Goodwood. They just can’t leave it alone and they always know what they’re doing. Year after year everyone who’s anybody in the automotive world ups-sticks to a quiet corner of West Sussex, a place that for decades was bothered only by the local wildlife but is now a Mecca of motorsport. Even Kimi Räikkönen made it down on a Friday to thread a 2010 Ferrari F10 Formula 1 car up the narrow strip of tarmac that runs past Goodwood House. But he was just one name amongst hundreds. Legendary drivers and iconic cars flow like a relentless torrent through Goodwood.
There might still be the odd minder in view for the F1 guys, but in general there are no fences, no barriers. You grab a space, stand back and watch a hundred years pass before your eyes.
Brutal Brooklands speed-racers of the ’20s, the chemical-powered crushers of the ‘30s from Mercedes and Auto Union, on and on through the decades they just keep coming until you reach the technical pinnacle of modern Formula 1 and LMP racers.
Why do they do it, the drivers, the multimillion pound teams or – just as likely – passionate individuals who are lucky enough to own a car that gains a coveted invite? It’s not a question you ask once you’ve experienced the Festival Of Speed for yourself.
The Festival sprawls over Lord March’s estate, close to the south coast of England. It can take a morning just to get through the top paddock that contains the initial rows of machinery. Hours disappear as you drop in and out of other people’s conversations; drivers nonchalantly lean against priceless machinery tucked up under raw canvas, toolboxes and wrenches scattered around like some kind of low-key club event.
The Festival Of Speed strips away series rankings and classifications. There are the rare and the rarer still for sure, but there’s an égalité that everything is subservient to.
A unique centrepiece to every Festival Of Speed is the sculpture that takes pride of place in front of Goodwood House. This year Mazda’s racing DNA was on show, celebrating 50 years of competition through this towering structure that was capped by a Group C 787B and LM55 Vision Gran Turismo concept.
Alongside the chosen marque is always a theme, a thread around which curated cars are woven. This year the concept was Flat Out And Fearless: Racing On The Edge, which shone the spotlight on epic drivers, cars and events. Think Stirling Moss on the 1955 Mille Miglia; Colin McRae’s rollercoaster ride through countless WRC events; Bernd Rosemeyer’s taming of the incredible Auto Union – a man described by rivals as being utterly fearless.
Then there was Canadian legend Gilles Villeneuve, Mexican sportscar ace Pedro Rodriguez (who could turn a Porsche 917 into the ultimate drift machine), drag racing star Don Garlits who even at 71 was still turning in 320mph, five-second quarter miles. If you want to read something inspiring, just pick up the biography of any one of these men and prepare to be amazed.
That’s the spirit of Goodwood. The Festival Of Speed itself isn’t the important thing – it’s the cars and drivers it brings together, and the passion they evoke even within the close confines of the racing community. Take Valentino Rossi, six-time Moto GP champion. He made his Goodwood debut in 2015, and man did he make the most of it. As well as two-wheeled appearances, he took the wheel of another of the Festival theme hero’s cars: Henri Toivonen’s killer shark Group B Lancia Delta S4. And the Le Mans winning Mazda 787B. And an ex-Jacky Ickx/Jochen Mass Porsche 962C. You see, people aren’t just punching the clock when they sign up to attend.
Even the underdogs get their time in the sun. The Fearless But Flat Broke class pushed out F1 minnows from the ’70s onwards – Cosworth-powered LECs (the heroic David Purley drove one – another driver to add to your homework revision list), Minardis, Zakspeeds, Simteks and more. Winning might be everything to teams in the right place at the right time, but racing is just as much about the people who put the same passion and effort in for far lesser rewards.
Going to the Festival is like attending the University Of Being In Love With Cars. It’s an impossibility to get to the end of a day without finding out something new, or discovering disciplines that were previously foreign.
