By Wouter Melissen
Each year Lord Charles March opens the doors of his Goodwood estate near Chichester, 80 miles southwest of London, for the Festival of Speed. The four-day event is just that. It celebrates speed on both four and two wheels, from early pioneers to the car that won the 24 Hours of Le Mans just two weekends earlier. The main feature is the 1.16-mile hill-climb on which most of the great cars and bikes are let loose. While most runs are pure demonstrations of the priceless machinery, some participants make timed attempts on the narrow and tricky track. Seemingly defying the laws of physics, Justin Law clocked the fastest time this in his massive 1993 Jaguar XJR-12D, which looked as wide as the track.
The Goodwood Festival of Speed entries are spread out among roughly three dozen groups, each based on a particular theme and era. Among this year’s themes was the 90th anniversary of Delage’s victory in what is now the Formula 1 World Championship. To achieve this, company founder Louis Delage had thrown all his eggs in one basket by commissioning his chief engineer Albert Lory to create the Delage 15 S8. An engineering work of art, the very low Grand Prix car featured a 1.5-litre straight eight engine, which produced a hefty 170 bhp. Delage won four of the five races and the championship but the massive resources spent left the company on the brink of bankruptcy. The Festival of Speed marked this achievement by bringing together four of the six vehicles built, including The Revs Institute’s example, S/N 21642. While all of the other cars were raced and subsequently updated in period, S/N 21642 is the only fully original example that remains. Running flawlessly during each of its six runs, the Delage was driven for the Revs Institute by master restorer Eddie Berrisford.
The Revs Institute also brought its 1958 Vanwall to the event for entry in the post-War Grand Prix class. Another engineering work of art, this Formula 1 racer was created by bearing specialists Vandervell with help from Lotus founder Colin Chapman, aerodynamicist Frank Costin and legendary engine builder Harry Weslake. Vanwalls were regular winners during the second half of the 1950s, and, significantly, the team became the first ever Constructors’ World Champion in 1958. Driven to five Grand Prix wins by Tony Brooks and Stirling Moss, The Revs Institute’s example is the most successful of all. At Goodwood, it was entrusted to veteran racer Brian Redman, who in the past has also raced the car at the nearby Goodwood Motor Circuit.
During the same year that Vanwall was crowned the inaugural Constructors’ World Champion, one Bernard Charles Ecclestone, better known simply as Bernie, tried unsuccessfully to qualify for two Grands Prix. Despite this inauspicious start, he would go on to be the Chief Executive of the Formula One Group and a fixture in the sport for nearly fifty years. A towering sculpture on the front lawn of the Goodwood House celebrated his legacy by displaying one significant vehicle from each of his five decades in the sport, including a Lotus 72 Cosworth, a Brabham BT49 Cosworth, and a Ferrari F2002. From his own stable, Ecclestone also brought several Brabhams, most of which had been shown in public for many years. Among them was the infamous BT46B fan car, which won the 1978 Swedish Grand Prix with Niki Lauda at the helm but was then withdrawn because of uproar from competing Formula 1 teams.
The Goodwood Festival of Speed also celebrated Ferrari’s 70th anniversary with separate classes for sports cars and single seaters, which included some of the Italian manufacturer’s most iconic machines. Among them was the 250 GTO owned by Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason and the achingly beautiful 330 P4 that was reunited with Sir Jackie Stewart, 50 years after he had raced it to second at Brands Hatch, securing the 1967 World Sports Car Championship for Ferrari. It was poignant to see Derek Hill behind the wheel of a painstakingly constructed replica of the 156 Dino F1 his father Phil had driven to the Drivers’ World Championship in 1961.
The Goodwood Festival of Speed offers visitors both a rolling museum and a moving motor show. In addition to admiring the sights and sounds of the cars on the hill, these rare machines can also be admired from up close in the easily accessible paddocks. The fans also get the opportunity to see many of their past and present heroes, which this year included the likes of current World Champion Nico Rosberg, motorcycle ace Giacomo Agostini and NASCAR legend Bobby Labonte.
Photography by Wouter Melisssen
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