I’m already getting *quite* excited about this year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed, which opens on the 23rd June. The Festival of Speed is often described as ‘an annual hill climb featuring historic motor racing vehicles held in the grounds of Goodwood House, West Sussex’ but it is far, far more than this.
(Although the hill climb is quite extraordinary – it’s usually just a road through the estate. Add in a few haybales and you get a hill climb – it’s not often that you get this close to a circuit!)
In the summer of 1936, Freddie March – the 9th Duke of Richmond – hosted a private hillclimb for the Lancia Car Club in the grounds of Goodwood House. In 1993, his grandson, the present Earl of March, hosted his own Hillclimb and created the Festival of Speed.
It all kicks off with Press & Preview Day on Thursday 22nd for the latest road cars, (I took part in 2012, when I drove the Volvo V60 Plug-In Hybrid up the hillclimb), while the rest of the weekend sees heritage cars taking on the 1.16 mile Hillclimb, which challenges the world’s greatest drivers and riders, including today’s Formula 1 and Moto GP stars.
Last year my father and I attended as guests of TAG Heuer, who were celebrating their fifth year as official timing partner, and who were sponsoring the very glamorous Drivers Club, the home for home for competing drivers, guests and VIPs.
Below are some of the cars (and my papa) from the Steve McQueen collection that were being highlighted in the grounds of the Drivers Club.
The theme for last year’s Festival was ‘Flat-out and Fearless: Racing on the Edge’, paying tribute to the drivers and constructors throughout history that threw caution to the wind in pursuit of victory.
Away from the hill climb course is a paddock full of huge stands showing off current production cars, as well as all manner of classic and racing cars. We headed straight to the TAG Heuer stand to see the McLaren P4/4, the most successful F1 car ever built. The 30 year relationship between McLaren and TAG Heuer is the longest partnership between a watch brand and a constructor in the history of sport.
We were also able to test our potential as racing drivers on a range of interactive motor racing games (there’s my father doing his thing above) as well as checking out the five exclusive watch launches, including the Carrera Calibre 16 Senna, and the McLaren limited edition.
The two cars are the 1991 Le Mans winning 787B and the Mazda LM55 Vision Gran Turismo car, previously a virtual car designed for the GT6 game. (Mazda built this car specifically for the Goodwood central feature.)
Half way through the day I went off to be interviewed by ITV for a documentary on supercars, as I’ve been lucky enough to drive a fair few throughout my career. (Like the glorious Ferrari 488 Spider in Italy last fall.)
One of my favourite parts of the Festival is being able to get up close and personal with some extraordinary cars: nearly all of the cars here have been brought to be driven, and in between stints on the hill climb they are parked all over the grounds.
Not everything is ideal at the Festival of Speed: I think in the 21st century the need for women trussed up in frocks and heels on the production car stands is long gone (especially in a field in Sussex).
I’d rather see this
and this. Which, after all, is far more representative of women and their past times these days.
It’s not just speed on the ground that is celebrated: speed in the air got a look in too when the Red Arrows did their thing.
If you like classic cars, then the Cartier Style et Luxe is the place to be. This glorious exhibit celebrates vintage motoring at its very best: every entrant is considered to be a contender for best of its type. Here are three of my favourites:
Flamboyant, graceful, and gorgeous, the ‘goutte d’eau’ (teardrop) Talbot-Lagos were the epitome of Figoni et Falaschi’s rare talent for creating speed, elegance and excitement in their automotive design work. With a powerful 4-litre, straight-six Talbot engine, the Teardrop T150s could achieve 115 mph – quite a feat in the 1930s. This car, chassis number 90106, was originally owned by Bentley boy and Bentley Motors chairman, Woolf Barnato.
1907 Vindec Special 5hp with Wicker Bath Chair
Class 7: A Bit on the Side – The golden age of the motorcycle and sidecar. Entered by: Christopher Read
Vindec Special was a pioneering-era motorcycle maker, building bikes in Germany to the British style between 1903 and 1914, and this Vindec Special’s draft wicker bath chair is believed to be the oldest sidecar in existence, and is typical of its era.
The 1953/2014 Bensport Bentley La Sarthe
Class 4: Modern Classics – improving perfection? Entered by Bob Perry Bentley and Rolls-Royce restoration specialists Bensport.
This is a fabulous example of how a classic car can become something quite different. Bensport claim its ‘new’ La Sarthe coupe is “not a replica, not a recreation, and not a lookalike…a beautiful new body design – a true sports Grand Tourer where non existed before.”
Taking inspiration from the handsome 1950s Bentley Continental R-Type coupe the hand-built, all aluminium La Sarthe is built on a restored, specially prepared and modified 1950s Bentley MkV1 chassis. Uprated suspension, brake and cooling systems are also claimed to improve navigation in modern urban traffic.
1931 Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 MM Spyder
Class 1: A Sporting Advantage – The heyday of the supercharged sports car. Entered by: Eric Heerema
The work of exceptional Italian engineer Vittorio Jano, the Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 was an engineering marvel and a giant killer in competition. The 8C’S twin-cam engine comprised of two four-cylinder motors mated to a Roots-type supercharger, producing 140bhp, with further developments increasing power output to a heady 180bhp; remarkable in the early 1930s! Only 188 examples were made by Alfa Romeo, who supplied the 8C chassis to contemporary coachbuilders such as Touring, Pininfarina, Castagna, Figoni and Zagato, as seen here on the this ex-works racing car.
After all this motoring excitement we retired to the haven of the TAG Heuer Drivers’ Club to drink tea, and eat cake.
This year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed takes place from 23 -26 June. You can find more information at Goodwood Festival of Speed
Sasha and her father were guests of TAG Heuer at the 2015 Goodwood Festival of Speed. www.tagheuer.co.uk