By eight o’clock each morning the Goodwood Festival of Speed paddocks were already brimming with enthusiastic folk supping coffee, munching bacon butties and trying to sneak a look under the night-time covers that tantalizingly concealed some of the worlds most historic racing cars and motorcycles.
It’s an evocative place to be with the beautiful, rich, early morning sunlight glinting off the Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union Silver Arrows and the MV Agusta and Gilera motorcycles. Even the birds were twittering in full song – although that transpired to be a recording played over the loudspeakers. Nice touch though and this attention to detail is what separates Goodwood from the rest.
This year the Festival was themed 'Viva Veloce – The Passion for Speed' with 100-year old Alfa Romeo occupying centre stage on the lawn in front of Goodwood House. A 20m high Gerry Judah designed four leaf clover, symbolic of the Alfa badge, was adorned with an historic P2 racer and a modern 8C Competizione.
The event was extended to four days to include a new, innovative Moving Motor Show on the Thursday. A massive, glass sided pavilion was erected next to the hillclimb startline, housing the latest offerings from the major manufacturers. But unlike un-engaging static motor shows, these cars were driven with gusto up the famous hillclimb by invited guests and prospective buyers, most of whom were cock-a-hoop at the opportunity.
It’s a great concept that will surely go from strength to strength. Many of these car makers also fielded entries in the twice daily Supercar Run. Exotics included the fabulous Zagato designed retro Alfa Romeo TZ3, the Ferrari 458 Italia and 599GTO, the Aston Martin One-77 and Rapide and the new 503 horsepower Jaguar XJ Supersport. There was also a clutch of high tech, ultra fuel efficient and very quiet cars.
But now onto the loud, smelly, gas guzzling, tire smoking cars that I and most of the other hundred thousand plus petrol heads had come to see being put through their paces by star drivers past and present. 'Sir' John Surtees (well, he jolly well should be a Sir) was re-united with the jewel-like 1.5 litre Ferrari 158 that carried him to his F1 World Championship crown in 1964 while Sir Jackie Stewart aired the raucous 4.2 litre V8 Lotus Ford 38 that swept Jim Clark to his famous Indianapolis 500 win in 1965.
This was the first time the car has run in public since and in honour of his old chum, Sir Jackie donned a Jim Clark, dark blue, open face helmet. He also took the wheel of the priceless 1955 Mercedes Benz 300SLR gullwing Uhlenhaut. Triple Indy 500 winner, Bobby Unser declared “this has to be a highlight of my life” when, for the first time, he drove the supercharged Maserati 8CTF Boyle Valve Special in which the great Wilbur Shaw won the 1939 and 1940 Indy 500. Two comparative youngsters, namely F1 World Champions Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton, both tried out a 1986 McLaren-TAG MP4/2C before jumping into a modern era 2008 McLaren Mercedes MP4/23.
Button seemed the most impressed by the older, 1.5 litre turbo-charged TAG-Porsche engined car which carried Prost to his second championship, saying “It has 1,000 horsepower and it all comes in at once” before declaring that he thought it would be a real handful at Monaco. Joined by Mark Webber, Marc Gene, Nick Heidfeld and Nico Rosberg, the current F1 boys gave a glimpse of the sheer speed of their cars but they were out-showed by the crazy, high speed antics of rally boys Ken Block, Jean Ragnotti, Kris Meeke and Guy Wilks. But even they couldn’t match the tire smoke generated from Nascar aces Kerry Earnhardt, Mike Skinner and Michael Waltrip who performed monster rolling burnouts.
Mind you, Aaron Slight and Trevor Nation did much the same thing but on their Honda and Norton motorcycles while Kevin Schwantz, Troy Corser, James Toseland, Leon Haslam and Chris Vermeulen all popped spectacular high speed wheelies.
Meanwhile, the world’s most successful motorcycle champion, Giacomo Agostini, kept his head down as he gunned his MV Agusta 500 up the now rather dusty, rubber strewn, slippery course.
Australia’s great endurance race, The Bathurst, is 50 years old and the traditional Ford versus Holden battle was brought to the 'hill' from the 'mountain' although Peter Champion misjudged Molecomb and stuffed his ex Peter Brock/Larry Perkins ’82 and ’83 race winning Holden Commodore into the straw bales on the exit. Another great endurance race, the Carrera Panamericana, or Great Mexican Road Race, was celebrated, being sixty this year, with a colorful collection of ex competition cars and sombrero wearing drivers.
Always wonderful to see, hear and smell are the pre and early post war Grand Prix Cars. The Museo Storico Dell’Alfa Romeo brought along three supercharged eight cylinder beauties in the form of a 1935 3.8 litre 8C, a 1937 2.7 litre Tipo B and a glorious, ear splitting 1951 1.5-litre Tipo 159 Alfetta. Mika Hakkinen hogged the 1954 Mercedes W196 for most of the weekend while Nick Mason did likewise with the 1938 supercharged V12 Auto Union D type. Other star drivers included Sir Stirling Moss, Emerson Fittipaldi, Jack Oliver, Arturo Merzario, Brian Redman, Vic Elford, Richard Attwood, Allan McNish, Bruno Senna, Jarno Trulli, Heikki Kovalainen, Karun Chandhok, Anthony Reid, Emanuele Pirro and, it’s rumoured, Uncle Tom Cobbly.
ZZ Top’s beardy Billy Gibbons, Jeff Beck and Jimmie Vaughan cruised up in their custom cars and had Goodwood rocking as they belted out Jimmy Hendrix’s Foxy Lady, while Lord March’s house rocked as a mighty Vulcan swept by. The Red Arrows and the Royal Navy Black Cats helicopters were as impressive as ever, as was Dougie Lampkin, the Red Bull X Fighters and the Rally Stage drivers.
Most ignored a 'Goodwood Estates' Ford Transit as it trundled to the start line but not when it blasted up the hill with Justin Law behind the wheel. This was a 550bhp 'special' built around a Jaguar XJ220 and Justin’s sub 60 second time was quicker than many of the race cars! Of the cars gunning for glory in the televised 'Top Twenty Shoot Out', Kiwi Roger Wills drove superbly to take the win in his 1976 Williams Cosworth FW05 in a time of 47.15 seconds. In the rather more sedate, celebrity judged Cartier Style et Luxe show and shine, Franco Lombardi’s 1954 Maserati A6GCS was declared winner. Goodwood really is the Greatest Show on Earth.