Pictorial: 2015 Goodwood Festival of Speed
Of the world's four biggest celebrations of automotive heritage, the Goodwood Festival of Speed is the most recent to emerge. Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este has been running since 1929, the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance began in 1950, Retromobile in Paris has been running since 1976 and the Goodwood Festival of Speed (FoS) was first held in 1993.
Each of these events has its own unique ambiance, but it's unlikely that the Goodwood Festival will ever be emulated, because it's the only event which brings the world's greatest cars and drivers, past and present, and puts them in one place for an entire four day festival. The final ingredient in the FoS recipe which ensures it will be difficult to replicate, is that the cars and drivers, regardless of age, all get to put the pedal to the metal amidst it all.
Not only does the Festival of Speed give you an opportunity to get a close look at priceless historical artifacts such as a pre-war Auto Union Type D Doppel Kompressor or an Aston Martin DBR2 or a Mercedes-Benz W 196 S, but you're just as likely to find yourself standing next to living legends such as John Surtees, Stirling Moss or Giacomo Agostini.
Such greats aren't rare at Goodwood. If you know who's who, you'll be amazed at the high concentration of motorsport's past and present elite who make the journey for the festival, mainly because the greats are enthusiasts just like you and I and appreciate the informal nature of the event.
It's not just motorsport celebrities either. Many celebrities from other walks of life attend too, because there really is no other event like it for the car or motorcycle enthusiast.
Pebble Beach might sell a lot more million dollar cars, and Villa d'Este is unquestionably more exclusive, but the Goodwood Festival of Speed really does offer a picnic atmosphere and an opportunity to hear, smell and feel the vibrations of the world's rarest and most sought-after automobiles and motorcycles.
As the event has grown in importance over the last few decades, each year selected cars are liberated from display at museums across Europe and prepared for an almighty hammering at Goodwood.
The theme of the 2015 Festival was "Flat-out andFearless: Racing on the Edge" and Mercedes-Benz celebrated by trucking in the W 196 S which Stirling Moss drove to victory in the 1955 Mille Miglia at an average speed of 100 mph (on public roads no less). They also trucked in Sir Stirling Moss to drive it, and nine of the twelve surviving W196R racers which dominated Formula One at that time. Only one of these cars has ever appeared at auction and sold for £19,601,500 (US$29,600,000) at Bonham's Goodwood Festival of Speed sale two years ago.
Throw in the many other exotic cars it took to Goodwood, and Mercedes took close to half a billion dollars worth of history to the Festival of Speed and allowed it to be driven as intended, flat out and fearless.
The Goodwood Festival of Speed is the world's largest and most unique outdoor celebration of motoring's heritage on Planet Earth. How it evolved makes for fascinating reading.
Lord March (pictured in the new Mazda MX-5) inherited the Goodwood estate, which has been owned by his family since 1697, in the early 1990s and decided to renew Goodwood's connection with motorsport by reopening the Goodwood racing circuit established by his grandfather in 1948. He couldn't get a permit to hold an event at the Goowood circuit, so he staged an event inside Goodwood House grounds, bypassing the regulations by holding it on his own property.
From an initial one-day event in 1993, the Goodwood Festival of Speed quickly grew to two-day events in 1994 and 1995, and a three day event from 1996 onwards. The crowd grew until 2003 when 158,000 attended and an advance-ticket-only admission policy was instituted capping attendance at 150,000.
Like Pebble Beach and Villa D'este, the events are now so powerful publicity generators, and draw such an important audience of high net worth individuals, that elite sports cars are often released at the festival, in addition to many "dynamic debuts" where cars with sporting pretensions are seen and heard for the first time doing what they were intended to do.
This year Aston Martin demonstrated its new Vulcan. The track–only Vulcan was first seen in public at this year’s Geneva Motor Show, so the Festival of Speed represented the first time the limited edition, carbon-fiber monocoque supercar was seen in it's natural environment.
There aren’t too many numbers associated with this car that aren’t eye-watering. The 7.0-liter V12 produces more than 800 hp, it can run to 60 mph inside the magic three second mark, tops 200 mph and because there will only be 24 made and sold, the exclusivity comes at a price because the development costs can be spread over fewer cars. That price is expected to be in the vicinity of £1.5 million ($2.3 million).
Lotus used the event to roll out its fastest production car ever. The Lotus 3-Eleven comes in road and race versions, the latter pictured with its aerodynamic kit at a svelte 900 kg (1,984 lb) and a power–to–weight ratio of 500 bhp per tonne.
The 1500 hp (1118 kW) Koenigsegg Regera was seen in the supercar paddock for the first time outside a motorshow (it launched this year at the Geneva Motor Show). Like the Aston Martin Vulcan, the Regera has some astonishing numbers, the most impressive being the maximum torque of 1,475 lb-ft (2,000 Nm) and the number of gearshifts required to reach it's 255 mph (410 km/h) top speed (zero). One of the best aspects of the Festival of Speed is that the supercars all get to tackle the Goodwood hill in timed runs, so you can see which ones are seriously quick.
The 650 hp twin-turbo V8 Noble M600 isn’t cheap at around $330,000 but on the same track on the same day, it smoked all its competitors to take out the Michelin Supercar award. Anthony Reid’s time of 51.33 seconds beat the Lexus LFA of Chris Ward by 0.78 seconds with third spot going to the new Aston Martin's £250,000 Vantage GT12 driven by Matt Becker.