathering of 6 of this year’s competing cars and a back catalogue of past championship winning cars and drivers it was the only place in the world where you get to see such a spectacle. The 60th anniversary celebrations were also shared with the epic Carrera Panamericana road race with all the original competing cars donning their party hats and kazoos. Over 350 cars were shipped, flown or driven from all different parts of the world to give gawking petrol-heads a chance to see some of the most prolific cars which have shaped the history of motoring.

I know everyone says it, but one day really isn’t enough at the Festival of Speed. If you are a real enthusiast you need at least two days to soak everything in properly. FoS doesn’t just draw enthusiasts as you can hear plenty of people who have no idea about cars walking around. But this shouldn’t be arrogantly frowned upon as it just shows the appeal of the Festival. You don’t need to know the names, specs or engine size to have a good time at Goodwood, you just need plenty of sun cream and an open mind.

Outside Goodwood House stood a massive intertwining cloverleaf shaped bow holding a 1925 Alfa Romeo P2 at one end and an 8C Competizione at the other. It was like Alfa Romeo’s 60ft steel birthday present to itself. If you walked to the side garden you could get a detailed look at the latest supercars from around the world, including the public premiere of the highly anticipated McLaren MP4 12-C. But if you wanted to see some genuinely rare metal that doesn’t come out of manufacturers secret vaults very often you went to the Cartier ‘Style et Luxe’ on Goodwood House’s lawn. Obviously there were a handful of Alfa’s including a 1968 Carabo Concept, the 1969 Iguana Concept and the 1976 Navajo Concept, but there was also the one-off Ferrari F.Z.93 and Italdesign’s BMW Nazca C2. These were the only static objects during the weekend as the real beauty of Goodwood is that most of the cars have their dust blown off and are hooned up the infamous hillclimb.

Being one of the shortest timed runs in the country, the 1.16-mile course is probably one of the scariest too. Being in control of someone’s priceless pride and joy in front of thousands of fans, whilst trying to balance showing off with speed, can be a hard task. Drivers start at a tree-lined run through the southern corner of the Goodwood Estate which then turns to sweep past the front of Goodwood House before climbing a steep and narrow Estate road bordered by big, hard, scary flint walls and dense woodland groves towards Goodwood’s racecourse. It gives spectators a fantastic view of being able to take in the cars as a whole by seeing the speed, hearing their engines bellow and smelling them burn rubber.

Each day, the various classes of cars grouped with similar cars run twice throughout the day with the oldest running first. More than 300 cars and motorcycles sprint their way up the iconic hillclimb in a truly inspiring display of performance, power and pace which ends with the dedicated timed run shoot out on the Sunday afternoon. Throughout the weekend all the cars are timed and the top 20 go into a shootout to claim the fastest run up the hill. This was all shown live on Sky Sports as 19 cars and one Jaguar XJ220-based Transit van battled it out for the title. The fastest car this year was a Williams-Cosworth FW05, which finished the hillclimb course in a time of 47.15-seconds. The record time for the hillclimb was set in 1999 when Nick Heidfeld drove a McLaren MP4/13Formula One car up the hill in blistering quick and bumpy 41.6 seconds.

When packing for FoS take a decent pair of shoes to Goodwood so you can trek it up to the Forest Rally Stage. Up there you can see some of the finest rally cars from times gone by Swedish flicking their way through the trees on the dusty chalk surface. The rally stage makes you feel miles away from the hillclimb as you trawl your way through the trees to see the rally cars pass into a cloud of dust like a proper ‘bobble head’. WRC driver and online Gymkhana guru, Ken Block, headlined the stage this year with a very committed, fast and ballsy show. Many don’t bother making their way up to the top of the hill to see the rallying but it is well worth seeing some vintage and Current WRC and IRC teams strut their stuff. Nothing quite beats getting splattered with rubber and dust when a Ford Escort MKII goes past sideways.

Making your way back down the hill you need to watch out for trials bike world champion Dougie Lampkin as he manoeuvres around the estate and tries to jump over literally everything in sight. Coming all the way from the USA so we could to get a taste of Hot Rodding and muscle cars, rock legend Billy Gibbons brought his amazing CadZZilla, while blues guitarist Jimmie Vaughn’s drove his pistachio green 1961 Cadillac. Both made an appearance on the hillclimb whilst stopping off to serenade the spectators by shredding some blues on their mobile stage.

The biggest innovation at this year’s festival of speed was the introduction of the Moving Motor Show to try and bring a motor show back to Britain. More than 20 manufacturers brought their freshly pressed metal for prospective buyers to conduct test drives up the legendary Goodwood Hill on the opening Thursday.

It is hard to cover the whole of the festival in one article but I hope this gives you a flavour. No other motoring event can match the unique combination of more than 350 vehicles, and the unique access to motor racing heroes from past and present and then be able to watch them blast up the drive of one of England’s most revered stately homes. There is so much going on at the Festival of Speed you don’t know where to look. So if you are going next year, and you really want to take in everything from the world’s greatest motoring show get a two day pass, it is worth it, trust me.

Words: Rowan Horncastle

Photo credit: Rowan Horncastle

To see more of our photos from this year’s Festival of Speed check out our Flickr page

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