Today was the big highlight of the trip, the visit to the Goodwood Festival of Speed. As the story goes, Lord March wanted to organize motor racing but could not get permission to from the local authorities. He then proceeded to host his own event on his own property. In the years since, Goodwood has become the place to visit to see new cars, watch demonstrations and enjoy motor sport. Equal parts car show by manufacturers, motorsports demo circuit, and show and shine for the rich and famous.
The primary event at the show is the hill climb. Hill climbing events are races, but instead of a circuit, they go up a path. In the case of Goodwood, batches of cars in various categories run up the hill. Some of them seem to be competitive, but others are clearly just for fun to show off the car. Each category has a set of cars similar in age, performance or importance. One of the categories I really enjoyed included future cars featuring new technology– everything from the little Think! electric car to a battery powered Porsche by German tuning house Ruf. Supercars from Lambourghini, grand tourers from Maserati and Alfa Romeo, old classics like a Jaguar D-Type, all went up the hill.
Whoever puts together the collections of cars pays a lot of attention: In the technology pavilion, the green cars are kept with a 1961 battery powered Renault Dauphine. Another section is sponsored by Cartier and is referred to as Style et Luxe, specifically classic or uniquely designed cars, which are later judged like on a concours show. Even with a bit of light rain, this display was quite beautiful, as the graceful shapes of old cars were accented by the small droplets of rain glistening on their shells.
While the hill climb cars were loud, undoubtedly the most impressive display was a RAF Eurofighter Typhoon interceptor which did several low speed passes, performing loops and Immelmans across the Goodwood site. Most of them were done at full burner, especially pulling out dives, deafening the crowd even from thousands of feet above.
Manufacturers themselves have pavilions, though this is pretty similar to a regular car show. It’s interesting to see European offerings like the Mazda 2, or specialized vendors like Alfa Romeo. A tent city of smaller vendors selling model cars and motor car history books surrounds the outsides, but neither of these segments are the main show. There’s also demonstration areas. Porsche, Audi and Land Rover SUVs drove around the country side, while in another, specifically built Bowler offroaders took passengers on a wild spill around a specially dug up and raised course, replete with Paris-Dakar Rally style terrain and jumps.
Perhaps the greatest attraction of Goodwood is visiting the paddocks where the cars are kept. Unlike car shows where displays are roped off, they’ve allowed visitors to walk around the work bays where the hill climb cars are kept between runs, where you can see the cars up close and meet the owners and maintainers. I spoke with Tesla Motors reps about the upcoming Tesla S chassis, and a guy from the PR department at Ford Europe about Top Gear’s Fiesta review, looking at everything from Formula SAE student entries to gaggle of McLaren/Mercedes SLRs. Lexus had two IS F’s, race tuned, along with LF-A concept prototypes. You can see them up close, even as they pull out of the paddock, as vintage F1 and Rally cars pull in and their maintainers work their engines in front of you.
A real highlight for me at Goodwood was the Rally Stage, where you got to stand on the sides of a course set up for WRC-type racing. Visitors have to ride a small tractor-pulled wagon ride to get up there, and it appears the tractor driver himself was auditioning for a rally team as all the passengers got the bumpiest ride possible.
I’ve seen videos of rally before, but never appreciated how insane these drivers are. Imagine driving at highway speeds in a four wheel drive Citroen C4 or Ford Focus. Then imagine it without a proper road underneath, through a forest of trees. Then imagine you standing by the side of the road, literally a few feet away. A cloud of dust is kicked up as a the car rushes by, sliding around and lofting into the air. I was really happy I brought something beyond 200mm. I think I would have either had pictures of forest or would have been killed by now getting a good shot.
The event set up almost like the pub sampler. It’s great for people who don’t want a whole plate of nachos, but a few, maybe a chicken wing and one of those deep fried peppers with cheese in them. For some, like John, watching every car on the hill climb is their main attraction. But for me, the chance to see rally driving, look at old Minis decorated with strange paint schemes, talk to Ford GT40 owners, watch a flyby by a frontline fighter plane, enjoy old classic cars while listening a jazz ensemble and meet an F1 driver (admittedly later in a hotel reception lobby), was a fantastic combination.
We drove to Brighton, by the sea, and I took a lot of pictures as the sun set. The beach is not like Sitges or the French southern coast at all, perhaps because it was now cool and the sun was receding into the horizon, casting a warm glow over everything. Made of large smooth rocks, as the sun set, groups of people sat on the beach having barbecues and listening to music.
The Brighton Pier features snack bars, an arcade and a selection of amusement rides–described by a local as the place as kids you went out to hang out and was uniquely British. The above photo was actually set up by a mother of two using her camera phone, I just re shot it myself with my 5D. I’m assuming her goal was to get the iron work detail with the background of the shoreline/beachfront building lights blurred out with nice bokeh.
This posting comes a day late where I’m stuck in London after missing a flight. Sigh. But back to Toronto tomorrow, hopefully.