Festival of Speed – famous and unforgiving

by Dickie Meaden on 29th June 2017

For the first time in a long time I won’t be at Goodwood for the Festival of Speed. I’ve known I couldn’t attend for a while now, and thought I’d come to terms with it, but now the event is underway I’ve got serious FOMO [fear of missing out].

One of the things that’s always amazed me about FoS is its stamina. After all these years you could forgive it for running out of steam, but if anything it only seems to get bigger and – crucially – better than ever.

You might see many of the same cars and faces returning year on year, but let's face it: nobody’s complaining if they get to see a 917-30 one more time, or get to pick grass and rubber fragments from their teeth after a famous Formula 1 car does a donut at point-blank range. 

The secret of FoS’s success, and Goodwood in general, is there’s always a twist or something fresh. For example the introduction of a drift category to run alongside the regular demos and full-blooded timed attacks on the hill. It might not be to the taste of die-hard traditionalists, but I think it’s fun to watch and the very best drivers, such as the Mazda-loving Kiwi ‘Mad' Mike Whiddett, are blessed with mighty car control. This much is obvious whether you’re behind the straw bales, or lucky enough to have driven the course yourself.

I’ve driven an embarrassment of cars up the hill over the years. Everything from Jaguar’s wonderful one-off XJ13 to Mazda’s wailing 787B Le Mans winner. Perhaps because they tend to be cars of real historical significance never once have I dared drive with anything that could be described as true commitment. A small part of me wishes I could throw caution to the wind, but the greater part fears being ‘that‘ driver who thumps something priceless into the bales always wins the day.

Perhaps that’s why I’m in awe of those who routinely drive Lord March’s famous – and famously unforgiving – driveway with no thought to what might happen. It really is something to behold when a driver goes right to the very limit, and maybe even a fraction beyond, in pursuit of a winning time. I’m not sure we’ll ever see anyone dip beneath Nick Heidfeld’s jaw-slackening 41.6sec record run in a McLaren MP4/13 F1 car way back in 1999 (above), but knowing there’s no shortage of drivers willing to try is what makes the FoS Shoot Out one of the highlights of the year.          

To follow all the action from this weekend’s Festival of Speed hill climb watch the livestream.

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