Festival of Speed
by Sue Baker
It’s summer, and so lots of beautiful cars that spend much of the year hidden away in garages are out there on the roads with their chrome glinting in the sunshine. You may have spotted some, from zippy MGs to curvaceous Austin-Healeys, and raffish Rileys to luscious E-Types.
When the weather is kind and no rain is featuring on the immediate forecast, out they come like pupating butterflies. Cherished old cars tend to be fair weather visitors in the traffic, and are kept indoors, lovingly fettled and fussed over when the sun goes in.
All around the country there are enthusiast car runs, motoring pageants and festivals at this time of year that bring out the interesting cars of previous eras. It’s a bit of a British obsession with our glorious motoring past. These events act as a magnet for owners of wonderful classics, both old and modern, and for car lovers who want to see them.
This weekend many of them are heading into deepest Sussex, where the annual Goodwood Festival of Speed is the current motoring mecca. With a stately home backdrop and set in beautiful parkland, the FOS has built up a huge following over more than two decades.
It was started in 1993 by Lord March, owner of Goodwood, who wanted to re-establish motorsport on the estate. It is land steeped in automotive glamour, with the historic Goodwood motor racing circuit, and the modern Rolls-Royce factory, both on estate land.
The first Festival of Speed clashed with that year’s Le Mans 24 hours – something that has never been allowed to happen again – but even so it attracted a crowd of 25,000 car fans. It has grown steadily ever since, into the huge internationally-acclaimed event it now is, with attendance capped at 150,000.
The main attraction is cars of all kinds, old and new, fast and faster, many with famous drivers. They are fabulous to watch as they tackle the 1.16 miles hillclimb on the main estate road that passes Goodwood House and snakes up through lush countryside to the highest point. There is also a rally forest stage, a supercar run, and a concours d’elegance.
The central event, the hillclimb, is by no means a tame trundle. The current record, set by Nick Heildfeld in a McLaren F1 car, is 41.6 seconds – at an average speed of 100.385 mph.
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