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Glorious Goodwood

The world’s largest airliner twisted and turned overhead, someone rode a motorbike across the roof, a bunch of very American dragsters fired-up simultaneously in the middle of a very English cricket pitch, a bloke with a pony tail at the wheel of a 20-year-old Jag outgunned all the young hotshots in their Formula 1 cars. Could only really be Goodwood, couldn’t it?

This was the sixteenth running of the Festival of Speed yet once again Lord March and his team managed to find things we had never seen before. And they didn’t come much bigger than that airliner, the 800-seater Airbus A380, this being the factory demonstrator en route to the following weeks’ Farnborough Air Show. Despite its bulk it performed a series of  tight manoeuvres just 1,000 feet over the heads of the crowd. Very impressive, but for one thing – it’s practically silent. We want noise! The Red Arrows more than made up for that though when they made their regular appearance. One never tires of seeing them but some new crew members and new routines added to the spectacle.

For sheer noise there was nothing to match the “Cackle Fest” created when a dozen dragsters fired-up and ran their engines for five minutes. If they didn’t deafen you, the fumes from the fuel certainly made your eyes water.

As ever at the Festival of Speed there were many and various anniversaries to mark. The 100th birthday of James Bond creator Ian Fleming provided the excuse to bring together a collection of Bond cars, not to mention a few Bond girls (but not the originals!). By 1948, industry was getting back on its feet, both in England and Germany, so sixty years on it was time to honour the creation of both Lotus and Porsche, the Jaguar XK120 and Land Rover. In fact, it was Land Rover that formed the central display in front of Goodwood House, various current models clinging precariously to an enormous 34-metre tall iron structure. Incidentally, the Goodwood circuit itself also hits 60 this year, so we shall we celebrating that later on at the Revival meeting (19-21 September).

Moving on ten years, the 50th birthday of both Lola and the British Saloon/Touring Car Championship were also recognised. My in-depth look at the BTCC  has already appeared here on SCP but a small selection of cars from across the years took to the hill during the weekend. They were led by the inaugural champion Jack Sears, who was driving the mighty Ford Galaxie that he used to claim his second title in 1963 and still owns to this day. Others to catch the eye included Grant Williams’s Jaguar Mk1 ‘BUY 1’, John Rhodes’ Mini Cooper, Sir John Whitmore driving an Alan Mann Escort Twin Cam and Richard Longman’s Mini 1275GT. The more recent Super Touring era was well represented, with no less than three former champions – Frank Biela, John Cleland and Andy Rouse – re-united with Audi A4, Vauxhall Cavalier and Ford Mondeo respectively. JC somewhat embarrassingly shunted his ’95 title-winning Cavalier on Friday when a combination of cold tyres, cold brakes and dusty road caught him out  -  “....and I was probably going a bit too fast anyway” he was honest enough to admit. An abrupt end to the popular Scot’s first visit to Goodwood, sadly.

We will be returning for a full Lola feature in the coming weeks, but suffice to say the marque was well represented by a healthy turn-out of cars and personnel at Goodwood. Healthy bar one that is, for the replica of the Lola- Ford T90 with which Graham Hill won the Indianapolis 500 in 1966 lunched its engine before son Damon even got to demonstrate it on the hill. Damon may well have heaved a sigh of relief as he admitted that he had found the machine pretty terrifying during a brief familiarisation – and that was just driving in first gear! Otherwise, a terrific variety of both single-seaters and sportscars were demonstrated under the watchful eye of company founder Eric Broadley and current owner Martin Birrane. Engine builders’ Cosworth were also founded in 1958 and examples of their products were to be found powering some of the Lolas.

The ubiquitous Ford Escort is 40 this year and those who made the trek all the way up to the Goodwood Rally Stage would have found various examples of the Escort, always a popular rally car, in spectacular action there. Indeed, whilst Mk1 Escorts are very much the thing to have in historic rallying, there are still Mk2 versions performing respectably in national rallying. Part of the large rallying contingent was a tribute to Colin McRae who had become a firm favourite at Goodwood in recent years before the tragic helicopter accident that claimed his life last year. Amongst the many cars present from his driving career was an RS1800 Mk2 Escort that he had restored for his own amusement; it was driven at Goodwood by his father Jimmy. Colin’s great rival, Richard Burns, was another who was remembered fondly. It doesn’t seem so long ago that they were trading fastest times here on the hill, as competitively as on any World Rally.

But the Festival of Speed is not just about harking back to better days, it is very much forward-looking too, with the FoS Tech technology pavilion proving to be a big draw, rocketing fuel prices concentrating the mind somewhat. The jury is out on whether man has really had any effect on global warming/climate change (unless you happen to be a government-funded spin- scientest or failed presidential candidate, that is!) but there is little doubt that alternatives need to be found to fossil fuels. From the exhibits on display it is clear that most manufacturers are working hard on the problem. At the moment, the leaning seems to be towards hybrids or electric cars although both have their limitations. However, the likes of Tesla and Morgan showed that there is a future for enjoyable motoring.

I couldn’t help feeling that some of the manufacturers missed a trick here, however, given the level of interest clearly being shown. Opel, for example, were showing their Flexstream concept which uses a lot of the technology to be incorporated into the Chevrolet Volt, due on sale in the US in 2010, followed by Opel/Vauxhall versions in Europe soon after, yet there was no- one on hand to talk about it. It was a similar situation with Honda and their very attractive CR-Z Coupe. By contrast, Tesla’s representatives were kept busy all the time, reflecting the genuine public interest. Hopefully the makers will get the feedback from the event that will lead them to make more of the opportunity next year. It didn’t help that the marquee in which the exhibit was staged felt a little bit like a tropical rain forest at times – maybe that was deliberate!