For instance, if there was one core thing to take away from 2015, it was the legitimisation of professional drifting. There’s been misplaced antipathy talked about in the past, with accusations of elitism levelled at the Festival. If anything, I’d say that Goodwood go out of their way to show spectators aspects of the car world they might not be familiar with. Mad Mike’s tyre-shredding, rotary-screamer ascents were a focal point of 2014, and he was back for more.
This time he arrived with a whole cohort of friends in a dedicated Catch My Drift class, featuring some very familiar names. Ken Block brought the Hoonicorn Mustang to the UK for the first time; local talent came from James Deane and Buttsy Butler amongst others.
So you had 1,000hp Skylines, 700hp M4s and LBD’s Mosler V8-powered S13 next to Pikes Peak machines, opposite classic Jaguars and ’70s saloons. Just how it should be.
The massive aero of Time Attack and Pikes Peak cars always wows the crowds, and this year the UK scene was proudly represented by Roger Clark Motorsport’s Gobstopper II Subaru Impreza.
The follow-up right hook was provided by a clutch of Pikes Peak monsters, headed up by Rod Millen’s silhouette Celica from 1994.
With the bodywork stripped off, you could see the singular construction below. Millen smashed the record that year, reducing the time to an extent that only Sébastien Loeb’s more recent performance has echoed.
That’s the thing though – we’re only at the end of the first chapter, and already we’ve crossed continents and centuries. It really is that all-encompassing. Even the barbecues at Goodwood are V8s…Climbing To The Top
The one problem with the Festival being so vast is that it’s almost impossible to see everything – which isn’t such a bad problem to have in the big scheme of things. I realised I’d never spent any decent time down at the start-line, despite the number of times I’ve been to Goodwood, so grabbed a spot for one of the contemporary F1 car runs.
Whilst they were forming up, I took in the armada of bikes that blasted off the line in barely controlled order. Dozens of GP bikes from the full gamut of eras were followed up by a final duo which blew the leaves off the surrounding trees. Firstly there was the MadMax Turbine bike – 230mph of two-wheeled insanity that packs a 545hp Rolls-Royce helicopter gas turbine.
MadMax was followed by the ear-splitting roar of the Puma Gulf drag bike – one of the quickest accelerating bikes in the world. You want 100mph? You get there in 1.1 seconds. 250mph comes in less than six seconds. The psychiatric treatment associated with riding it likely takes years, as will fixing the damage done to my eardrums.
What is it like to go up the hill? Something that seems so innocuous, taking just a minute to ascend. The thing is, it’s not just about threading your car up the hill, there’s the small matter of the tens of thousands of spectators crammed up against the straw bales who expect entertainment. Make a leisurely run at your peril…
I asked a man who was take on the hill himself: Alex Lynn, a Brit who’s currently racing in GP2 and is the Williams F1 team’s test and reserve driver.
Like Valentino Rossi and many others, Lynn was taking full advantage of the opportunities the Festival offers. He’d be stepping back 26 years to a car that raced four years before he was even born – the Williams FW13B. A very different beast from both his GP2 car and the modern Williams FW37 hybrid.
Testing? For Alex, virtually nothing! Just 50 metres prior to Goodwood as the car had decided to be a bit recalcitrant during its pre-event shakedown. Once out of the paddock and in the queue, he’d be in unknown territory – the first ascent would be his longest run in the car. But racing drivers are racing drivers, all it does is whet their appetite for more. Tenths to shave off on a corner, gearshifts to perfect, traction to find…
As ever, all the big guns in F1 rocked up: Williams, Mercedes-Benz (with a 2013 W04), Red Bull (a 2005 RB1) and McLaren. Ah, McLaren, perhaps unsurprisingly they went for a reminder of past glories, bringing along a quartet of 3.5-litre V10 and V12 Honda-powered, Day-Glo orange and white machines: MP4/5 (1989), MP4/5B (’90), MP4/6 (’91) and MP4/7A (’92)
Stick around and the clock would turn back far further than the ’90s. Meet the spluttering, thunderous Fiat S74 Grand Prix from 1911 – all 14.2 litres of it. A four-cylinder 14.2-litre at that! Its terrifying younger sister, the 28-litre S76 ‘Beast Of Turin’, also put in an artillery barrage of an appearance.
