WHERE THE GRASS IS GREENER
THE ANNUAL GOODWOOD FESTIVAL OF SPEED THREATENS TO CONSIGN REGULAR MOTOR SHOWS TO THE HISTORY BOOKS. AT THE INVITATION OF PORSCHE, WE SOAKED UP THE ATMOSPHERE OF THE 2017 EVENT
1 This year’s feature sculpture paid tribute to the career of ex-f1 boss Bernie Ecclestone. 2 Gorgeous machinery displayed on the grounds of the estate. 3 A priceless gathering of race-bred Ferraris. 4 The name of the game at Goodwood is entertainment. 5 Porsche used the occasion to launch its new GT2 RS. OPPOSITE Mark Donohue’s all-conquering Porsche 917/30 blasts up the Goodwood hillclimb course.
MYearly-bird-catches-thecrowd-free-supercardisplays plan appears an inspired one. With 2 km remaining of my voluntary 06h00 walk from our overnight accomodation to the entrance of Lord March’s Goodwood estate, I’m catching up with the choked automotive traf c heading in the same direction. This is no ordinary congestion, though, and even at this early stage of the day, there’s a palpable level of excitement surrounding an event that has quickly established itself as a pinnacle annual experience for many of the world’s motoring enthusiasts.
Closer to the entrance, a single line of traf c is neatly directed into a makeshift meadow parking area like an endless strand of wool being fed into a sewing machine. What’s astounding about this picture is not only the levels of patience and consideration being shown towards the parking attendants, but also the general calibre of vehicles lining up. This particular market’s penchant for STbranded Fords may be clear to see but, even in the public parking area, there’s enough exotic machinery to appease most enthusiasts, including what must surely be the largest gathering of RollsRoyces in one place.
Half-an-hour after the gates open, the heavens follow suit and I seek shelter under one of the many marquees. It’s a moment later that I realise my shortest path to protection from the rain has found me a mere arm’s length away from the wing of a Ferrari F40 to my left and a metre to my right away from the haunches of a 250 GTO. It perfectly illustrates just why the Goodwood Festival of Speed has succeeded in keeping itself both pertinent and increasingly popular over the past 21 years. Each year, it offers something different, yet relevant, and in 2017 this meant unnervingly close access to a collection of ultra rare and ultra expensive Ferraris gathered to celebrate the 70th anniversary of this brand’s single-seater racing heritage.
Another huge drawcard for Festival of Speed attendees, as I stare longingly across the garage area at Alain Prost’s 1990 Ferrari 641 Formula One car, is the knowledge that, at two prescribed times throughout each day’s proceedings, many of the cars will be red to life and driven (usually in anger) in a hillclimb format up Goodwood’s driveway. Fortunately, the morning’s rain proves to be only a passing shower and the course is dry by the time I nd my vantage point for the rest of the morning’s action. It’s best to get comfortable because, once the procession begins, the action is thick and fast; this year blasting into life with an array of big, brash American brawn in the shape of everything from historic Mclaren Can-am racers to Penske-built CART single-seaters and thunderous Chevrolet NARCAR.
The ground stops shaking as a convoy of three real-life Tamiya “remote control” cars tootle past before the rst of a series of historic Jaguar-built endurance racers blast up the driveway to signal the start of the next batch of automotive goodness, including, as has become tradition, an appearance by the winner of the most recent 24 Hours of Le Mans. This year, it’s Timo Bernhard in his Porsche 919 hybrid.
Much like Le Mans, the Festival of Speed is complemented throughout the weekend by an brilliantly entertaining commentary team. They invite experts on each of the diverse automotive categories into studio to add further value to the live audio that’s broadcast via loud speakers positioned around the event and affordably priced ear pieces sold with the of cial programme. It’s this same commentary team that proclaims the Le Mans-winning Porsche, its scars from Circuit de le Sarthe battle since preserved for posterity, to be “lacquered in French wildlife”.
Realising the allure of the festival and, given the fact that the UK no longer hosts its own annual motor show, more and more manufacturers offer not only static, but also moving displays in the form of hillclimb entries. While not often complemented by the same kind of balistic soundtrack as say a V12-powered 1967 Honda RA300 F1 car, there’s still something to be said for watching a Bugatti Chiron being closely followed by a Ford GT and then a Walter Röhrl-piloted Porsche GT2 RS that was of cially unveiled at the show the previous evening. Indeed, what better octane- lled event at which to introduce the modern-day incarnation of the rst turbocharged and rearwheel-driven Porsche that would go on to be dubbed “Widowmaker”.
Where things do get interesting is when a driver decides to run against the clock up the 1,86 km hillclimb course. While the of cial record remains 0:41,60 set by Nick Heidfeld behind the wheel of a Mclaren F1 car in 1999, watching the likes of Brit Mark Higgins attack the course in a highly tuned, turbo-whirling Subaru Impreza is a treat for both the young ... and young at heart.
Then, just as I thought I couldn’t have felt more ful lled by my second Goodwood Festival of Speed experience, it was the instantly recognisable turbo swirl of another car that red all of my senses. While watching legendary car designer Gordon Murray pilot his South Africanbuilt IGM-FORD was a proud moment to savour, nothing prepared me for the sound of Chris Aberdein himself arriving on the scene in his Westbank Modi ed Audi S4 GTO. I may be biased, but I’d say witnessing this particular Rothmans-sponsored Audi with its distinct turbo wastegate chirps take to the hill was one of the highlights of the 2017 event. And then there were the drifters... Further proof of the Goodwood Festival of Speed’s eagerness to adapt and stay relevant was the arrival at this year’s party of the likes of Youtube-sensations Vaughn Gitten Junior, James Deane and “Mad” Mike Whiddett in his 2,6-litre, twin-turbocharged Mazda MX-5. As much as it remains a treat to see and hear both race and road cars from various eras piloted in all their restored glory, there’s also a lot to be said for marvelling at both the car control and sheer lack of empathy for rear tyres shown by those masters of the modern art of drifting.
Motoring enthusiasts young and old rejoice; there is currently no better event at get your x or everything car related than the annual Goodwood Festival of Speed.
THERE'S SOMETHING TO BE SAID FOR WATCHING A CHIRON BEING FOLLOWED BY A GT AND THEN A GT2 RS