If the manufacturers were a little bit coy about discussing the future, they were not so reticent about displaying their current wares. Some such as Audi, were said to have spent as much as they would on a major motor show stand. And why wouldn’t they, for with 140,000 visitors coming through the gates it has to be at least as attractive as being cooped-up in the London Motor Show for ten days in a week or twos’ time. Audi, incidentally, are just one of several major manufacturers who are not bothering to attend the London Show. Supercars have always been a part of the Festival and the opportunity to display their wares in action is probably far more productive and cost-effective for the smaller manufacturers than a static show anyway. This year, amongst the usual Astons, Beemers and Ferraris we got to see newcomers such as the Breckland Beira, KTM X-Bow and Nissan GT-R in action, not to mention the stunningly beautiful Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione.

More exotica was to be found in the Cartier ‘Style Et Luxe’ concours d’elegance, where a bunch of celebrities get to make their judgements, amongst them DJ Chris Evans who has recently shelled-out a world record £5.6 million (or nearly $11 million) for the ex-James Coburn Ferrari 250GT California Spider. Hope he did not have second thoughts when he saw some of the creations on display here! The judges ultimate choice was Ralph Lauren’s unique 1930 Mercedes-Benz 710 SSK ‘Trossi Roadster’ that previously won the Pebble Beach concours back in 1993. Other delectations that caught the eye included an Alfa Romeo 33 Stradale (is this the most beautiful car ever built?), Lotus Etna prototype and Tucker Torpedo. As with so much at Goodwood, the Cartier exhibits are not fenced-off, despite their value, and are therefore available for close inspection

The working title for this years’ event was “From Hawthorn to Hamilton” and indeed the pinnacle of the sport from right across the ages was well represented, starting with a selection of Grand Prix cars, predominantly Mercedes, dating from 1908. Of special interest amongst the earlier cars was the re-creation 1938 Auto Union Type D that Audi Tradition entrusted to Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason. Meanwhile Museo Storico Alfa Romeo brought along their Tipo 512 for static display, this being a stillborn challenger to the Auto Union built in 1940, by which time Grand Prix racing had come to a halt. The pretty little mid-engined machine features a twin supercharged flat-12 engine of just 1490cc! When racing resumed after the war Alfa elected to stick with the tried and tested 158, so the 512 never got to show its potential.

Former World Champions John Surtees and Damon Hill and the perennial Sir Stirling Moss were amongst those present, but it was Lewis Hamilton the adoring fans had come to see and luckily he had all but eradicated memories of the fortnightly faux-pas that were punctuating his season with a timely drive to victory in the preceeding weekends’ British Grand Prix at Silverstone. McLaren were one of six current GP teams to bring cars to Goodwood – they were also marking 40 years of winning Grand Prix with a fine display of cars.

Modern F1 cars are really too quick for Lord March’s front drive, so their runs are not timed, the drivers using the opportunity to wow the crowds with doughnuts and the like. Hamilton’s appearance on Sunday at the wheel of a 2007 MP4/22 was of course a focal point, but spare a thought for poor old Jenson Button; even on this short run his Honda let him down! The other teams present (BMW Sauber, Ferrari, Red Bull and Toyota) employed their test drivers for the occasion.

Many other F1 cars  - as well as F5000, Indycar machinery etc – took to the hill and for a while it looked as though fastest time of the weekend would go to the 1980 Williams-Cosworth FW07 owned by Peter Dunn and driven on this occasion by Anthony Reid. However, his time was soundly beaten by Justin Law at the wheel of the 1990 Le Mans-winning Silk Cut Jaguar XJR12, fresh from a return visit to La Sarthe last month when it won the Group C race supporting the 24-Hours. Justin is quite a star of Group C and other classes of historic racing and it would be interesting to see how he stacks up against some of the modern racers. I suspect he would see most of them off.

A lot of the sportscar interest centred on the 60 years of Porsche with a good representation of the Stuttgart machinery, from 718 RSK thru’ to a 2003 Brumos-Porsche Daytona. Another slightly tenuous celebration was 40 years of the Gulf livery and this was represented at Porsche by a 917K driven by Jackie Oliver. Also to be seen was Aston Martin’s victorious DBR9 from this years’ race. However, whilst the baby blue colour works on a 917 or GT40 it just seems too much on a bulky GT car.

Bikes have always formed an integral part of the Festival and a variety of racers from across the years stormed up the hill but it was World Trials Champion Dougie Lampkin who was grabbing all the attention on his first appearance at Goodwood. He got around too – you just never knew where he was going to pop-up next, be it riding along the top of a brick wall, on the roof of Goodwood House, or riding up the stairs in the press facility and jumping his ‘bike onto a table just as Tony Jardine was interviewing Lord March.

Three action-packed days were spent tramping the grounds of Goodwood but I’m sure I missed something. Oh, nearly forgot. As if there wasn’t enough to keep your attention within the grounds of Goodwood, someone even spotted a couple of twisters forming out to sea. Never a dull moment at the Festival of Speed – wonder what Lord March will amaze us with next year?

It’s nine weeks now to the Revival, so just time to get your tickets – and don’t forget it’s advanced tickets only, purchased via the website (
www.goodwood.co.uk). See you there!


July 2008

sportscarpros Across the Border

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