By Wouter Melissen
There are many adjectives that can be applied to the annual Goodwood Festival of Speed. Perhaps “overwhelming” is the one that best describes the event. What started out as a relatively modest hillclimb for historic racing cars on an English estate back in 1993 has grown to become more than a week’s worth of activities jammed into just four days. In its current form, the Festival of Speed is effectively a dozen events all packed into one extravaganza. In addition to the hillclimb that has remained at the centre, it is also the de facto British Motor Show, a historic rally meeting, a drift show and a concours d’elegance with a collector car auction added for good measure.
This year we focused most of our attention on the hillclimb, which featured competition cars that spanned nearly all of racing’s 125-year history. The 1.16 mile road used for the hillclimb runs on the estate of event host, the Duke of Richmond, past his Goodwood House. Entrants have the option to have their runs timed and, to create some more excitement, the fastest of the timed runners are brought together in a shoot-out. The goal this weekend was to break the 20-year old record of 41.6 seconds set by German Nick Heidfeld in a contemporary McLaren Grand Prix. Set with the benefit of tyre heaters, this record was long thought to be out of reach. Volkswagen and driver Romain Dumas clearly had other ideas. With a run of 39.9 seconds, Dumas absolutely smashed Heidfeld’s time in the all-electric ID.R that had won the Pikes Peak Hill Climb last year. Technically, the record has not truly been broken as the fastest time was set in practice and not in the shoot-out on Sunday, which was run under damp conditions.
While the timed runs are exciting, it is usually the cars that run untimed that are even more interesting. These often very precious and important machines are rarely seen in action and are often reunited with their original drivers. Among the most poignant reunions this year was of a visibly moved Emerson Fittipaldi with the Lotus 72 that he drove to the Formula 1 World Championship in 1972. After having scored many successes in what he considered his favorite Lotus, Fittipaldi crashed the car. Instead of wasting time rebuilding the wreck, Team Lotus simply decided to use a spare chassis. The wreck was stored for many years and was only recently restored by Classic Team Lotus for Fittipaldi to debut at Goodwood. He reported that it felt exactly the same as it did well over 40 years ago. Another goose-bumps moment was the celebration of the 50th anniversary of Jackie Stewart’s first of three World Championships. The Scotsman was back in his 1969 Matra, while his sons Mark and Paul were close behind in the Tyrrells he had used for his successful title attempts in 1971 and 1973.
The featured marque this year was Aston Martin to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the British company’s first and only Le Mans win. As is traditional, a massive sculpture was erected in front of Goodwood House. This year’s sculpture was designed by Gerry Judah and depicted a circle with an Aston Martin DBR1 on top to represent the company’s ongoing endurance racing success. Among the many other celebrations highlighted at the Festival of Speed were 125 years of Mercedes-Benz racing, 120 years of the Tour de France, Bentley’s centenary, 70 years of Abarth, 50 years of the Porsche 917 and the 50th birthday of Michael Schumacher. There was also a special moment with the very Gulf liveried Ford GT40 that won Le Mans outright in 1968 and 1969. The second win especially was one for the history books as it saw the car win with the closest margin over 24 hours, even after driver Jackie Ickx had walked to his car at the start as a protest against the unsafe starting procedure. Both Ickx and co-driver Jacky Oliver were reunited with the car that was flown over from the United States for the occasion.
It is impossible to list all the highlights of the 2019 Goodwood Festival of Speed. Several more are featured in the picture gallery below. The best way to really experience the event, however, is to visit in person. Just make sure that you reserve more than one day to soak up all that the Festival of Speed has to offer.
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