Goodwood Friday 1st July 2011

If you have a modicum of interest in cars you should go to Goodwood Festival of Speed, there I’ve said it simple as. It’s hard to describe Goodwood to car people and non-car people alike without resorting to clichĂ© so I thought I’d keep to the point, if you like cars you will love Goodwood. For me 2011 was my third visit out of the last four years and I fully intend to keep coming back for many more to come, it’s not a cheap event but it’s one of those very rare things in the modern world in that you do feel you are getting every penny’s worth of value. It’s an exceptionally professional and well organised event, with parking and traffic control organised with real precision.

I woke my six-year-old son Max up at 05.45 in the morning, I’d managed to keep myself from telling him that I had bought tickets this year, so I whispered in his ear that we were going to Goodwood today and that no, he did not have to go to School. Well, I never take a holiday in term time and his attendance is exemplary, so I always think what the hell to one day close to the end of the Summer term! An excitable forty-five minutes later we were on our way. The journey from Colchester is not a long one and the only delay is when you hit the village of Petworth about fifteen miles from Goodwood itself. I really should plan ahead one year and research some local knowledge that would mean avoiding this bottleneck. The sheer volume of traffic forced through this tiny villages one way system adds another forty-five minutes to an otherwise just over two-hour journey. I really must also go back to Petworth on a normal day, as this is just one of the numerous picture box villages dotted around the stunning South Downs. I also should have had the courage to continue following the supercharged Range Rover that peeled off just before Goodwood that was festooned with FoS 2011 stickers and obviously endowed with some local knowledge to avoid the traffic. But, I feared my light pressure turbo would be no match for his Supercharger and I would lose him, however, on the country back roads I could exploit every last inch of the 500s performance while the Rangie had to watch not loosing his wing mirrors. On its second proper long journey the 500 acquitted itself fantastically again, on the motorway I achieved 50mpg at 75 to 80 mph and once off the motor way I enjoyed all of the rev range only denting the economy slightly. With just over 2000 miles under its Michelin’s the tiny engine is really loosening up nicely and I will never tire of its rorty rasping note. The turbo works wonders on this engine giving it enough torque to surprise a lot of much larger engined cars down the drag strip of af a clear duel carriage-way especially if they are caught napping.

Now if you couldn’t afford entry to Goodwood itself, petrolhead fun begins in the car park, fields of cared for exotica and rarities greet and mingle with the everyday, it’s a wonder some people make it to the gates. A couple of rows down from my spot was a stunning Audi R8 GT the first and only one I have seen, as well as the most superb example of a TVR Tamora resplendent in its raspberry red metallic paint. Oh and this lovely little 500 Essesse!

If you arrive nice and early like we did the walk to the entrance is never too far away and once inside the grounds the first port of call is some refreshments, I won’t say any more other than the catering is excellent but boy do you pay through the nose for it, having said that you would be a very foolish person to expect any different at an event like this. Suitably fuelled a quick glance at the programme reveals it’s nearly time for the Indy cars and contemporary F1 to climb the hill. It’s easy to forget, sometimes, that this is a serious timed hill climb and every day the cars tackle the hill split into classes, although friday is classed as practice so you don’t get quite the same commitment from some drivers as you do on Saturday or Sunday. Now, I’ve not been on a Saturday and Sunday for a couple of reasons and I may be missing out but so far I’ve convinced myself of this. The car is the star, I would dearly love to be within spitting distance of Button or Hamilton but I just don’t know if the thousands and thousands of extra people and all that pushing and jostling is worth it, especially with a six-year-old in tow. I like the relaxed air and extra space, literally, that a friday at Goodwood gives you eighty to ninety percent of the cars are present so I’ve yet to feel I’m missing out too much yet.

You never stop spectating with your ears at Goodwood because even away from the track your eardrums are always vibrating to something powerful and exciting. But to see, you need to line the trackside or purchase one of the Grandstand tickets. The purpose built grandstands are raised and covered and provide excellent and comfortable viewing which is why I fork out for them, coupled the cleverly placed giant video screens and truly excellent commentary it means your never missing out on the action whatever your budget.

Every years event has a theme or themes and this years was ‘racing revolutions’ as well as a celebration of the Jaguar marque and the Indianapolis 500. This meant some truly iconic Indy cars to see in action as well as a stunning central sculpture based on an E-Type Jaguar on the main lawn. I will confess to being slightly underwhelmed when I saw this sculpture on the internet on Thursday night, thankfully I was wrong, up close this really was perhaps the most technically challenging and moving central sculpture. The detail up close was fantastic and being able to look through the hollow steel tubes added another dimension. A very fitting tribute to Jaguar and the E-Type.

Some other highlights of our day included Mark Webber piloting the 2010 F1 Red Bull car up the hill and seeing this genuinely likeable and truly down to earth driver interviewed at the top of the hill. We also had a close encounter with Murray Walker being dropped off by golf buggy at the BMW hospitality suite and perhaps the low light just moments before a brush with TV and radio’s Vernon Kaye!

Which neatly allows me to segue into one of the little topics of this blog post, the ‘stars the car’ and it is on that note I leave you with some photo highlights of just some of what you could enjoy at this years festival of speed. We left tired but buzzing with happy memories as ever, that will keep us going until this time next year!

Abarth 1500 Biposto BAT 1 (1952)

Maserati A6G 54 owned by JK (1954)

Fiat 500 Scuderia Ferrari Support Car!

AMG powerplant of Pagani Huayra

LOVE this colour!

Alfa Romeo 4c concept

Just like the 8c I really hope the Alfa Romeo 4c makes it into production, it really is a stunning little sports car up close with some wonderful detailing. I believe Alfa are aiming at 35 to 40k with the superb 1.7 turbo from the Giulietta Cloverleaf pushing out 235bhp and 251lb per feet another great engine from Fiat Powertrain Technologies. With a kerb weight under 1000kg this 4c will fly. Almost just as exciting is the plan to use the same chassis for a halo Abarth two-seater sports car, I’d be proud to have either on my drive in years to come.

And now for something completely different, I have a real love of the Mercedes marque at the moment and their manufacturer stand as always was one of the very best, with some captivating cars on display celebrating Mercedes 125yrs of innovation.

Mercedes SLS AMG 2011

Mercedes 300 SL Gullwing.

280SL Convertible

Shooting Brake concept available 2013

faux pas of the day – supercar paddock, white Lamborghini Aventador its scissor doors skyward, my son unbeknown to me clambers in, moments later a man wearing a Lamborghini rugby shirt is saying to me ” iz a no possib-ly ze child can be inside ze car” oh, OH sorry I stutter and bark at Max to make a sharp exit which he does backwards over the sill shoes scuffing on finest leather and delicate looking switch gear. Thankfully no harm done and as consolation the nice man started her up and gave her the full beans – a sublime noise. I think that quite possibly Max is one of the first six-year olds to get behind the wheel of this new Lamborghini, stationary or not. That’s what you get for playing hooky from school!