Why the Goodwood Festival of Speed Is Incredible in 20 Photos

2016 Goodwood Festival of SpeedAt your typical car show, from a local Cars and Coffee event all the way up to auto shows and extravagant productions such as the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance or Lake Como, a passel of desirable vehicles are rolled in, parked, and—often—roped off. Look, but don’t touch. And if you manage to glimpse one of the cars running, it’s usually so that the car can either leave or be loaded onto a trailer to leave. We love looking at pretty machinery, but the car-show formula is, in general, quite boring. Ask any of your non-car-fan friends what they think of one—we bet they’d be yawning halfway through the question. The Goodwood Festival of Speed, on the other hand, is very much not boring.Goodwood takes place on the sprawling estate of Lord March, a titled Brit. The grounds are transformed into a pseudo race circuit—with manufacturer displays, grandstands, and luxury boxes—scattered around a 1.16-mile hill-climb course that, amusingly enough, is pretty much stitched together from Lord March’s driveway and a service drive that runs uphill. As you’d expect, his driveway is better than yours, consisting of five turns (some of which are multi-apex, off-camber, or both) and it runs from a relatively flat section into a progressively more inclined bit at the end.  Only about 20 feet wide, the “track” is bracketed by hay bales propped against tree stumps driven into the ground; there are no catch fences, and in most places, only a five-foot pathway roped off for track marshals and photographers between the hay bales and the public viewing areas.This might come as some surprise, but despite the environs and the priceless automobiles on hand, the Goodwood Festival of Speed is not an overtly pretentious event like, say, the Pebble Beach Concours. Sure, some of the best seats in the house are located in the pinkies-out-fancy (and assuredly expensive) Gurney Pavilion positioned at the outside of the first two turns on the hill-climb—and at the GP Pavilion farther up the course—but for the most part, spectators with general-admission tickets aren’t squeezed out of a good time. We wandered the course for three days and kept finding new vantage points to catch the action. Attendees can opt for grandstand tickets for a seat overlooking any number of great track positions. Goodwood simply places every attendee at the center of the action. Anyone, for example, can wander into the paddock and roam among classic Can-Am race cars, F1 cars, Ferraris, Ford GT40s, prewar monsters, and more. ---At the top of the hill, near the hill-climb’s finish line, there’s a full-blown rally stage cut into the woods where historic Group B cars—Audi Quattros, Lancia Stratoses, etc.—and more modern Subarus, Mitsubishis, and Fords tear down muddy paths sideways, ripping off bumpers, jumping, and more. At Pebble Beach, you feel like a nobody if you’re hoofing it around a bunch of parked cars or without a glass of champagne between two fingers. At Goodwood, it pays to leave the luxury boxes and the tiny-dog crowd to the champagne and Ferrari salespeople and traipse through the mud to watch epic machines doing epic things.Ferraris, Lamborghinis, and Bugattis aren’t the only menu selections at Goodwood, where a motley collection of vehicles runs the gamut from NASCAR stockers to Formula 1 cars to a 20,000-pound Dakar support truck. Drifting was more widely included this year, which was incredible only for the strangeness of watching “Mad” Mike’s quad-rotor Mazda RX-8 tear past Lord March’s quintessentially old-money English summer house fully sideways, plumes of smoke pouring from the rear tires. Ken Block was on hand with his Gymkhana Ford Fiesta—he did plenty of donuts, too—juxtaposed against Sir Stirling Moss piloting a 300SL lightweight up the hill. A Ford Mustang Funny Car was there, too, and performed a smoky launch on the main straight before exiting (it couldn’t make the tighter turns farther up the track); the largely European crowd seemed stunned when the announcers outlined how the drag racer packed more horsepower than the first 10 cars on a Formula 1 grid combined—and how the engine needed to be rebuilt after pretty much every quarter-mile run. The diverse field was completely unlike the more strictly pedigreed sort that might appear at concours, another way Goodwood avoids feeling too upper crust. In covering a NASCAR stock car as it made its way up the hill, the announcers even encouraged attendees to go to a NASCAR race and try it out. We almost tripped over our jaws at that one.At first blush, the 1.16-mile hill-climb at Goodwood would seem like a piece of cake—a perfectly lackadaisical strip of road for taking easy parade laps in historic vehicles. It is anything but (as some folks may know from Gran Turismo 6, which features the Festival of Speed as an event), and while some of the cars make their way up the hill at an easy pace, most fly through at properly entertaining speeds. There’s even a time-attack “shootout” on the final day, where the cars posting the hottest times over the previous two days compete for the quickest lap. At even moderate speeds, the course’s lack of curbing—the pavement simply ends on either side, giving way to slick grass—and fairly curt runoff areas present a unique challenge, as does the course’s