Goodwood Festival of Speed preview

Social Climbing

Loved for its atmosphere as much as the machines taking part, the 1998 Goodwood Festival of Speed seems set to be the best yet. Marcus Pye studies the form guide

To the dedicated historic motorsport enthusiast, June can mean just one thing: Goodwood. Since Lord March's evocative Festival of Speed first captured the imagination of British car nuts and socialites alike back in1993, no other event on the calendar has proven so adept at drawing visitors and competitors from every continent each summer. It really is that good.

As a microcosm of history, a looking-glass into every era of the sport's development, it has no equal. Little wonder, therefore, that car owners the world over fall over themselves to bring their extraordinary and irreplaceable machines to Goodwood and thrash them up Lord March's front chive as fast as they will go. And even when the rain threatened to wash out the event entirely last year, not once did the enthusiasm of drivers and spectators dim.

The Innovation Years theme for this year's June 12-14's showpiece is indeed a worthy successor to British Racing Green, 100 Years of Motor Sport, Great Racing Battles, Dream Teams and Decades of Power, and has given organisers free rein to scour the globe for another crop of fascinating automobiles heroic victors and glorious failures to better once more the standard of machinery and drivers set in previous years and unapproached by any other motoring event, anywhere in the world.

Mario Andretti will be seen for the first time in the grounds of Goodwood House – reunited with one of the fabulous Lotus 79s in which he won the Formula One World title 20 years ago – and for many that will prove reason enough to attend. His genius will also be tapped, with that of other legendary champions, as a large influx of AAA, USAC and CART cars chart the evolution of the American discipline from the birth of the Indianapolis 500 in 1911 to the present day. That, too, will be unmissable.

Italian-born Andretti, winner of 12 grands prix in an F1 career spanning 14 years, has always been a great favourite with British fans, and will surely enter into the spirit of the occasion. Mario's passage up the hill in the sensational 'ground-effect' JPS Lotus 79/3 – rebuilt by Classic Team Lotus to the specification in which he won the 1978 French and German Grands Prix will be the focus of all eyes in Lotus's 50th year.

Andretti shares star billing in the Indycar demonstration with Rick Mears, Bobby Rahal, Danny Sullivan and Al Unser Sr, aces with no fewer than 12 USAC and CART titles to their credit. Mears will drive the Cosworth DFX-powered Gould Charge Penske PC6 in which he claimed the first of three Indy SOO wins in 1979, and also his '82 PC10 championship winner. Rahal will dust down his March 83C, while Unser is slated to be running in the current Penske-Mercedes PC27

Six-time Le Mans winner Jacky Ickx is another Goodwood debutant, the Belgian sportscar maestro joining local hero Derek Bell (a quintuple winner of the French 24-hour classic, three times as his partner) and 1970 victors Richard Attwood and Hans Hermann in an all-star Porsche line-up celebrating the marque's Golden Jubilee. This includes the apparently fearless Brian Redman and Vic Elford, both of whom won the awesome Targa Florio road race in the Stuttgart sportscars.

Carroll Shelby, who won at Le Mans in 1959 for Aston Martin, plans to be back with his team-mate Roy Salvadori, as does Phil Hill, who tasted victory in the great race three times for Ferrari before he became Formula One World Champion for the Scuderia in '61. Sir Jack Brabham and Tony Brooks, like Hill, love the Festival, and will return with John Surtees, the themes of whose splendid motorcycle celebration this time are Norton's centenary and 75 years of BMW machines.

No Goodwood Festival would be complete, of course, without Stirling Moss, who recorded his maiden race win at the nearby and soon-to-be-reopened racing circuit at its inaugural meeting in 1948, and built a remarkable career on the back of it. Stirling's particular brand of magic always enthralls the crowds as they follow his progress up the 1.1-mile course in a variety of cars. Yet another busy weekend is in prospect for the master, but Moss relishes every second.

From a remarkable replica of Robert Trevithick's steam tractor of 1803 (considered to be the world's first motorised people carrier) to current Grand Prix cars, the Festival of Speed always attracts a phenomenal range of cars which is why it is all the more remarkable that a large proportion of this year's entry has not previously been seen at the event.

Last year's star turn was the 1939 Auto Union V16 hillclimb car, driven with verve by Hans-Joachim Stuck, but this time Audi AG plans to top that by bringing a V12 D-type (one of only four remaining, and a sister car to that in which Tazio Nuvolari won the Donington Grand Prix in 1938) fresh from restoration by Crosthwaite & Gardiner alongside a replica of a V16 C-type. Touring car aces Frank Biela and Emanuele Pirro are expected to be occupying these most sought-after seats in the house.

The golden jubilees of Lotus and Porsche, two of the sport's best-loved players, will also be under the spotlight, with virtually all of the most important cars telling their respective stories. The first Grand Prix car from Lotus, the 12, will be out, as will two 25s, one arriving with John Dawson-Damer from Australia in a tribute to Colin Chapman's genius, while Porsche's homage to its late founder comprises rarities from the factory museum and the USA.

Indycars will command special attention, too, for never have so many machines, spanning 85 years of the premier league, been seen outside the Indianapolis Hall of Fame, let alone the USA. Cars representing every decade, from the 1913 Peugeot in which Dario Resta won the 1916 Indianapolis 500, through Dave Uihlein's Alfa Romeo Tipo B (which has not run for 50 years) to the Novi Governor Special with its original driver Duke Nalon.

Bugattis, Jaguars, Ferraris, Maseratis and Mercedes-Benz will be there in force, with a six-wheeled Tyrrell and gas turbine Lotus. Rally cars include Audi's Quattro and Ford's latest WRC contender marking 30 years of the Escort. And don't forget the improved Rallysprint, the Brooks sale of Ken Tyrrell's car collection, and the Cartier Style et Luxe concours.

Festival of Speed admission costs £10 and £20 on the Friday and Saturday (£8 and £15 in advance), but Sunday will be all-ticket, payable in advance only at £25. Pre-booked weekend passes cost £40. Accompanied children under 12 are allowed in free. Call the booking office on 01243 755055 for further details. Goodwood House is near Chichester, in West Sussex.