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Mansell and Mika, Parnelli and Petty, Rauno and Rosberg; this year’s Festival of Speed, on July 7-9, promises to be the best yet. And 100 years of grand prix racing is just the start of it…

Words: Robert Stride. Photography: LAT and James Mann

Every summer the Earl of March promises that the Goodwood Festival of Speed will be “bigger and better than ever”. And every summer this dynamic promoter delivers on his promise. So will 2006 take this extraordinary event to yet another high? Are there any more magic tricks in the box?

On paper, at least, the answer is a resounding yes. The Festival will celebrate 100 years of grand prix racing and to mark this centenary Lord March and his team have assembled a sensational collection of grand prix cars and drivers, representing every decade of the pinnacle of motor racing. Renault, which has given so much to the event over the years, will field its early racer as well as the 1970s and ’80s turbo cars that brought forced induction to the sport, while its engines will power both Lotus and Williams chassis up the Goodwood course. The Régie’s current GP team will be outside the front door of Goodwood House sheltered beneath a huge sculpture by Gerry Judah that will no doubt be the kind of breathtaking structure to which spectators have become accustomed.

But there is so much more. There will be grand prix cars and drivers to overload your camera and fill your autograph books. Nigel Mansell is making his first appearance at Goodwood, as is Mika Hakkinen. From the modern era there will be seven teams with Jenson Button, David Coulthard, Nico Rosberg, Mark Webber and Giancarlo Fisichella and others to be confirmed. The hot money is on four-time F1 World Champion and current GT racer Alain Prost making his Goodwood debut.

Away from the centenary it will be historic heaven, a chance to stroll among the most beautiful racing cars in the world and to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the men who raced them. Over from the USA for the first time will be NASCAR legend Richard Petty; ‘The King’ will be reunited with one of his Dodge Chargers. The ever-popular Dan Gurney will drive ‘his’ Porsche F1 car from 1962, Al Unser Jr a Penske, Bobby Rahal a March ChampCar and Parnelli Jones an Indy-style roadster. The list just goes on and on. Don’t miss the Auto Unions, Ferraris, Alfa Romeos, Maseratis, Jaguars, Aston Martins and those Silver Arrows Mercedes.

Sliding through the revised Goodwood forest stage will be WRC heroes Petter Solberg and Marcus Grönholm plus fan favourite Colin McRae. Chasing them will be older aces Rauno Aaltonen and Hannu Mikkola, all in support of the Richard Burns Foundation which is Lord March’s chosen charity for this year.

Those who want to soak up the sun, enjoy some good music and gawp at sheer automotive joy will enjoy the Cartier Style et Luxe concours d’Élégance competition.

Then there’s the modern supercars, motorcycles from both MotoGP and Superbike series and the Red Arrows air display. To fully appreciate this unique happening, like all of the world’s rock gods jamming on a single stage, get in early in the morning and just let the sound, the colour and the zest of it all wash over you. Celebrating a century of grand prix racing in one weekend is a tall order but, if any one event can encompass all this, Goodwood can. Judge for yourselves in July. It’s a must.

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