Then there was the legendary ‘Babs’, whose engine capacity is equally insane. The Thomas Special (previously known as Chitty Chitty Bang Bang IV) mounted a 27.1-litre V12, taking the Land Speed Record in 1926 at the frightening speed of 171mph at Pendine Sands. Incredible machines both.
Whilst the old-timers recreated the spirit of Brooklands and the 1920s, the Festival theme was maybe summed up by these two 1979 F1 cars: Gilles Villeneuve’s Ferrari 312 T4/5 and René Arnoux’s Renault RS10, wheels angled and almost touching. Why? Well, if you’re not aware of the classic story behind the Dijon Grand Prix that year and their epic last-lap battle, then this is another moment to relive at your earliest convenience.
The cars of the UOP-sponsored Shadow team have always been a favourite of mine, but out back was something unexpected – a Matra V12 screamer rather than the usual Cosworth. As usual, the owner was hanging out by the car and more than happy to talk through his recently restored new toy. The team at the Matra museum in France had taken on the engine rebuild of this car that only had two race outings in 1975.
Mercedes-Benz have been a constant factor at the Festival for some time, turning a tent silver for the weekend with some incredible machines. This year they brought a mind-altering half dozen SLRs from 1955: 722, driven by Stirling Moss in the ’55 Mille Miglia; its sisters 704 and 658 from the same event; the air-brake equipped 300 SLR; and two Uhlenhaut coupés – ie, both the cars built.
Even better, 722 and 704 were driven by their original drivers from ’55. 658 was driven solo by Juan Manuel Fangio in the race; at Goodwood Merc stalwart Jochen Mass alternated with Williams F1 tester Susie Wolff and event supremo Charles March.
The previous year to that history-making race, Merc broke out the W196 Streamliner for the flat-out blasts of tracks like Monza and Reims. Surely the only time all-enclosing bodywork has been allowed in F1?
The Peugeot badge and 404 number were recognisable – but the top surfaces definitely weren’t. Diesels might now be in racing vogue, but back in the 1960s diesels were positively agricultural. Peugeot used this car to try and change diesel’s image, and this 1.9-litre car drove round the Montlhery oval near Paris for three days at an average speed of 100mph…
Another blue missile with a recognisable number. Of course, it’s The King’s restored Plymouth Superbird from 1970.
It’s such an iconic shape, part of the aero wars that completely broke the NASCAR mould back in the day. The 7-litre Hemi V8 engine looks like it’s out of a tractor – I love the fact it’s even got ‘Front’ embossed on it. Basic it might be, but this was a 200mph monster that could hit 60mph in 5.5 seconds. Richard Petty, now a Goodwood stalwart, was back behind the wheel of his old steed for the weekend.
Another lift for McLaren fans’ spirits was provided by the none-more-wedge M8F, which destroyed the opposition in the 1971 Can-Am season. The Papaya orange; that shape; the asymmetrical trumpets on the Chevy V8…
That same year, even Ferrari had gone over to North America with a big banger of their own, the unique 712. A far rarer sight in Europe than the McLarens, this was Mario Andretti’s ride in ’71. It has the biggest engine ever mounted in a Ferrari – a 6.9-litre V12. Ferrari had followed Porsche across the Atlantic: the 712 was appropriately brutally fast, but didn’t have the support their German counterparts would put into the 917 programme.Rotary Shrieks & British Bulldogs
With Mazda the marque of the moment, there was plenty of rotary love reverberating around Goodwood. From early saloons through Group C sportscars to Mad Mike’s runs in MADBUL driving the crowd wild, I think a lot of people were reminded of just how rich the Japanese automaker’s racing heritage is.
Most celebrated is Mazda’s Le Mans win in 1991 with the 787B, but at Goodwood the groundwork for that win was also on show, with the 757 from 1986, a pair of 767Bs from ’89 and a 1990 787.
