I’m one of those car loving fools that, when en route to an event, looks out for omens that may foretell a good day.
Examples of such phenomena from the past include: A lovely Maserati Gran Turismo S getting up it in the fast lane on the way to London for Chelsea Autolegends. Response: “ohhhh it’s gonna be a good day!”.
Now. Goodwood Festival of Speed could be considered a motoring event of marginally higher caliber than Autolegends. Therefore one might expect a similarly ramped up ‘omen’ for the day.
Cue Chris Evans popping out of a side turning around 20 miles out from the event in his brand new £1,000,000 LaFerrari in a gratuitously garish red hue, burbling and gargling and at some points during that delicious final leg of our journey, howling.
The stage, henceforth, was set. This looked to be one hell of a day.
Lets cut to the chase.
It did not disappoint. Following our jaunt through the hills in the company of LaFerrari it peels off presumably to take its throne amongst the other royalty of Evans’ crop.
We make our way further a couple of miles, clear a final hill, and descend into the absolute Mecca of a field full of cars. M5’s dotted about, GT3’s, Elise’s, S2000’s, every hard charging drivers car you can think of littered what was the attendee car park.
Pulled up next to us was an immaculate E39 M5 that on account of the owner had appeared in a few magazine shoots. That immaculate. Omens and so forth. Onwards, past the ticket registry. Into one of two sizeable Porsche stands- before we’ve even caught sight of the circuit- the 918 Spyder and Boxster GTS are ticked off the ‘to see’ list. Said list was to take a harder slogging yet.
From the Porsche stand we spy towering viewing areas and hay bails. We’re heading in the right direction. The echoing sound of generations of super sports car glitterati that’s been with us since we entered the parking area has now evolved into a shrill but still distant roar. This is the essence of what it is like to be at this event.
Its an out and out assault on the car loving senses. From every angle there comes roar of exploding high octane, priceless automotive jewels shuffling all around and the scent of burning rubber, clutches and petroleum. It’s scintillating.
The time approaches 11 o’clock as we make our way down past the circuit.
The objective is to make it to the start line to catch each contender making the iconic launch for the hill. Our first sighting of the circuit brings with it the visceral besiegement of a Jaguar XJ220S making a run. Needless to say its all quite overwhelming for us.
Pressing on and various priceless monsters make the most of that day in the year they get to breakneck it down a thin technical circuit with tiny runoffs and enticing yet destructive hay bails past which we are walking in our beeline for the start line.
Beeline made and we make it just in time for what its fair to say is some absolute bucket list stuff.
Porsche seemed to break out the ‘priceless legend fleet’. The heritage museum must have been pretty baron on Goodwood weekend. 962, 917, 917k, 996 GT1, 904, all seen with my mortal eyes absolutely tear arsing up the hill. My lungs are still chocka with 904 clutch guff. Eggy. Unforgettable.
Following this if my memory serves me, a legion of old racing bikes take a run up to the start and one by one rip it up the hill. The legendary Ducatti Desmosedici was a highlight for me or rather the four of them…
Then came a gaggle of rough and ready rolling F1 memorabilia.. This was something special. Don’t quote me on model numbers but the 70s, 80s, 90s and 2000s were spoken for. Mclaren and Ferrari late 70s to early 80s V12 cars. The 1996 championship winning Williams and a few pre ’10 V10 and V8 screamers showed my ear drums new levels of automotive stress. It was infatuating.
Come a pause in the hill climb carnage we take ourselves to our midday appointment with our hosts, Peugeot where we attempt to talk business but have our efforts initially foiled by a pesky Eurofighter eviscerating the Goodwood skys.
The Festival of Speed commands the attendance and attention of any and all machinery that can celebrate the subject matter. Four wheels, two wheels or no wheels (save for landing gear). Needless to say- incredible.
Following our meeting with our gracious Peugeot hosts we proceed to plan for our assignment of capturing a few frames of Seb Loebs hill climb attempt in the ballistic 700+ horsepower 208 T16- to take place at about four o’clock. At this point its about half one and we still have a lot of Goodwood to get around.
Its worth advising at this point that to get the fullest of the full of Festival of Speed experiences its probably wise to stake out for the night and make it a weekend jaunt. The show is of a size and scale that two days would just about give you enough time to see everything properly with a third day best for good measure- for repetition of the best bits.
