As Goodwood plans its 20th Festival of Speed, it’s worth recalling the first event
Magazine publishing schedules being what they are, you may be reading this in 2011, but as its time on the shelves spans the New Year that’s all the excuse I need to gasp at the fact that this year Goodwood will host the 20th Festival of Speed.
My memory of the first is vivid. It was seen as a stopgap, a way for Lord March to return motor sport to Goodwood while continuing his efforts to re-open the circuit and bring actual racing back to West Sussex. Now it’s the world’s largest historic motor sport event and the de facto venue for the British motor show.
How different it was then. I still have the original programme, a mere pamphlet compared to today’s magnificent doorstep production, and can remember my first sight of the famous hill, with the odd hay bale but much of the course demarcated only by a thin ribbon of Tarmac.
It didn’t seem quaint at the time for no one had any idea of what was to come, and I was more amazed by the machinery gathered there then than I am today simply because I had no expectations. I remember my first glimpse of an Aston Martin DB7, mounted on a simple plinth outside Goodwood House. Compare that to some of the spectacular Gerry Judah installations that have appeared since.
I did drive up the hill that year, in a Honda NSX wearing a blue boiler suit for some reason. It scared me then as it does now – it’s not a place I’ve ever felt inclined to drive as fast as I can. But I remember most the first of the now famed Saturday night parties. I suspect there are more catering staff today than there were guests then, and I have what I hope is a faithful image of Ron Dennis and Ken Tyrrell sitting outside the house, plates in their laps, lost in presumably F1-grade chat.
I don’t think anyone there, not even his Lordship, had an inkling of how popular or important the Festival would become. As stopgaps go, it’s gone pretty well.