New attractions alongside the usual allure of the best competition cars and renowned drivers from around the world mean that this year’s Goodwood extravaganza shouldn’t be missed
Words: Robert Stride. Photographs: James Mann
It’s summer in England, and anyone who’s anyone will be on their way to Sussex for the motor racing party of the year. The Goodwood Festival of Speed has become an important date in the English sporting and social calendar – and once again the event lives up to the hype.
There are some new excitements this year, notably a bicycle race, a bigger and better forest rally stage and extra viewing areas.
The bicycle race has the potential to be a huge hit. These will be no ordinary pushbikes, rather they are state-of-the-art racing bikes ridden by professional cyclists and some of the visiting racing drivers. The Earl of March has persuaded grand prix drivers Mark Webber, David Coulthard and Jenson Button, as well as Superbike racer Troy Bayliss, to prove their prowess on the pedals against some serious opposition from Olympic gold medal winners Jason Queally and Chris Hoy. There are strong rumours that Alain Prost will also take part – the Frenchman is known to be an enthusiastic cyclist like so many of his countrymen. In practice sessions last month the professionals were reaching incredible speeds on the downhill approach to the tricky off-camber right-hand corner at Molecomb.
Leading World Rally Championship drivers will be on the forest stage again this year, encouraged by another opportunity to raise money for the Richard Burns Foundation, which is now an official charity of the Festival. The stage, hidden away in the woods at the top of the hillclimb, has been extended to include a jump and a more open, faster section to allow the cars to stretch their legs in a more spectacular fashion. Course designer Hannu Mikkola reckons the jump, or yump as he calls it, will be well worth watching for those who make the trek. More transport will be laid on to cope with the thousands who walk up to the rally stage, while extra vehicles will start from lower down to carry rally fans up to the stage.
American Bob Riggle makes a return to Goodwood and regular visitors will know what this involves. For the uninitiated, Riggle and his Plymouth Barracuda ‘Hurst Hemi-Under-Glass’ drag car do wheelies through the park and up the hill, trailing a shower of sparks as the back of this outrageous car scrapes along the track with its front wheels high in the air. Mr Riggle is a showman in the best Yankee tradition. You’ll hear him coming, in a wall of noise from the big V8 engine. Don’t miss this.
Kiwi Rod Millen is back, too, in his breathtaking 850bhp Toyota Special. The run from the five-times winner of Pikes Peak will be one of the quickest, if not the quickest of the whole weekend.
Jim Hall returns with his Chaparrals, those wonderfully striking winged white creations from Texas. One of the great racing marques, this, and rarely seen outside North America.
As ever, the various paddocks will be packed with the best competition cars that money can, and sometimes cannot, buy. Stroll among them and trace the sport’s history from the early days of the 20th century to the present.
It’s the 60th anniversary of Ferrari this year, so expect to see plenty of the gorgeous red cars from Maranello, a snapshot of each decade since Enzo Ferrari first brought his cars to the circuits. Toyota has the main display outside Goodwood House and it’s going to be the biggest yet. Higher than the great house itself, this will be a traditional Japanese design, decorated with sculptures and various creations from the history of the world’s biggest and most profitable car manufacturer. It is Toyota’s 70th anniversary and 50 years since it first went racing. The Toyota grand prix car will be out on the hill, as will all the other current GP teams except for Renault and Toro Rosso. The sight and sound of these modern F1s on the narrow, bumpy Goodwood hill is a high point of the year. Don’t miss them shrieking and howling away from the startline in the dappled light under the avenue of lime trees.
Sadly, Goodwood clashes with a round of the Moto GP series this year, but it’s the centenary of the Isle of Man TT races so a terrific array of bikes, many from the Honda collection in Motegi, will be ridden by, among others, Jim Redman, Tommy Robb, Ron Haslam and Stuart Graham. From World Superbikes there’s the ever-popular Carl Fogarty, as well as Neil Hodgson, James Toseland and Troy Corser.
The Cartier Style et Luxe design competition will feature at least four Bugatti Royales. Never before in Europe have this many been shown together. This area is a haven of tranquillity away from the hillclimb, while the Goodwood cricket pitch will be transformed into Bonneville Salt Flats for a display of record-breaking cars including Blue Flame, Challenger 1, the JCB DieselMax and some of the early MG record cars. Nearby is another new attraction, the Technology Pavilion, showcasing new automotive technologies. Look out for Honda’s Asimo robot, the hydrogen-powered Italdesign Vadho and a new ‘personal mobility solution’ from Toyota.
The Red Arrows, in a league of their own when it comes to close-formation aerobatics, will perform on Saturday and Sunday.
This theme of year’s Festival is ‘Spark of Genius – Breaking Records, Pushing Boundaries’, hardly the snappiest of titles but it pretty much sums up the way the event has grown. The first, in 1993, was a small spark of genius and since then Lord March and his team have been pushing the boundaries. Every year the critics are waiting for signs of sagging but every year the show just gets better and better. Yes, it can be crowded and yes, it can be hard to get a view sometimes, but there will be a new grandstand this year as well as extra viewing areas for spectators at trackside.
If you have to choose one great event this year, Goodwood is still on pole position. Pack your cameras and your autograph books and expect some surprises over and above the highlights described here. And remember the usual rule, get there early to avoid the traffic and to soak up the atmosphere.