With that I’ll recount the most surreal motoring experience I have had to date. Forgive me for what is to be a less than encyclopaedic account of the loudest hottest rarest stroll down the side of a traffic jam one could hope to experience.
Racing cars of by gone eras of all shapes, sizes, competitive classes and specs lined up in paddocks. F1, Le Mans Prototypes, GT1, GT2, F3, Rallying. Utterly dumbfounding. Some of the more famous attendees include the Porsche 917, 962 and 996 GT1 Le Mans legends, Harrods F1 GTR, the legendary Mazda 767B, the Sauber Mercedes C9, the Lotus-Cosworth 79 F1 car, the Mclaren-Honda MP4-4 once piloted by one Ayrton Senna and next to it a humble but legendary 190E 16v Cosworth- of similar Senna lineage. Benneton-Fords, the outrageous Mclaren-Chevrolet M8F… i’ll stop now.
All within 50 yards of one another. All, at points during our stay in this paddock, were shuffling around, causing traffic, making LOTS of noise and kicking out a right stink. It was intoxicating- probably literally.
Onwards, outwards and aboutwards.
It’s probably a good idea to know where you’re going at FOS so as to not waste precious time being lost.
To the Bonhams exhibit which I regret just floating through- albeit slack jawed- within ten minutes. It contained some of the most captivating historical automotive erotica that you could ever hope to stumble across. A Lister Storm, Miura, a Mclaren M6… and other stuff that unless you’re well clued in one wouldn’t be aware of. A stratospheric higher order of automotive royalty.
Just across the way I spy a line of cars and a large Maserati banner. I stroll over to find a well selected snippet of Chris Evans’ astonishing collection of cars. Not just Ferraris either. An Aston Martin DB5 of Goldfinger fame sits confidently closer to another end of the line to… our old friend from the drive in. LaFerrari sits proudly heading next to ‘The famous five’ and ‘Magnificent seven’- needless to say, plastered in people.
Again, far less time than I would have liked is spent here as we remember: Maserati has brought the amazing Alfieri Concept to the show as part of its centenary celebrations. Sitting on a podium, the car celebrates everything that is Maserati of the past 100 years whilst looking toward the future.
I’m sure I’m alone in this, but the proportions of the car seemed a little odd in photos. In person, even elevated above us, it could not have looked more taut, squat and ready. There is hope yet…
For what is for many the main attraction at Goodwood we A) missed most of and B) didn’t spend an awful lot of time on.
I refer to the supercar paddock of course- having missed the cars run up the hill. Where the young come to browse all milky eyed and star struck with parents looking on fondly- hoping for this to serve as useful motivation for them to do well at school.
Lets tot up the attendees- although i’m sure the internet has fed all enough material for us to reel them off by heart anyway. The big three of course. LaFerrari times two- one of which being the Kermit green Jay Kay model. P1. 918- wearing the matte black and Martini hue.
Each of which we’d already seen an example of elsewhere at the show. Noteworthy newcomers and limited editions: the astonishing Koenigsegg One:1. Youtube of course awaits with baited breath to see what that can do to the establishment.
Lamborghini Huracan. May I echo the words of a million others when I say that this things dimensions in person utterly win you over. Hook like and sinker. It is jaw dropping. I wont say it made the Huayra next to it into a bit of a shrinking violet but you know. Ball park.
The intriguing one off Ferrari F12 TRS- not much to look at but Ferrari are nailing acoustics at the moment. Mclaren 650S MSO. Spyker Aileron. Aston V12S. SLS Black. Did I mention the Huayra?
So. The highlight of the show for me personally? It’s got to be the old Porsche racers. Short of driving the things- hearing them take on the hill and just poking around them in the paddocks was absolute bucket list stuff. For me it was an audience with the gods.
Quite aware that I sound very doughy, infantile and silly getting all misty eyed over the past few words, I conclude. Goodwood Festival of Speed is THE event for any and all with any interest in cars, engineering, history even, to attend at length at least once. Money I fear is not an excuse. If you can’t afford to go one year, save up and go the next, or the next.
It just needs to be done. No one knows how much longer the motorcar will be around in the state that we all know and love it but its safe to say that changes are afoot. FOS celebrates everything that has been great about the motorcar since its inception. Its evolution, its revolution. The passion celebrated by the impassioned.
A huge thanks to Peugeot UK for having us along.