For many years hillclimbing was a very popular motor racing discipline. Driving up tight and twisty roads required a skilled and brave driver as well as a finely honed car that combined light weight with a powerful engine. At one point Grand Prix cars like the Auto Unions were fitted with double rear wheels to conquer climbs like Schauinsland in Germany, La Turbie in France or Shelsley-Walsh in England. Some thirty years later the likes of Porsche and Ferrari went head to head with purpose built racing cars in the European Hillclimb Championship. Since then the sport has gradually faded from the limelight. The only contemporary hillclimb of note is the annual Pikes Peak, which without a doubt is one of the most extreme events on the motorsport calendar. And then there is the Goodwood Festival of Speed centered around the 1.16 mile road on the Goodwood Estate. Established in the early 1990s by Lord March, the ‘FoS’ invites around 350 modern and classic racing cars, motorcycles and supercars to race up the hill. Many of them are driven by their former pilots and/or racing legends. Complementing the action on the hill there are a variety of displays and activities to keep the crowds well entertained. The FoS offers the enthusiasts the unique opportunity to get close (touching distance) to the machines and drivers that they normally can only admire from the grandstands or the couch at home. It is certainly a successful recipe as the Festival has been sold out for the last few years and despite being held on a particularly busy weekend, this year’s edition is no exception.
We were on the hill the full three days to capture all the activities both on and off the hill. Our findings have been compiled in a full report and a spectacular 250-shot slideshow
Auctioneer Bonhams (named Brooks at the time) was one of the founding sponsors of the Festival of Speed and since then have always held an auction during the ‘FoS’. After absorbing the motoring department of Christie’s last year, the number of Bonhams auctions has increased considerably. Nevertheless they always manage to find interesting lots. The ‘FoS’ sale was headlined by the first production Jaguar D-Type, which has survived in remarkable original condition. It received plenty of pre-sale attention and the new owner had to dig deep in his pockets for £2,201,500; a new world record for a Jaguar. The possible pretender to this record, the Jaguar E2A, was also in attendance and will be offered in Bonhams next major auction during the Pebble Beach week in August. It was not just the D-Type that attracted the buyers’ attention and many of the lots that were clearly catered to the Goodwood public were sold for good money. The very first ERA, R1A, was offered without reserve and found a new owner for £359,000. Another world record was broken by an Invicta Type S that changed hands for £419,500. At the end of the day over £6 million was spent and 71% of the lots sold.
Cartier Style et Luxe Concours d’Elegance
One of the most interesting ‘off track’ activities is the Cartier Style et Luxe Concours d’Elegance. Unlike most conours where condition and history are also very important, the panel of celebrity judges focused solely on the design of the entered machines. These varied from a collection of Ford Model Ts (celebrating the T’s 100th anniversary), to several Bond cars and to modern supercar concepts. A very rare sight, especially on this side of the Atlantic, was a Tucker Torpedo. The six cylinder engined machine was well ahead of its time and failed to find enough buyers in its day. It was later made famous by the Francis Ford Coppola movie ‘Tucker: the Man and His Dream.’
Unfortunately for all other entrants Ralf Lauren sent his Mercedes Benz SSK Trossi Roadster, which has taken best of show at virtually every event it has been entered since 1993. Lined up alongside several other supercharged Mercedes, it once more stole the show and not surprisingly was crowned as the overall winner.
Very fast times
To prevent bruised egos or bent machines, the owners/drivers do not have to have their runs timed. A vast majority takes up this option, although many of them still charge up the hill with poise. Among the people chasing for times was Pikes Peak legend Rod Millen, who is a set fixture at the Festival of Speed. This year he brought his old Toyota Celica Special, which held the absolute record at Pikes Peak for many years. Despite being fitted with ten year old tires, the Californian Kiwi still managed to clock the third time. He was bettered by Brits Justin Law and Anthony Read, who at the end of Sunday were just 4 tenths of a second apart despite driving two completely different machines. On a dusty surface Law wrestled a Jaguar XJR8/9 Le Mans racer up the tight road in 44.19 seconds, beating the 44.58 seconds set earlier in the day by Reid in a 1980 Williams FW07 F1 car. By comparison the absolute record is 41.6 seconds set by Nick Heidfeld in a contemporary Formula 1 car in 1999. This makes the times of Law and Reid even more impressive. While several of the current Formula 1 teams were present, none of them went for a fast time. The drivers, including crowd favourite Lewis Hamilton, instead showed off their high tech machinery by making burn-outs and donuts. For these antics 1960s muscle cars are much more suitable. What makes the current F1 cars so very impressive are the acceleration and braking capabilities, which were sadly not displayed.
Anniversaries, anniversaries and anniversaries
The cars and motorcycles that were sent out on the hill were divided in around two dozen classes, many of which represented some sort of anniversary. These included the 100th anniversary of the 1908 French Grand Prix, the 60th anniversary of Porsche, the 50th birthday of both Lola and the British Touring Car Championship, and the 40th anniversary of the Formula 5000 class and of the first Gulf victory at Le Mans.
The 1908 French Grand Prix might well have been the most expensive race in history as it attracted a whole fleet of brand new racing cars from Italy, Germany, France and Great Britain. There would be no GP for the next three years, rendering most of these machines obsolete after one weekend. Among the nine machines present at Goodwood were two examples of the victories Mercedes 140 hp as well as two Benz 120 hps, which finished second and third. Mark Walker impressed in his Panhard et Levassor, which he raced up the hill in spectacular fashion, terrifying his ‘riding mechanic’.
