Thursday March 18 was a good day, with the launch of the 2010 Goodwood season in a perfect English setting.
Racing cars look so good outside Goodwood House. It just feels right. And nobody entertains with more style than the Earl of March. To get the day under way the Royal Navy brought a Lynx helicopter, proceeding to fly it backwards, sideways, every which way in a wake-up display that defied the laws of gravity. Down below they blew the dust off Ayrton Senna’s Toleman and Lewis Hamilton’s McLaren.
“Thank you all for helping us to make our events what they are today,” said Lord March, addressing the media gathered outside his home. Every year we think how will the Festival of Speed stay fresh and alive? Will the Revival continue to surprise and stimulate us? After 17 years of the Festival and 11 of the Revival it would appear there is little wrong with the formula. If it doesn’t need fixing, don’t fix it. In the background, of course, there have been changes, the Festival becoming a celebration of the motor car in all its guises rather than a hillclimb for historic racing cars, while the Revival has become a theatrical garden party with pure, full-blooded racing at its heart.
Sitting around a table on the grass outside Goodwood House at lunchtime, I spied BBC Formula 1 commentator Jonathan Legard, veteran author and journalist Maurice Hamilton, Deborah Tee (whose family once owned Motor Sport and Motoring News) and our very own Nigel Roebuck. And this is partly what makes Goodwood special. This is a place where enthusiasts gather, people who have a passion for motor racing.
Just back from Bahrain, having robustly tried to make a dull Grand Prix watchable television, Jonathan was bravely defending F1 in the aftermath of a disappointing start to the season. Maurice, celebrating his birthday with a glass of Lord March’s Veuve Clicquot, regaled us with hysterical stories from days gone by. And Nigel, muttering about the dreaded double diffusers, went off in search of Jacky Ickx to cheer himself up. Paul Ormond from Honda, which has supported the Festival since its inception, came by to tell us about the marque’s plans for Le Mans. Multiple World Champion Dougie Lampkin rode by on his trials bike, weaving his way between the tables to jump over something else. The new McLaren MP4/12C rolled in on its first public appearance, all matt black and still a work in progress.
No other event draws such a diverse and colourful collection of characters, cars, bikes and racers. If you have the passion, you will be there.
There were 80 cars at the Goodwood launch this year. Remarkably, that is more than the entry for the first ever Festival back in the summer of 1993. Down at the startline, under the budding lime trees, there were more people soaking up the sights and sounds than stood there on that June Saturday when it all began.
This year the Festival of Speed will support a charitable foundation set up by John Surtees in memory of his son Henry. The Goodwood crowd will give generously because not only do they love their sport, they care passionately about its past, present and future.