For something that’s pure Mazda, it’s over to saloons. The late, great Tom Walkinshaw oversaw the European RX-7 programme from 1979.
He and Pierre Dieudonné (who now manages the WRT race team, but also drove the Mazda 787) won the Spa 24 Hours in 1981; TWR also masterminded Mazda’s assault on the British Saloon Car Championship, winning with Win Percy behind the wheel in both ’80 and ’81.
Seeing cars from the glory era of IMSA is always a pleasure, and Goodwood delivered yet again with this IMSA GTO RX-7. Shooting flame in true rotary style, the GTO cleaned up in ’91.
Mazda had been doing fine in the production class with a more stock RX-7, but this GTO was weaponised and then some. A purpose-built silhouette, it mounted a 13J – effectively two production RX-7 engines stuck together! 600hp, 529Nm of torque and 1,000kg made a fearsome combination.
Following their Le Mans win, the team were banned by the FIA from World Sportscars. Looking for a high level home for their prototype programme, Mazda turned to the USA. This was the four-rotor RX-792P from 1992, which used the R26B engine from the 787B. The small engine needed a subframe, but heat rejection was so serious that the car’s carbon fibre tub caught fire at the first race…
It’s become traditional for teams to bring cars to the Festival Of Speed directly from the Le Mans 24 Hours unwashed and distinctly second-hand, still sporting the dirt streaks and damage inflicted on them by a full day and night’s worth of racing. Audi’s battle-scarred #7 R18 TDI clearly showed the travails the team had encountered on their way to third place.
At Le Mans, sticking a camera anywhere near a cockpit is likely to get you ejected by by burly security, but here a queue of fans lined up to point their lenses at the inner workings of a modern LMP and plethora of dials and switches. One thing I’d noticed in the race was the quick-change SIGG drinking system, seen here with the blue and red bottles inserted.
Nissan ran one of their GT-R LM up the hill, with another show car on their stand. I’m sure I wasn’t alone in being disappointed with their troublesome run at Le Mans. Let’s hope the lessons learned allow this innovative and exciting car to realise its potential, and get up to speed with the factory opposition. Daring to be different deserves reward.
I never tire of seeing classic saloons and GTs like the BMW CSL Batmobile or Porsche 935, but I was captivated by this quartet of rare British beef. I’d never seen the wide-body Rover P6 before: it was powered by a Traco-Olds V8 and competed in the 1970 84 Hours Of The Nürburgring. Yes, you read that right. The pair of Triumph Dolomite Sprints – the hot hatch equivalents of their time – included the title-winning car from the 1975 BSCC and a Sprint that Le Mans winner Derek Bell drove in the ETCC. Another fact I didn’t know!
Then there was the Bastos-liveried Rover SD1 Vitesse, like a supertanker crossed with a ballistic missile. Inside, the dash retained so much of its original materials, including the wood trim – a proper ’80s touch! This was another product of the TWR hit factory; Rover won the ’83 and ’84 BTCC titles.
Certain names always crop up at Goodwood. Sometimes it’s because a particular driver is being celebrated, but often it’s just because the driver in question is simply a racing god. Derek Bell was the name I kept seeing at the Festival – along with the man himself. His five wins at Le Mans are among the headline stats, but along with the Dolly Sprint he also drove this bluff Broadspeed-prepped Jag XJ12C. He also drove the black BMW CSL, Ferrari 512M, Porsche 908, 917K, 956 and 962 as well as the McLaren F1 GTR that are all shown in the Bonus Images chapter. Prolific doesn’t begin to sum him up…
My left ear was still shattered from the drag bike I’d experienced on the start-line, so I was unprepared for my right ear to join it when the XJ12 was fired up. It’s quad pipes blasted everyone in the vicinity, whilst the air pressure from them scattered anything not nailed down. An epic car; it’s why I appreciated the style of the nitrous-powered Daimler that I spotted at Tunerfest.
Tyre smoke hung over the hill; exhaust smoke covered the paddock whilst the associated gases made your nose tingle and your senses go wild – if only someone invented scratch and sniff for the internet…