'The most adrenalin-fuelled, extreme event we've ever put on' - Duke of Richmond opens Goodwood SpeedWeek

Historic Racing

Goodwood's most extreme event ever: The Duke of Richmond explains why SpeedWeek isn't just stopgap during the Covid-19 pandemic - it points to Goodwood's future.

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By mid-June any hope of an early end to the Coviud-19 pandemic was over and at Goodwood House, the Duke of Richmond was looking at a schedule in tatters. Festival of Speed: cancelled. Revival: cancelled. Members’ Meeting: cancelled.

With the money already spent for the events, he was also facing a hefty financial hit, so much so that he launched a supporters’ appeal.

But four months later; from the ashes of this year’s schedule is Goodwood SpeedWeek. A spectator-free alternative, streamed live online, that doesn’t feel like a stopgap at all and could, in fact, point to Goodwood’s future.

“You need to see the most interactive, most adrenalin-fuelled, most exciting most extreme event we’ve ever put on,” the Duke of Richmond told Motor Sport on the eve of the event.

“What started off as something which came out of the crisis — us wanting to do something and not be beaten by it — has, I hope, turned into something positive.

“It’s live, so watch with us to see how it’s going to unfold.”

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Merging elements of the three main festivals has resulted in paddocks that are quite literally overflowing with metal; the sides of the paths littered with sports cars, supercars and vintage racers taking part in races and demonstration events on and around the circuit over three days.

But where crowds would normally be crowding for pictures, there is just space. “It’s quite surreal being here with nobody else,” says the Duke of Richmond. I wish everyone could be here.

“So we want people to join us and watch it.”

There are some opportunities that come with adversity – and the lack of thousands of spectators on site, and SpeedWeek is taking advantage of the situation, with a rally special stage that will see Group B machines crackle over areas normally filled with tea and champagne tents; a high-speed shootout on the circuit, where there are no banks of fans to worry about.

The format also offers new possibilities, says the Duke. “The idea of the races is that there is a consistency of background, punctured with big Festival of Speed-style moments.

“At the Festival of Speed, we can send down a gaggle of cars to the bottom of the hill but it’s not the same.

“Here, you can send out 30 F1 cars, have the cameras in amongst them – that looks pretty cool. We can do things on the circuit we can’t normally do.

“This is going to be much more than watching the revival live stream. It’s a whole show, with everything built around it. I hope this will show us that we can really make that work.”

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It’s very much a made-for-TV event: the schedule has been drawn up in mind of Goodwood’s large American fan base (trying to incorporate its sizeable Japanese audience in an opposite time zone caused headaches).

It could also offer a way for Goodwood to expand its offering beyond the limited capacity of the Estate.

“I hope it’s going to be a feel for the future,” says the Duke. “It will hopefully help us create the events so that they are still fabulous for spectators on the ground but very well thought through in terms of the broadcast content. Rather than being just a stream of what’s going on in the event, it will be properly curated.

He’s looking forward to seeing Emerson Fittipaldi (“a proper world champion”( on track in a Lotus 72, along with Saturday’s conclusion: a tribute to Stirling Moss, followed by the inaugural Stirling Moss Memorial Trophy.

“[Stirling] would have thought SpeedWeek was completely nuts,” says the Duke. “He would say, ‘I can’t see anybody there old boy’.

“Although if he was going harry flatters, as he would say, he probably wouldn’t notice.”