The main event at the Goodwood Festival of Speed is the hillclimb sprint, a very narrow and short 1.16-mile ascent that climbs just 92.7 metres around nine bends.
A huge roster of cars from all eras and disciplines complete a continuous series of runs over the three main event days at Goodwood, almost all of which are done in the name of entertaining the crowd via the mediums of speed, noise and smoke. None of it is terribly serious stuff.
That is up until a point: the Festival of Speed Shootout.
With the stopwatch running, race drivers can’t help but be competitive. Qualifying takes place on the Saturday, with the top cars from each class going through to Sunday’s big finale.
But before the main event at this year’s Festival of Speed was even underway, records were being set. Volkswagen’s I.D R Pikes Peak whizzed up the hill in a staggering 43.05 seconds, with Romain Dumas behind the wheel, becoming the fastest electric vehicle to complete the climb, and the third fastest time in history.
Using the formula of slowest qualifying cars first, the shootout is like a moving timeline. Initial contenders to tackle the timed sprint were in pre-war single seaters, with times quickly tumbling from the mid-70 seconds as you witness the progression in technology pass before you.
The faster they go, the harder they fall. Molecomb corner is usually the place to stand to see crashes, as the off-camber crest often catches those attacking the hill off-guard. This year, however, no one bit the hay during the shootout. Mark Longmore came the closest on a heavily spirited attack in the 1970 McLaren-Chevrolet M10B, testing its limited lock to keep him out of the hay bales.
Several other drivers took the ‘Initial D’ line, dropping the inside front wheel off the tarmac and into the dirt to pull the car around. Celebrating 60 years of the British Touring Car Championship, this year’s shootout featured several modern BTCC cars, competing in their own sub-shootout. Goodwood track tester Andrew Jordan showed his familiarity of the course by blitzing to the top in 52.58 seconds in a BMW125i M Sport.
At this point things get serious as the times tumble into the 50-seconds-and-below zone. A particular highlight was Billy Monger, the 19-year-old racer who lost both of his legs in an accident at Donington last year, returning to the race track in a specially converted Carlin F3. Billy showed no fear, taking the benchmark down to a 48.31, to rapturous applause from the crowd.
Last year’s winner Justin Law, in the Jaguar XJR-12D, looked fast over the line, but could only manage a 46.66-second run.
Racing legend Rod Millen took to Goodwood once again in his 880hp Pikes Peak Toyota Celica, running a respectable 48.50 seconds, ending up in ninth place overall.
With only a few runners left to go, everyone was looking at the EVs to set the standard. Qualifying taught us that the VW I.D R and the NIO EP9 were always going to be fastest up the hill, however, good old internal combustion still had a trick up its sleeve.
Georg Plasa’s Judd V8-powered E36 hill climb car, preserved and operated by KW Suspensions, set a blistering 46.43-second time with Joerg Weidinger behind the wheel, using every inch of the narrow track, and a bit more.
Let’s just take that in… A car that was built over 10 years ago and that hasn’t turned a wheel in anger since Plasa’s death in 2011 was the fastest non-EV entrant in its very first outing. That’s impressive.
The rumble of the Judd engine screaming past was followed by the eerie high-pitched whine of the future as the NIO and I.D R followed. The NIO first, setting a composed 44.32. That’s not to play this down; it’s a ridiculously fast time, as a testament to the future of electric power in motorsport.
The I.D R had high expectations set upon it – people were talking of it beating Nick Heidfeld’s 41.60-second pass, set in 1999 in a McLaren MP4/13.
With Dumas behind the wheel all the pieces were in place, and the I.D R destroyed the competition with a 43.86-second run, not quite beating the record that he set on Saturday, but taking the victory at the 2018 Festival of Speed.
In case you missed it live, catch up on the full and electrifying – pun fully intended –shootout above.
You may notice that Porsche’s 919 Evo didn’t compete in the shootout, and it does beg the question as to how it would stack up against the I.D R. I suspect that Volkswagen AG internal politics sadly stopped that from happening.
Maybe one day it’s a fight we’ll get to see.