utter lack of coherent camber in corners and general bumpiness. If this sounds like an unforgiving context for old race cars and modern supercars alike, you’re right—it’s also what makes seeing incredible cars bouncing, sliding, and occasionally spinning so mesmerizing.England in the summer is a lot like England the rest of the year: rainy. It can rain at a moment’s notice at Goodwood, but sometimes, it may only rain at one end of the hill-climb. Even if it pours over the entire course, some corners are sheltered by trees and hillside. And every time a car puts one wheel off the track, spins, or gets a little too giddy doing donuts on the main straightway, mud is strewn onto the paved surface. Track workers do their best to sweep the worst of the detritus away in between group runs, but until each run group is finished, the mud is there for the next car to discover—sometimes midcorner. (Cars are sent out in large groups, with each car spaced roughly 30 seconds apart, during which the track is considered “hot.”) This year, the paved surface also proved sensitive to rubber laid down by the drift cars, which, mixed in with the mud and dust and such, meant that every run posed different challenges to the drivers. ---We asked Mark Higgins, the driver who set the Isle of Man TT lap record for a four-wheeled vehicle in a modified WRX STI and was gunning for a hot time up the Goodwood hill, which corner he felt is the most challenging. His response? The blind left-hander after a crest just past the main footbridge (technically, Turn Three), which is easy to understeer through if you brake too late. But he reiterated that Turn Three pales in comparison to the funky, ever-shifting grip available on each run.Yes! And that’s probably one of the craziest yet most respectable aspects of the Goodwood festival. Here are cars that, when new, were built for racing or at least moving very, very quickly down a road. Today, they’re hugely valuable, but the fact that their owners are willing to put them out there and expose them to risk, for the aural and visual benefit of Goodwood’s roughly 150,000 attendees, is magic. (The Monterey historics at Laguna Seca, an event tied to the Pebble Beach weekend, is similar in this way.) We love that these cars are trotted out for public enjoyment, rather than squirreled away like appreciating assets. But between the track’s challenges, driver error, or pure bad luck, incidents can and do happen. ---We watched the driver of a Renault Laguna touring car slam into a hay bale at high speed, completely wrecking the front end, and the 1909 “Blitzen Benz” spun coming out of the first turn, barely avoiding the hay bales. A Porsche 917 was similarly unlucky. Having been caught out on the track right as it started to rain, the nearly 600-hp Porsche had its back end wash out coming out of a turn, wagging first to the right, then to the right, then back to the left, then to the right—and just as it looked like the driver might pull out of the tank slapper, the car hurled to the left into a hay bale, punching in the left side of its nose. And the driver of the Don Law Racing Jaguar XJR120 literally drove a wheel off his ride, mowing the lawn after the front right wheel decided to explore a different racing line than the other three. It’s difficult to describe the tension in watching the cars run the course. Imagine using a Rolex to hammer in a nail, or Scarlett Johansson doing Tough Mudder. It’s not that either task can’t be done, but you’d be hard pressed ever to  witness it in person.Cars are grouped into various run groups and, when called, queue up in the paddock area and file out onto the track near the start line. They then rev, do burnouts, or execute small drifts to the amusement of the crowd as they make their way the wrong way down the course to the start line, where they turn around, queue up again, and are sent on up the hill in short intervals. When the cars reach the top, they pass through a slowdown area before gathering near the Drivers' Club—a hangout for the drivers where fans can solicit autographs, high-fives, kisses, whatever—before parading back down the course toward the paddock. Again, some drivers will perform juvenile but amazing stunts along the way (imagine leaving a Cars and Coffee event, minus the crashing Ford Mustangs). This might be the only place where you’ll see such widely varied automobiles as a Ferrari FXX K, a Rolls-Royce Wraith, and an old McLaren Formula 1 car rip burnouts for no particular reason at all.This is another one of Goodwood’s more magical properties—that you can stand inches from the metal on display as it streams in from the hill-climb to be parked in the paddock.The scene essentially is this: A typical crowd will be ogling the cars that aren't currently  running up the hill  when the cars fresh off a climb return. A marshal simply shouts at everyone to clear a path, and the cars pour in right next to you. While snapping a photo of the #68 Ford GT that raced at Le Mans this year, a Ferrari 550LM race car nearly rolled over this author’s foot as it was being pushed, engine off, into a parking spot. As unreal as that near miss was, you really do have to keep an eye out, because some of the more finicky race cars don’t particularly like to be idled or to crawl around at low speed. It’s best to get out of the way when, say, Mario Andretti’s #50 Ferrari Can-Am