Goodwood; a word that instantly conjures images of legendary automobiles being piloted by even more legendary drivers; of men with the net worth of small countries hobnobbing with the likes of Rowan Atkinson, Sterling Moss, and Jackie Stewart. Automotive pornography that would’ve adorned your bedroom wall as an angsty teenager, strewn around paddocks that haven’t changed in 50 years, wearing their race earned scars with pride. It really is an incredible event, unique and unrivalled across the whole globe. We decided to send WCS newbie and pro ‘tog extraordinaire, Rob Schaverien over to document this year’s shenanigans.
From the moment the show opens on the Thursday morning, until it’s close on Sunday evening, the Sussex countryside plays host to some of the most incredible and alluring noises ever churned out by the magic of internal combustion. The undisputed king of aural ecstasy is still, and forever will be, the Mazda 787B. Since it’s debut in 1990, the Group C monster, with it quad Rotary heart, has literally made grown men weak at the knees. No form of mechanised transport should be allowed to make sounds like this. If you’ve not heard it before, allow yourself a listen on YouTube. But just know that hearing it in the flesh is something you will never forget. I’ve got goose bumps.
Since 1993, when gargantuan petrolhead and all round damned good egg, Lord March, decided to allow fellow gentry and motorsport stalwarts to rag their priceless exotica up his drive, it’s become something of a holy grail for most racing drivers. This isn’t somewhere you can just pay to kick the crap out of your MX5 for 50 seconds; in order to be allowed to turn a wheel on the hallowed Goodwood House driveway, you have to be invited. We caught up with friend of WCS, automotive Jedi James Calado, who this year piloted his 599FXX up the hill in clouds of tyre smoke. James has worked his way up through karts, GP2 and even had a stint in F1, before finding his perfect position alongside the revered Davide Rigon with AF Corse, in the FIA World Endurance Championship. In his own words; “It was my first time at Goodwood, and the atmosphere is truly fantastic. Just before the start, you open it up and burn out all the way to the first corner. In the Ferrari I was able to do this in 4th gear! You can see the crowd on their feet. It’s tight and twisty but you can’t help but edge towards the car’s limits. You are always within inches of the barriers, and it’s a huge thrill, despite being a short run. It’s great to see the passengers’ faces at the finish line! We normally finish with a few donuts, before pottering down to the paddock for a coffee. The 599FXX is a truly special car-some serious power, and some serious noise! Perfect for the Goodwood crowd.”
But it’s not just the new stuff that gets used to it’s limits. With everything from early 20th century brutes, through F1 cars of every decade, to priceless and unique road and race cars from the likes of Ford and Ferrari, there really is something for everyone here. And the great thing is that they’re all accessible. Where else on the planet could you be stood within touching distance of Sir Sterling, just having vacated himself from the cockpit of his Silver Arrow. It really is a very, very special place indeed.
One highlight of the weekend, for younger people especially, was watching the generation of “Hoonigans” tearing their way up the hill, ruining Lord March’s precious lawn in the process. With the likes of Mad Mike, both Pat and Liam Doran, and someone called Ken Block (no idea, man’s got skills though) apparently doing their best to ruin their cars throughout the course of the weekend, there were some very happy spectators around.
Being such a prestigious event, that literally garners attention from across the globe, means that many car companies use it as the perfect test bed to debut either new or prototype vehicles. There’s something very satisfying about watching literally priceless, one-off cars being driven to their absolute limit. The fact that it’s outside one of the most beautiful houses on the planet, in what’s (usually) the quintessential British summers day, is just a bonus.
Every year, Lord March and the team select a different motoring based theme for the event, the centrepiece of which is the grand sculpture, taking pride of place in the centre of the lawn, slap bang in front of the gorgeous Goodwood House. This year’s theme was “Full Throttle – the Endless Pursuit of Power,” and it celebrated BMW’s centenary year as a manufacturer. As with every year, priceless cars are suspended seamlessly as part of the sculpture, in total juxtaposition with the grandeur of the house and it’s grounds, yet somehow in perfect harmony.
The paddock is definitely the place to be. Literally everywhere you turn there is some form of motoring icon. Whether it’s one of the biggest names in motorsport idly wandering by sipping on a cappuccino, or some form of automotive exotica with a 8 figure price tag (think Nick Mason’s 250GTO) rumbling through the crowd, you can’t fail to be in absolute awe everywhere you go. Those that have been always say there’s nothing else like it;the atmosphere is truly incredible. Some of the stands and gimmicks manufactures bring to the table are absolutely staggering. Honda, for example, decided what we needed was a 3 story representation of the garage you had when you were a kid, complete with real life BTCC and F1 cars. These guys really do spare no expense.
The so-called “Moving Motorshow” is one of the main draws for a lot of people. For most, it’s a rare opportunity to get up close and personal to some of the newest and hottest models on the market; 918 Spyder and One:One are just a couple of examples. As a little thank you, the manufacturers always make sure they bring something along to entice the more enthusiast driven among us. One of the cars of the event for us was the incredible Carrera 2.7 RS-R. With a price tag of well into 7 figures, you wouldn’t want to accidentally rest your glass of chilled Bolly on it.
One of the highlights of the weekend for us is always the rally circuit. To see the Group B monsters absolutely flat knacker is an awe-inspiring sight, and a very rare one these days. From 60s legends like Alpine A110s, to smaller modern examples like the Polo and Focus WRCs, there’s something for every age bracket. The noise is something to behold too. If you get chance, I promise you it is absolutely worth the walk to watch the frankly phenomenal displays of car control.
With motoring royalty around every turn, you’d be forgiven for thinking they’d steal the show, but it really is all about the cars. And that’s what makes the Festival of Speed so truly special. Everyone there has a genuine passion for all things automotive;whether it’s the latest in F1 technology, or a pre war Bentley Blower, you’re welcomed and accepted with open arms. As is the British way. Long may it continue…
Words by Si McNally
Photography by Rob Schaverien