Preview: Goodwood Festival of Speed

Whether your taste is 1960s sportscars, Indy racers or today's F1 heroes, it's all at Lord March's party. Gordon Cruickshank looks ahead to June 24-26

There isn't a more colourful historic car gathering in the world than the Goodwood Festival of Speed, so it's appropriate that this year's theme is 'Racing colours — National Pride and Culture'. Expect to see quintessential machines spanning a century of motorsport from all over Europe, 30 cars from the USA, champion racers from Australia — and from Japan the largest-ever display of Honda racing cars and 'bikes.

Six Honda-powered F1 cars star in the spectacular (but still secret) automotive sculpture which will rise in front of the house to celebrate the company's 40 years of grand prix involvement (if you don't count 1964's experiment). But since Honda will run the Mexican GP-winning RA272 and '67 Italian GP-winning 300 on the hill and both are one-offs, the only way to complete the display was to build two perfect replicas.

As well as the F1 cars, John Surtees drives the Brabham-Honda which dominated F2 in 1966, while Nelson Angelo Piquet will sample the turbo power of his father's 1987 Williams-Honda FW11B. McLaren-Hondas (MP4/4 and MP4/5) will star, with BAR test driver Anthony Davidson at the wheel. And a current BAR-Honda will pierce eardrums in the hands of Takuma Sato (Saturday) and Jenson Button (Sunday).

Six other F1 teams and a host of GP drivers current and past spearhead a glorious line-up: Fernando Alonso exercises Renault's rapid R24 on Saturday, with René Arnoux in the ground-breaking 1977 RS01 turbo car. David Coulthard demonstrates his Red Bull, Toyota has Olivier Panis on duty, McLaren-Mercedes and Williams-BMW will show static cars, while Ferrari test driver Marc Gené lets rip in Michael Schumacher's title-winning F2003GA. 

NASCAR and Indy winners of all eras head the transatlantic visitors, who include IMSA champion Juan Fangio II, Indy 500 winners Danny Sullivan, Arie Luyendyk and Al Unser Jnr, the latter two in Penskes. That's apart from a host of V8 racers celebrating 50 years of the Chevy small-block, including the 7-litre Matich Group 7 sports-racer from Australia. And Aussie hero Peter Brock, on his first Festival trip, will be reunited with his 1984 Bathurst-winning Holden Commodore.

For autograph hunters, grand prix stars abound: try and catch Emerson Fittipaldi before he climbs into some historic Lotus F1 cars, Damon Hill trying his father's Hill GH2, Patrick Tambay in Renault's rorty Mégane Trophy, Jacques Laffite driving a Ligier JS11 or Gerard Larrousse in a Matra MS120, just one of six rarely-seen examples of the French marque here this weekend. Hans Stuck, Jo Winkelhock and Marc Surer fly the BMW flag, Jochen Mass demonstrates the Mercedes W196, while Stirling Moss recalls that unsurpassable Mille Miglia victory of 50 years ago in his winning 300SLR. He will also give us the first public run for years of the innovative Ferguson P99, the only 4WD car ever to win an F1 race. And speaking of unique motors, the outrageous 'Baby Bertha' will take to the hill to recall the late, great Gerry Marshall.

Rally fans get a new dedicated paddock adjoining a 3km rally course with a 180-degree turn at the top of the Activities Field. This gives spectators two venues to see sideways action in machinery from Mini Cooper S via Lancia Stratos and Integrale to today's WRC Subaru Impreza and Ford Focus, not forgetting the awesome Group B monsters. Catch Hannu Mikkola in Quattro A2 and S1, Indy 500 winner Bobby Unser with the fearsome Pike's Peak Quattro, and rallycross ace Will Gollop in 500bhp of 4WD Peugeot.

A spread of current Le Mans cars will still be cooling down after their race the weekend before. Frank Biela drives Audi's dominant R8, while Aston Martin brings its charismatic DBR9, already a successful GT racer. Festival favourite Derek Bell drives a range of historic sportscars, Jean-Pierre Jaussaud unleashes the newly-restored 1978 Alpine-Renault A443, and Toyota shows off one of the sensational V8 GT-Ones which ran at Le Mans in 1998.

Alfa Romeo is bringing both of the remaining 1924 P2s, heading an extraordinary spread of Milanese machinery; Ferrari celebrates 75 years since Enzo founded his Scuderia with a host of rare examples of the marque — look out for the gorgeous 712 Can-Am car — while Mercedes will shake the Tarmac with its 21.5-litre 'Blitzen Benz', once the fastest car in the world. And the world's quickest van, Ford's 450bhp Supervan 3, will front up to Renault's wonderfully absurd Espace F1.

Automotive elegance is the core of the Cartier Style et Luxe concours, which this year features luxury cars from Edwardian days and from the 1980s, a display of 'money no object' supercars, and sportscar greats from before and after WWII, to a background of live jazz, while today's fastest road cars will be shown off in the Sunday Times 'Driving'  Supercar runs, including the public debut of the new 'baby' Aston Martin AMV8. There's no Soapbox derby this year, but budding junior car designers can get involved in the Create-a-Car competition, or you can tackle the giant Scalextric track. Overhead, the skies will vibrate to air displays of Hunter and Tornado jets, WWII fighters and the 'lightweight' 747. Add to this a huge array of trade and specialist stalls, and you have the makings of a spectacular weekend.


Timetable -- What's on when...

Friday June 24:

07.00hrs                          Paddocks open

10.00hrs                          Grand Opening Parade

10.00hrs                          Forest Rally Stage opens

10.40hrs                          Free practice begins on the hill

14.30hrs                          Bonhams Sale

18.00hrs                          Festival of Speed closes


Saurday June 25:

0.700hrs                         Paddocks open

09.00hrs                         Official practice begins on the hill -- all cars run once

09.00hrs                         Forest Rally Stage opens

13.00hrs                        Sunday Times 'Driving"  Supercar Run

14.00hrs                         Official practice -- second runs

18.00hrs                         Festival of Speed closes


Sunday June 26:

07.00hrs                         Paddocks open

09.00hrs                         Timed competition begins on the hill -- all cars run once

10.00hrs                         Judging begins in the Cartier "Style et Luxe' automobile design competition

13.30hrs                         Sunday Times 'Driving'  Supercar Run

14.00hrs                         Timed competition continues -- second runs

18.30hrs                         Prizegiving

19.00hrs                         Festival of Speed closes