The car sat silently under a sheet, inside a small, white tent. Curious fans peeped through the flaps. “It says 10.15 on the cover, nothing else,” they murmured. The time was 8.30am on Thursday July 11, the opening day of the 2013 Goodwood Festival of Speed.
In the neighbouring awning sat the Bentley Speed 8 that won Le Mans in 2003. Driver Guy Smith arrived and chatted to the mechanics. These were clues.
At some point in the next hour, the car vanished from its small, white tent and nobody seemed to know where it went. Then, at precisely 10.15am, a 4-litre V8 burbled into life and Guy Smith drove the new Bentley GT3 up to the media stage, where a jostling crowd had gathered. If you were there, you were among the very first people to set eyes on Bentley’s biggest news for a decade – just the first of many memorable Goodwood moments.
Later on, triple World Champion Nelson Piquet lay fast asleep under a tree in the Drivers Club garden. He’d flown in from Brazil in his private jet, had a run in BMW’s newly restored Brabham BT52 on the runway at nearby Thorney Island air base, driven up the hill a few times and partied into the night at Goodwood House. Time for a siesta, then, before his final run of the weekend. Earlier, while waiting for his run in an Alfa Romeo 33TT, Arturo Merzario had fallen asleep while waiting at the startline… A nudge from a BARC marshal soon had the little man back in action.
Alain Prost recalled the days and hours he’d spent testing for McLaren at Goodwood Circuit, sharing duties with John Watson. Someone mentioned that Piquet had been around in less than a minute when Brabham ran the BT52 there. The McLaren connection lives on, the team celebrating its 50th anniversary at Goodwood and putting Oliver Turvey on stage at the Saturday party: he was in Lewis Hamilton’s 2008 title-winning car, which was bolted to the floor while Oliver spun the rear wheels. Only at Goodwood…
And Jenson Button drove the new McLaren P1 supercar up the hill, the first time this breathtaking machine had been seen in action.
At the Goodwood staff lunch the following Monday, Lord March told his team that what they achieve in four days makes a ‘small impact’ on people’s lives. A great many of the 190,000 fans might agree. Historic car collector Nick Mason tweeted that the Festival of Speed is to motor sport what Glastonbury is to rock and roll. Jacky Ickx, who has taken part since 2003, told the event team that none of the great drivers and riders who came could have achieved their success without a top team behind them.
These were just a few of the highlights from the 20th anniversary Festival of Speed. What really matters is what happens out there, in the vast crowd, where they will have their own special memories of another Goodwood extravaganza. A great many of them will have met their heroes, acquired autographs and taken their pictures. Even the woman who suggested to me, while crossing the footbridge, that Lord March should install an escalator. There is always one…
Marc Gené will savour the day he stormed up the hill in a Grand Prix Ferrari, hopped out and jumped straight into Eric Clapton’s unique Ferrari 458 Italia, with a special body commissioned from Pininfarina. This, for obvious reasons, is called the Ferrari SP12EC . All the wide-eyed boys who tried the F1 cockpit for size thanks to the Scuderia’s mechanics had an unforgettable weekend. It is that kind of event and long may it remain so.
Oh, and the Revival is two months away…