It’s the first unmissable event of the Historic year. To whet your appetite — and to make sure you don’t miss it — Paul Lawrence guides you through…
Nowhere else in motorsport will you find an experience quite like it. For three days the drive of Goodwood House is converted into an arena for the great and the good of the sport to play to the gallery. This is motor racing’s annual garden party.
Sporting legends of the past and present mingle with the fans, while famous cars covering the entire history of the sport are urged up the hill by intrepid pilots. It is a unique event that has carved a place in diaries the world over — and this year it will be held on July 11-13.
The major theme for the 2003 Festival of Speed is ‘the first decade’. Many of the star turns from the first 10 Festivals are returning to mark a decade of thrills at the hill. But for many fans the chance to see the Mercedes W196 streamliner in public for the first time in 25 years will be the main highlight.
At the serious end of the competition, the hill record is set for a bashing if conditions are right.
Current record-holder Nick Heidfeld has been released from his Sauber contract for the weekend to be reunited with the McLaren MP4-13 in which he set the record at 41.6sec back in 1999. Ranged against him will be a gaggle of Formula One cars and drivers, as well as the outrageous Toyota Tacoma pick-up of New Zealander Rod Millen. F1 cars going head-to-head with a 900bhp hillclimb monster! Having set the fastest time in 2002 with his Toyota Celica, Millen has pledged to go even faster. But he will have his hands full with current hillclimb aces, such as Graeme Wight Jr, who will be on hand to make their own bid.
Fernando Alonso is set to drive a current Renault F1 car, and Juan Pablo Montoya will thrill the fans in a Williams-BMW. Jenson Button will fire his BAR at the hill, while Ralph Finnan (Jordan) and Olivier Panis (Toyota) will make this the biggest collection of F1 cars and drivers away from a grand prix weekend.
Jean Alesi in a current Mercedes DTM car will be supremely popular, as will Stirling Moss — in the 1955 Mille Miglia-winning Mercedes 300SLR — and Jackie Stewart, who is expected to hop aboard the newly-restored Tyrrell 001 for an emotional reunion drive.
However, Goodwood is also about the weird and the unusual. Two years ago US drag racer Bob Riggle stunned the crowds by pulling 100-metre wheelies in front of Goodwood House in his 1100bhp Plymouth Barracuda. He’s back for more this year. Also returning from across the Atlantic will be Jim Hall and several of his revolutionary Chaparral sports-racing cars that thrilled the fans back in 1997.
The list of star turns goes on and on: Richard Burns in a Peugeot 205 T16, Alan Jones (Williams FW07), Hannu Mikkola (Ford Focus WRC), Jörg Muller in the 1999 Le Mans-winning BMW V12 and John Surtees in the Honda RA300 F1 car. At every turn there will be amazing sights and sounds.
Truly, this is motorsport’s weekend to wallow in nostalgia. The politics and pressures of modern-day racing are put aside for three days so that everyone can savour and celebrate the diverse experiences that fire the imagination of those who love the sport.
Ten years on, the Festival of Speed is undoubtedly a national treasure.
All you need to know
Friday, July 11
Free practice begins at 10am with all competing cars on the hill once, as well as the Supercar Run; Red Arrows will make only appearance of the weekend.
Saturday, July 12
Official practice starts at 9am and will continue all day, with two runs per competitor. Day will also feature the Supercar Run and air displays.
Sunday, July 13
Action starts at 9am and runs throughout day, with cars having two runs each. Sunday also features final of Soapbox Challenge and Cartier Style et Luxe, plus Supercar Run and air displays. Prize-giving will take place at approximately 6.30pm.
Friday: £18 (£13 in advance); Saturday: £30 (£24 in advance); Sunday: £32 (advance only); weekend: £55 (advance only). Grandstand seats are extra, but children under 12 are admitted free of charge.
For advance booking call 01243 755055 or click on to www.goodwood.co.uk
Goodwood House is just north of Chichester in Sussex and will be extensively signposted from all major routes.