This year’s Festival of Speed will celebrate the Indy 500 centenary in style, with roadsters, racers – and even its own yard of bricks
By Rob Widdows
Can you believe we are approaching the 19th Goodwood Festival of Speed? No, neither can I. But we are. And yes, we always say this, but it looks like being another absolute treat.
We are rapidly running out of superlatives to describe what some members of the wider media have dubbed the ‘greatest show on earth’.
Well, you might argue with that, especially if you’ve seen the Northern Lights on a cold winter’s night, but it is surely one of the very best motor racing events on the calendar.
For many years now the Festival has been put together under some kind of all-encompassing theme. This helps Lord March and his crew focus their minds on how to blow our minds each summer. Anniversaries are always a useful framework, and for 2011 one of the highlights will be a celebration of 100 years of the Indianapolis 500. This entails bringing a fantastic collection of cars across the Atlantic, from Indiana to Goodwood. No problem. Goodwood has a good relationship with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, particularly with its all-important Hall of Fame, wherein lie the jewels in the crown.
Indy is acutely aware and proud of its colourful history, and in recent years the museum has become an essential part of a visit to the Brickyard in May. In American racing, success at Indy is never to be underestimated, while for drivers a victory in the 500 is a lifechanging experience. Ask any of them. For any self-respecting team it is the Holy Grail, much as a sports car manufacturer has to win the VingtQuartre Heures du Mans. With this in mind, the centenary is a significant milestone and will be celebrated on both sides of the Atlantic.
The most impressive recognition of the Indy anniversary in Europe will undoubtedly be at Goodwood in July. At the time of writing 33 cars had been confirmed, from the 1913 Peugeot L45 to contemporary cars from Penske and Dallara, many of which will be appearing at Goodwood for the first time. But the celebrations will extend way beyond a collection of cars. Of equal importance are the drivers, the men who raced them, who have done battle around the fearsome oval, ducking and diving between those white walls at unimaginable speeds.
Mario Andretti, a true hero of the Brickyard, still wears the 500 winner’s ring, the sport’s most famous piece of jewellery. Bobby Rahal, though he does not wear his, will never forget the impact of an Indy victory.
“It’s the big one, alright,” he told me. “It’s what you and your team are aiming for. You’re there for almost the entire month of May, and just being there is awe-inspiring — the crowd, the noise, the colour and the unique atmosphere of race day. But to win is something else again. It changes your life, moves your career up a gear and of course it adds to your value as a race driver. Yeah, it’s the big one, and after a few years of being rather in the shade it’s coming right back — and so is the whole of Indycar racing.”
Back in the spring of 1993, I went to Indy as a guest of the Newman-Haas team for whom Nigel Mansell was driving in his first-ever 500 (see Dispatches, p39). And there is a Goodwood connection here. Lord March and I had been working on preparations for the Festival of Speed, which was to be held just a fortnight later on June 13. We took a lot of inspiration from our trip to that race. The chequer, black, white and silver feel to the graphics, so resonant of the 1950s, became central to the Festival’s identity. Look around you at Indy and you’ll see effective use of chequered flags, clean and simple imagery that seems to suggest the history of this hallowed place. The same idea has fitted neatly into the Goodwood identity.
These days, of course, Lord March has a crack team of people who help him create his events. The man in charge of gathering the best possible cars and drivers for the Indy celebration is Jarrah Venables, Goodwood’s ever-resourceful motor sport competitions secretary.
“This is the biggest thing we’ve done,” says Jarrah, “and it will be the biggest Indy centenary celebration outside the United States with 25 cars coming from America out of a total entry of 33 — that being the number of starters at the 500. That’s the most cars we’ve ever brought in from the States for a single celebration, so it’s been an unprecedented effort but worthwhile for such a great race.
“For many years now we’ve had a good relationship with the Indianapolis Hall of Fame and their director Ellen Bireley, who’s been a huge help over the past year while we researched the cars and drivers we wanted. Without her support it wouldn’t have been possible to put something on this scale together, and luckily for us, they are keen to promote the 500 outside the States.
“Many of the cars have never been seen outside America, let alone at Goodwood, and importantly, we’re not just focusing on winning cars. The idea is to present a group of cars that illustrate the race’s history, whether they be winners or losers, so we have a machine like the Hurst Floor Shifter Special which is spectacular but wasn’t a great success. Then we have the Cooper T54 which upset the traditions of Indy with its rear engine, the Chaparral 2K, the first ground-effects Indycar, and of course the great Kurtis-Offys, Millers and the twicewinning Blue Crown Special.”
