GOODWOOD FESTIVAL OF SPEED
Usually the thought of spending the weekend wondering around the gardens of a large country pile fills me with dread; after all there’s only so much topiary a man can take. Every first weekend (or thereabouts) of July however, without fail, I embark upon a 450 mile to do exactly that.
The grounds of Goodwood House in West Sussex play host to what has been called the finest garden party in the world. But, if rhododendrons are your thing, look elsewhere: Racing cars are the order of the day. There are few places in the world where you can take in the beauty of a great English Country house and listen to five times Le Mans winner Jacky Ickx and former formula F1 world champion chat about the good old days, as over your shoulder Jochen Rindt’s original factory mechanics warm up the Lotus 72 in which he stormed to victory in the 1970 British Grand Prix. At the same time with the other ear, you can hear the likes of Sir Stirling Moss, Born Waldegard and Jenson Button being interviewed on Radio Goodwood through the neat little radio that comes free with your programme.
Take a stroll to the top of the hill-climb course – which when not playing host to the world’s rarest and most valuable cars doubles as Lord Marches driveway – and your efforts will be rewarded. It’s here in the woods that the good Lord and his petrol–headed disciples have constructed a rally special-stage where the likes of Hannu Mikkola, Rauno Aaltonen and 2011 IRC champion Andrea Mikkelsen can thread the very cars they drove to victory through the trees on the South Downs slippery chalk based surface. Nothing sounds better than Hannu’s old Sport Quattro cackling on the over-run. All this goes on while in the lower paddock Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason sits chatting to Audi’s Andre Lotterer and Tom Kristensen about his Ferrari 250 GTO and their R18, as nearby Motorcycle legends John McGuinness, Wayne Gardner and Cal Crutchlow pull on their leathers, fire up their bikes, and prepare to demonstrate the kind riding skills that have made them so hard to beat around the various road circuits and race-tracks of the world.
If this sounds a little too noisy then a more relaxed pace can be found within the stable complex. Usually home to the Earl of March and Kinara’s four legged friends, over the 2012 Festival of Speed weekend it played host to both a collection of Alain Prost’s former Formula 1 cars plus an exhibition of stunning photographs charting his career and chosen by the four-time world champion himself. While just outside a jazz band entertains those who enjoy a closer look at the collection of over 30 planes, trains and automobiles owned or used by the Queen during her 60 year reign and brought together for the first time ever on Goodwood’s Cartier lawn.
As morning turns into afternoon, everyone’s eyes turn skywards. As picnic blankets are unfurled in front of the 28 metre high Lotus sculpture and the great and the good sit down for lunch, The Red Arrows entertain the crowds, complete with red, white and blue vapour trails of course, and soon after the Eurofighter Jet puts on another equally breath-taking display of air-borne agility. Back on the ground the track re-opens, and prepares itself for the Super-car run. Think of this as the world’s fastest and most expensive group test, as the kind of cars that are usually bought by multi-millionaires as very expensive playthings and usually spend their lives in air-conditioned, de-humidified garages, are unleashed with clouds of tyre smoke before the adoring crowds. The sight of such exotica waiting to take to the hill must surely constitute as the world’s most expensive traffic jam. It’s surprising too, who you see driving them: Sebastian Vettel, here to drive his Red Bull –Renault RB7 as part of the Contemporary Grand Prix class, is spotted enjoying Infiniti’s striking Emerg-E.
No other event in the world can be compared to Goodwood’s Festival of Speed. Nowadays car manufacturers construct stands on the cricket pitch that rival the size of their regional dealerships and use the weekend to launch new models to the world’s press. Whilst elsewhere motor-sport fans of all ages get up close and personal with their racing heroes collecting their autographs as they go. I’m already counting the days until next year’s Festival. As time spent in a garden goes, there simply is nothing else better.
Visit www.goodwood.co.uk for more information.