There is no greater anti-dote to the pressures of modern motoring than the Goodwood Festival of Speed.
Pot-holes, emissions taxation, speed cameras – all these things are absent from an event that has grown from untried and relatively uncertain beginnings back in 1993 to a venue that has displaced many a traditional motor show.
This year’s festival was no different, with more manufacturers than ever before choosing to use the Sussex event as the first UK appearance of their newest production models.
Mazda’s new MX-5 made its UK public debut here, ahead of the car’s official release at the end of August, with Lord March choosing to open the event by driving one up the famous hillclimb. The company also took the opportunity to show off their new CX-3 and Mazda2, while featuring their motorsport heritage with a 37-metre tall sculpture on the lawn outside Goodwood House; perched atop were a 1991 Le Mans-winning Mazda 787B and LM55 Gran Turismo car.
Ford opened the toy chest and sprinkled its show stand with goodies – a classic GT40 suspended by wires, a new Ford GT in a glass box you could stand on and, in its UK debut, the new 350PS Focus RS which hooned its way up the hill with Ken Block at the wheel. Block’s famous all-wheel-drive ’65 Mustang also put on a tyre-shredding show, while former Stig Ben Collins snaked his way up the hill in the new Mustang GT350R.
Honda’s stand made it look like the company had left its toys in their boxes, but it was the first time the firm’s new line-up had been shown in one place: besides the recently updated Civic and CR-V could be found the new HR-V, Jazz, the rip-snorting Civic Type R, and even a new NSX, the supercar’s first UK appearance.
Aston Martin brought their new DB9 GT and Vantage GT12 out to play, while their new Vulcan track car was unveiled in the Supercar Paddock before roaring up the hill, the sound of its seven-litre V12 ricocheting off the flint walls as it did.
Lotus used Friday to let their new 3-Eleven out of its giant wooden box. The 450hp car is the company’s quickest ever production model, and it will be offered in Road and Race versions, both sharing the company’s ethos of ‘less is more’.
The Porsche 911 GT3 RS, Cayman GT4 and Boxster Spyder all made their UK debuts during Thursday’s Moving Motor Show, with the German marque’s racing prowess celebrated by a collection of Le Mans-winning cars.
And the UK debuts continued with BMW offering test drives in their new 3 Series, Audi showing their new Q7 and RS3, and Jaguar showcasing their new XE, XF and XJ models. For more practical budgets, Peugeot had the new 308 GTi, SEAT unveiled a new Ibiza, and Citroen’s new design-oriented brand DS Automobiles showcased their fresh-faced DS5 alongside a 1955 original.
Yet while all this was happening, famous names such as Kimi Raikkonen, Richard Petty, Sir Stirling Moss, John McGuinness, Nico Rosberg, and many others, were driving the wheels off their respective charges in an attempt to set the weekend’s best time up the world’s most famous driveway.
And we’ve not even mentioned air displays from the likes of the Red Arrows, the ever-exciting forest rally stage, or the incredible 28-litre Fiat S76, fresh from a 10-year restoration and driven for the first time in 100 years!
Of course, the event wasn’t without incident. Friday saw a Mazda 767B run into straw bales during a timed run, while Bloodhound SSC driver and world’s fastest man Andy Green crashed a Jaguar XJ support vehicle at the now slightly more notorious Molecomb corner. Both drivers were unharmed – the cars, not so much.
But then that’s the point of Goodwood: it’s a unique blend of outdoor festival, static motor show, and active race venue all mixed into one, with the added sprinkling of music, entertainment, market stalls, classic auctions and motorsport’s great-and-the-good thrown in for good measure.
It’s an event that consistently draws huge numbers – over 34,000 people attended Thursday’s Moving Motor Show alone, with more than 200,000 expected over the course of the weekend.
While some may find those huge numbers mean the event has lost some of the relaxed charm it had in its early years, two things we can say for certain: even if you had tickets for all four days, you still wouldn’t be able to take it all in.
And the downer that arrives on the following Monday once you realise it’s all over takes nearly as long to subside as it does for next year’s event to come around.
Thanks to BMW for supplying our tickets for this year’s FoS.