The cars will come by sea, packed in boxes, with spares and garage equipment. A few come by air, but costs dictate that most make the transatlantic voyage to Southampton where they will be unloaded and transported to the Goodwood paddock. All the owner or driver has to do is turn up and drive.
“It’s a good system developed over many years,” says Jarrah. “We have a great team of people, a shipping specialist in the States, packers we know and trust, and a dedicated team at this end who unload the cars and get them safely to Goodwood. For the Indy centenary we’re pushing the boat out and creating our own version of Gasoline Alley in the paddock where the cars will be displayed, and when they run we will line them up on the track outside Goodwood House like an Indy grid. We’re also putting in a section of bricks on the road, like the finish line at the Brickyard.
“There’ll be plenty of pomp and pageantry in the great tradition of the 500 with balloons, fireworks, marching bands and a rendition of Back Home in Indiana. Certainly, the sight and sound of 33 Indy cars setting off from Goodwood House should be something to remember, and a real treat for fans of the legendary American oval race. We want to create what we call one of our ‘big moments’ for this celebration, so it will be Indianapolis with a special Goodwood twist.”
Drivers were still being confirmed as Motor Sport went to press but already Bobby Unser, Johnny Rutherford, Janet Guthrie (the first woman to race at Indy), Emerson Fittipaldi, Gil de Ferran, Arie Luyendyk and Danny Sullivan are set to appear. You can expect many more by the time the Festival opens on July 1.
“Some of the cars will be driven by their owners of course,” says Jarrah, “but we’re working hard on some more big names in conjunction with the Indianapolis Hall of Fame — guys like A JFoyt, Parnelli Jones and Tom Sneva. We focused on getting cars that run rather than just static displays, so that we can have as many of the great Indy racers as possible in the cockpits.”
Devotees of events at Goodwood will have already sensed that this is indeed going to be a ‘big moment’, with the full weight of the famous Speedway behind it. The centenary of one of the world’s most famous motor racing events has given Goodwood the kind of opportunity that Lord March relishes, challenging his well-known mantra of ‘nothing is impossible, and if it looks good enough, then gold plate it again’.
Gentlemen, start your engines for the first weekend of July and start British Grand Prix week with something to savour.
As ever, a feast of cars and bikes awaits faithful Festival goers
Away from the India napolis centenary celebrations there will be plenty of excitement for the 150,000 enthusiasts who’ll converge on the Goodwood Estate in West Sussex on the first weekend of July.
No fewer than nine of the current Grand Prix teams will be there, the absentees being Sauber, Toro Rosso and Hispania. This is all the more remarkable in the middle of the busiest Formula 1 season ever and just a week before the British
Grand Prix at Silverstone. Among the drivers expected are Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button, Mark Webber, Jarno Trulli, Heikki Kovalainen and, for Ferrari, Marc Gené. It’s a feast for F1 fans and the only time these cars are seen in any number away from the World Championship calendar.
Up on the Forest Rally Stage at the top of the hill climb course the entry list promises 50 cars. Ken Block will be back,
while Škoda sponsors the rally event and brings Andreas Mikkelson (top) in an IRC car. The Citroën and MINI teams
are keen to be there subject to their testing schedules, while Peugeot hopes to bring its IRC car and there will be a class for the ever-popular old Group B cars. The Festival of Speed will celebrate the 60th anniversary of Jaguar’s maiden win at Le Mans, presenting a class of 15 cars to illustrate the company’s illustrious record at La Sarthe. There will be C-types, D-types, E-types, Group C and the XJ220, to name just a few.
For motorcycle fans there’s the centenary of the Isle of Man TT races, to include a spectacular collection of machines that have triumphed on this breathtaking road course. There will also be a class for World Superbikes – always a huge crowd-pleaser on the Goodwood hill.
All this plus plenty of surprises, the Cartier Style et Luxe design competition, the FoSTE CH pavilion for cars of the future, and the Red Arrows aerobatic team on all three days of the 2011 Festival. As ever, something for everyone.
The Goodwood Festival of Speed runs from July 1-3 while the Moving Motor Show, now in its second year, will be staged on June 30. For all the latest information go to www.goodwood.co.uk