race car comes blaring into the paddock.Each run group will go up the hill at least twice per day for all three days of Goodwood, and this year there were nearly 30 such groups. This is particularly useful for those who only come for one day, but it also presents a special opportunity for those who stick it out for all three days, as it allows one to wander the course without missing any of the action. Did a group run while you were off checking out one of the static displays? No worries; you can catch it the next go-around—possibly even from a new vantage point at a different part of the course.We kid, since every car, truck, and motorcycle on hand at Goodwood was incredible, but the festival does designate a few special groups each year. For 2016, those included collections celebrating BMW’s centenary and F1 driver James Hunt. Several of Hunt’s race cars were there, including this #11 McLaren Formula 1 racer. BMW was the featured marque, earning the privilege of displaying three of its cars atop the Goodwood sculpture—the large, spiky white thing you probably noticed in earlier slides.Oh, yeah, there also are bundles of classic motorcycles on hand at the FoS.Goodwood isn’t exactly the infield at Daytona, but it’s a pretty decent party. There are plenty of food stands and bar stands serving up appropriately greasy foods and refreshingly cold beer. If you insist on being classy, we did see several joints serving wine, and there was even a “Seafood and Champagne” vendor. But grab a pint, find a spot along the hay bales, and soak in the automotive nirvana.As entrancing as the main Goodwood hill-climb is, there’s more than just a finish line at the top. Make the trek up the hill (or hitch a ride in a wagon dragged by a tractor), and you’re rewarded by a complete forest rally stage.Just as in real rallies, it’s easy to get entirely too close to the action. A  series of pathways snake through the forest to get you up close and personal with the bevy of historic rally cars that pass through. Between the rally course and the main portion of the hill-climb, there’s also an off-road exhibition area where wild 4x4s jump, climb, and otherwise show off their dirt-tackling prowess.Unlike the paved paddocks at the bottom of the hill-climb, the rally paddock is basically an open, muddy field where cars are parked outside. A car-park-type roof structure runs around the perimeter, but there’s no pavement in sight. Next to several Audi Quattros sat a pair of period Audi Sport support vans, and there was an entire row of World Rally Blue Subaru Impreza racers. If you grew up playing Colin McRae rally video games and idolizing turbocharged, all-wheel-drive pocket rockets, this is Mecca. There was even a Colin McRae Ford Focus on hand.In between group runs up the hill, spectators are treated to trick motorcycle shows, trick car shows, and even two-wheeled runs up the course from Terry Grant. If that last name sounds familiar, it's because Grant was the driver who teetered a Nissan Juke up the hill at Goodwood a few years ago to much fanfare. This year, he repeated the stunt with a Jaguar F-Pace and even had a guy jump out and "ride" the crossover while he kept it on two wheels. Grant made it all the way up the hill this way, but fell over after crossing the finish line on his way to the turnaround.Opposite the hill-climb’s focal point, the wacky sculpture parked in front of Lord March’s mansion—or one of his mansions, at least—and across the track is a large field in which manufacturers have set up a mini auto show. Automakers build temporary structures and platforms to park their sportiest rides on, with representatives on hand to answer questions, just as you’d find at the Detroit auto show or the like. While it feels a bit like the manufacturers are trying to glom on to the event for marketing purposes (they are), their participation leads to special collections of cars (see the BMW centenary), and most brought along classic vehicles for display. Chevrolet had a second-generation Corvette and a 1967 Camaro, Mazda brought a 9100-mile first-generation MX-5 Miata, and BMW had a flotilla of old M cars.Despite the ease with which you can get fairly close to the cars of Goodwood, the layout isn’t hugely conducive to bolstering your Instagram page or capturing neat videos. The hay bales get in the way of most photos unless you’re NBA tall, and the crowds in the paddocks make close-up still photography difficult. There is free on-site Wi-Fi, and the Goodwood organization aggressively pushes the #FoS hashtag, but for all its tech-friendliness, the event doesn’t need to be. Goodwood is best experienced in person, not through your iPhone’s camera app or a GoPro stuck atop a selfie stick. Words can’t describe standing feet away from a V-10 F1 car as it screams by, a wave of heat and displaced air wafting over you; or meeting and talking shop with the cars’ owners while they change a tire or tweak a suspension; or seeing automotive greats new and old stroll past, racing suits tied at the waist, enjoying Goodwood as much as you are. It’s an orgy of automotive enthusiasm dropped into the English countryside, and even your car-agnostic friends and family will be awed.
from Car and Driver Blog http://www.caranddriver.com/flipbook/why-the-goodwood-festival-of-speed-is-incredible-in-20-photos

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