This year’s Festival of Speed was quite possibly the finest I’ve ever been to. Aside from the obvious collection of machinery on show, other aspects stood out for me, more than in any other year. Here’s why…
Absorbing the atmosphere
I must admit to feeling a real sense of excitement when parking up on day one. I tend not to look on the website at the listings of competing machines and drivers, just to enjoy the surprise. Walking from the car park into the event, hearing engines being warmed up and clouds of invisible fumes rolling towards you makes you walk that bit faster to avoid missing something. More so when you’ve been absent for the last two years.
Being seasoned FOS-goers, we took the kitchen sink with regard to comfort items; full waterproofs, chairs and supplies. To sit in comfort trackside, whilst all around us fled the changeable weather, was immensely satisfying and left us feeling really rather smug.
The commercial motor show side of Goodwood enables us punters to get up close and personal with the very press cars we’ve just read about in the mags. Renault lined up a gaggle of electric Twizys outside their stand like a load of BMXs in bike racks.
Curiosity can often land you in schtuck, as proven by my getting trapped in the rear ‘seat’, entangled in the seat belt, knees round my ears. With a cackling mate ramming the driver’s seat into my battered limbs, repeatedly, whilst a rather serious suited looking chap waxed lyrical about this very example to a group of foreign student types, it wasn’t a great advert for the wee machine. Still, credit to Renault for taking a punt, though I can’t see it becoming more than a rich man’s plaything.
I later spied Autocar’s Steve Cropley entering the Renault stand, passing a partition, and not coming out the other side. On closer inspection there were no hidden doors, corridors or mirrors, so where did the great man go? Shame really as I wanted to get his opinion of what on earth was going on at Lotus.
The appearance of the Eurofighter Typhoon was jaw-dropping. Announcing itself on Friday and Sunday with a series of low loud flypasts, punctuated by a display of physics-bending manoeuvring that would see Isaac Newton go back to the drawing board, it captivated the crowds like a Mandela speech.
Everyone, to a child, stood silent and motionless, necks craned upward and heads rolling with every howling, air-crackling pass. Even the scream of F1 burnouts were ignored by all. Magic.
Perhaps even more astounding than the Typhoon was Bloodhound SSC and its 1000mph mission. To think it’ll pack even more power than the ‘plane is incredible but to see the bigger picture under that marquee was fantastic. The Bloodhound ethos, to get Britain engineering again by inspiring youth, rang loud and reasserted the notion that the Land Speed Record is just something that Britain does.
Noble and Green were getting stuck in, approaching families and even lone folks, with the enthusiasm of a team who’d just had a eureka moment. These two are made of something very special indeed.
I didn’t get the chance to speak to either as they were busy bees, but I’d love to know if they’d be disappointed should they hit ‘just’ 999mph. Having read Richard Noble’s book, I’m sure (and hope) they would.
As the weekend was interspersed with sharp showers, the track rarely dried out completely resulting in a lot of tip-toeing up the hill. Understandable given the risk and trust involved, yet the few who did push in the damp conditions really stood out and let’s face it, no one pays good money to watch people pussy-footing up to the finish line.
I don’t believe Rod Millen has ever given it less than 100% in his Pikes Peak Tacoma. It’s thrilling to watch him wrestling the beast all over the course, using grass either side of the tarmac. Kenny Brack driving the Shelby Coupe was also a consistent lead-foot, as was Gary Ward in the F1 Leyton House, Quick Nick in the F1 McLaren and Anthony Reid, as always. There were others of course, but these guys really impressed.
For the last few years I’ve tuned in to Radio 2 on the morning of Chris Evans’ sojourn with successful charity bidders who secured their seats in his collection of stunning Ferraris. I’d somehow missed them at Goodwood each time they appeared, so this year took the time to seek them out and spend time poring over their details.
All fantastic of course, but the F40 really did it for me. The poster boy of my youth. From the embossed ‘F40’ on the rear wing supports, to the louvered rear window and fabric coated dash, its intent is even more clear in the metal (or carbon fibre). The SA Aperta however, whilst awesome, appeared bulbous, over-styled and at odds with its stable-mates. A backward step in Ferrari design in my opinion. In contrast, the 250 SWB was staggeringly beautiful.