The Goodwood Festival of Speed, once an obscure English lord’s tribute to a historic racing circuit, has grown into probably the best known hillclimb event this side of Pikes Peak. A four-day celebration of fast machines past and present, it’s a chance for hundreds of thousands of British car enthusiasts to cluster around the hay bales and watch priceless racing cars being flogged within an inch of their life.
This year was the 25th running of the event, and the circus was in full effect. Goodwood often has a featured marque, but in this case the nod was given to all racing gamechangers, including a nod to racing legend John Surtees and former F1 grandmaster Bernie Ecclestone. Everywhere you looked, the tires screamed and the smoke billowed. Goodwood makes Pebble Beach look like a tea party for retired vicars. Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the mid-day sun: here’s a snapshot of what they get up to.
Not everything that heads up the hill leaves the start line intending to make a record run. This nitromethane-fuelled dragster was only here to puncture ear drums and spread tire smoke around – the crowd loved it.
Noted car South African designer Gordon Murray goes up the hill in a Lotus Super Seven clone he built in his youth. Famous for many Brabham Formula One builds and the McLaren F1, Murray was surrounded by many of his own designs on the day.
Here’s one: the McLaren F1 GTR longtail. The McLaren F1, also turning 25 this year, is perhaps the purest road-going supercar ever built. This is the racing evolution of the breed, as competed at Le Mans in 1997.
The Silver Arrows lead the pack down to the staging area. Astoundingly loud, complete with whining superchargers, this pair of vintage racers sounded like the grumpy ancestors of the Dodge Hellcat. The Mercedes Silver Arrows racing team dominated everyone, much like today’s F1 team.
The Fiat S76 land speed record car is most commonly known as the Beast of Turin, for obvious reasons. Its enormous 28-litre engine makes around 300 hp, and only has four pistons. It sounds like a forge making broadswords and shoots fire out the side.
Gathered in the pre-staging paddock, all manner of supercars jostle for position. While a low time up the hill doesn’t come with an official FIA trophy, it’s certainly bragging rights for both the driver and the machine.
A little Canadiana, tucked in among the Italian section. The F1 car in-frame is one of Gilles Villeneuve’s racing machines, and seems to fizz with the diminutive French-Canadian’s energy.
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An F40 LM. The very limited racing version of the F40 supercar, which turns thirty this year, the LM is even lighter and crazier than the original. The owner also fielded a Ferrari 308 Group B rally car, just for fun.
Along with all the historic stuff, a new challenger appears. The Ford GT attracted plenty of crowds in the paddock, and practically flew up the hill. Not too many onlookers seemed to know it was built in Canada.
As Goodwood has expanded, the course has grown from just the tarmac climb to off-road and rally sections. Here, heavily modified machines make ready to head out onto the ruts and jumps of the off-road course.
Monsters from the Group B days of rallying make ready to head out into the forest. Despite being incredibly valuable, the historic rally cars often end up getting flipped into the trees. No bother – it’s what they were designed for, and they can be fixed again.
Tucked away in a corner, a lifted AMX shows that anything can be turned into a rally car, provided you’ve got big enough tires. This one had Peking to Paris badges on it, indicating it had hammered across the Gobi desert at one point.
The Lancia Stratos is one of the most iconic rear-wheel-drive rally cars, and here appears in its best-known Alitalia livery. Having airplane markings on a car just makes sense, given how much time this little Lancia spends in the air.
The Red Arrows acrobatic team screams overhead as the cars are marshalled back into their starting positions. Factoring in the huge amount of helicopter traffic, acrobatic displays, and the arrival of RAF Tornadoes, the Goodwood festival is also a bit of an airshow.
A Ford Fiesta gets its Scandinavian flick on, as track marshals who’ve seen it all look on unimpressed. Two cars have already been hauled off the rally stage, one of them a priceless Escort that got flipped onto its roof.
The rally machines go up the hill too, and are often among the fastest cars to do so. This Escort Cosworth still has the names of WRC champion Carlos Sainz and co-driver Luis Moya on the back window.
At the entry corner near the famously unforgiving flint wall, a leviathan appears. Intended for Dakar desert racing, this Red Bull liveried truck appears in a whoosh of turbodiesel fury, then vanishes around the corner, chasing the finish line.
Drift cars were a new attraction this year, not looking for stopwatch glory, but turning every corner into a smoke show. This Mustang had even the stoic marshals grinning as it locked up its rear tires just before the flint wall, then swung back and smoked the rears.
Towering into the sky outside Goodwood’s stately living quarters, a quintet of F1 racing machines arc into the sky. The feature is erected each year, and new cars fixed onto it, depending on the theme of the show.
A Caterham 620R gets completely sideways, just on its way back to the staging area. Despite being a half-century old design, the Caterham was the second quickest car up the hill, beating out all the supercars.
Legendary driver Jackie Stewart gets on the throttle in a Ferrari 330 P3/4, one of the prettiest endurance racers ever made. The fabled Scot didn’t hold back, despite the museum quality of his borrowed machine.
Honda sent one of their new Civic Type Rs up the hill, but that wasn’t enough. The Type R is built in the UK, so Honda brought over a whole history of their R brand cars, including the Accord Type R and mid-90s Civic Type R we never got.
A common sight at any North American historic drag race, this F-150-towed dragster showed up at Goodwood like the proverbial bull in a china shop. Nobody seemed to mind the broken crockery everywhere.
With something like 1,500 hp, the massively turbocharged Porsche 917 was a monster in CanAm racing, and a terror on the hillclimb. Threading it up the narrow, no-runoffs tarmac was like stampeding an elephant through the eye of a needle.
When the McLaren F1 debuted as a road car, it was so fast it ended up beating all the prototypes to win Le Mans over all. Twenty-five years later, it’s still an epic machine, and embodies all the best of British spirit that makes Goodwood possible. Tally ho, chaps – onwards to another twenty-five years of speed.
Mad dogs and Englishmen in the mid-day sun.