The ‘Porsche Class’ saw many familiar machines, like a Gulf liveried 917K, a 911 2.8 RSR and a 956. Our attention was grabbed by a racing car designed by Dr. Ing. Ferdinand Porsche when he was still employed by others; a 1910 Austro-Daimler Prince Henry. The elegant machine boasts a sophisticated and relatively small overhead camshaft engine, which produced a hefty 95 bhp. It was brought to Goodwood by Ernst Piech, a grandson of Ferdinand Porsche. A great enthusiast, Mr Piech reveled at the opportunity to drive his grandfather’s creation for the first time since it was restored.
Well over a dozen Lolas were assembled, showcasing the broad scope of the British company’s often very successful products. These ranged from the very first Mk1 Prototype to the B03/00 single seater used by current Formula 1 ace Sebastian Bourdais to clinch four consecutive Champcar titles. On the Sunday he took his old stead out once again. Also present were cars that Lola built for main manufacturers like the Nissan R90C that clinched pole at Le Mans in 1990 and the more recent MG-Lola EX257. Unfortunately engine problems prevented the resurrection of Graham Hill’s 1966 Indy 500 winning T90 to make its ‘debut’. Damon Hill was in line to drive it, but instead took out in a similar car that was raced in period by Jackie Stewart.
One of the sport’s most popular liveries dates back to the 1960s when corporate sponsoring was introduced in Europe. The distinct powder blue and orange colours of Gulf have since then adorned many great racing cars. The first major victory came in 1968 when a Gulf liveried Ford GT40 won the 24 Hours of Le Mans outright. The cherry on the fortieth anniversary celebrations of that victory came a few weeks ago when a Gulf sponsored Aston Martin DBR9 won its class at Le Mans. Still covered in its Le Mans filth, it was demonstrated by victorious driver Antonio Garcia.
With over 350 historic and current racing cars entered, it is impossible to list all of them here, or even include them in a slideshow. Some of them are so exceptional, rare or noteworthy that they do deserve some additional attention. All three of these boxes can be ticked for the Shadow AVS brought to Europe for the first time by Dennis Losher. With its tiny wheels and short wheelbase it looks closer to a go-kart than a full sized racing car. Appearances deceive as this tiny vehicle comes equipped with a 700+ bhp Chevrolet engine. Not surprisingly it is very difficult to drive, but it was nevertheless driven up the hill with considerable pace. Also flown in from the United States was a Lotus 64 Indy Car. Built for the 1969 Indy 500, the four wheel drive single-seater showed great promise in practice, but was never raced, mainly for political reasons. The car made its debut fresh after a restoration by Classic Team Lotus. Another absolute treat for Lotus fans was the appearance of the Beaulieu Collection’s Lotus 49, which is the only original survivor of the revolutionary 1967 cars.
Like last year Pink Floyd drummer and historic racer/collector Nick Mason was handed an Auto Union by Audi. This time it was the final version of the Type D, which was recently constructed from the original drawings by Crostwaithe & Gardner. It uses the two-stage supercharged V12 engine, which produced well in excess of 420 bhp. One of the historically most important machines present was the Maserati 250F entered and driven by Lukas Huni. This very chassis was driven by Juan Manuel Fangio to his final and most famous victory in the 1957 Nurburgring Grand Prix. He broke the lap record ten times in the 22-lap race, improving the old best time by a whopping seven seconds. Needless to say it still ranks as one of the greatest drives ever.
Providing both visual and aural pleasure was Toyota’s V10-engined TS010 Le Mans racer. This thinly disguised Formula 1 car was used for two seasons, but fell victim to the company’s perpetual bad luck at Le Mans and came no further than second.
Sunday Times Supercar Run
A relatively recent addition to the Goodwood Festival of Speed is the Sunday Times Supercar Run, which as the name suggests is open for current supercars. Underlining the importance of the FoS, the ‘Run’ featured several UK and World debuts. Among them were the Shelby Mustang GT500 Super Snake, Fiat Abarth 500 and Toyota Aygo Crazy. For many it was also the first opportunity to see the road going version of the Ginetta G50 and the recently introduced Breckland Beira. Our attention was grabbed particularly by the Mazda Furai Concept. It is a combination of Mazda’s fabulous ‘Nagare’ design language with a Courage C65 chassis and a three-rotor racing engine. So it looks good, is very quick and sounds absolutely fantastic. Among the many drivers of note was the Wee-Scot Alan McNish, who celebrated his recent Le Mans victory with some spirited drives up the hill in an Audi R8. His V12-engined R10 was in the paddock, but did not venture out.
With its mouth-watering entry list, fantastic organization, sold-out attendance and un-English weather the Goodwood Festival of Speed was an almost perfect event. Why was it not perfect? It was held on the same weekend as the Le Mans Classic, which is also a must visit event. Amazingly it is the second time in a row that these two great meetings have conflicting dates. Next year there will of course be no problem (Le Mans Classic is bi-annual), but hopefully in two years time the scheduling will allow everybody to attend both events. We spoke to several people at Goodwood, who flew out to France on Friday evening. The 150,000 spectators that remained in England were as always treated to a show that remains unequalled. Like last year, we can only suggest you to pack your Wellies and head out to Goodwood for the 2009 Festival of Speed.