The Goodwood press day is the only one in the year where I am allowed to play poacher come gamekeeper.
While there to report on news surrounding the forthcoming Festival of Speed and Revival, I’m also present to help generate press for the events in other media. To that end my very great burden is to shovel members of the Fourth Estate into whatever I can find that’s fast, rare and exotic, and drive them up the hill in it, in the hope they will find the experience exhilarating and so advise all their readers, viewers, browsers or listeners to come and see the Festival or Revival for themselves.
There’s always a balance to be struck here. This media day is now a huge event, bigger by far than the original Festival of Speed in 1993 and because the world’s press is there, if you make a chump of yourself and bend something expensive it will be a matter of seconds rather than minutes before everyone who’s important to the furtherance of your career finds out about it. On the other hand driving like you have Miss Daisy in the passenger seat is to rather miss the point of being there in the first place. So the trick is to make lots of noise and drama while going nowhere near as fast as you can.
Happily a Ferrari 750 Monza is as good an exponent of this art as you’ll find. Bad tempered and truculent even when driven how it wants to be driven – flat out around a quick track – on the Goodwood hill it is hilariously curmudgeonly. Unfortunately my passenger was from the Chichester Herald and, as such, a regular at this event. What you want is some poor sap who’s never been up the hill before, because they never fail to be utterly astonished at how narrow, tricky and deceptive it is.
So we farted, coughed, banged and bellowed our way down to the start line, and when the nice lady with the flag beckoned us on our way, I duly raised the revs and deftly slid my foot off the clutch, mindful of Lord March’s promise of a posh watch for the most dramatic getaway of the day. The Ferrari clearly knew this, which is why it took that exact opportunity to all but cease functioning. In almost 20 years driving up that hill I’ve not stalled on the line, but this was the closest yet. It was a comically amateur start.
Somewhat piqued by the treachery of my steed, I kicked its throttle to the floor, which I am glad to say had the desired effect. Wheels spinning, engine blaring its beautifully ugly four cylinder song, the Monza leapt forward, this sense of occasion and drama heightened by its inability to slow for the corners (cold drums) or go around them once you’d arrived (cold Dunlops). So we slid slowly to the top and when it was all over the chap from the Herald was good enough to say that in seven years of attending the media day, that was his best run up the hill. I wanted to take all the credit for myself, but in fact I had little to do with it. As it seems always to do, and in its own, inimitably grumpy and spiteful way, the Monza had got the job done.