A week on from the Festival of Speed and I have had the time to reflect on my experience at Goodwood. By now the magazines and websites have published their glowing reports of how it was the greatest event on the planet, offered unrivalled access and gave (journalists at least) the chance to drive iconic cars. Press accredited access is one thing, but what was it like for the regular punter.
This was the first time I’d attended the FoS since 2002, the first time I’d camped there and the first time I’d been free from parental influence. As such, it was the first FoS where I’d truly been conscious of the costs and efforts needed to attend. When you live in North-East England, travelling to West Sussex is not the work of a couple of hours. This was why ESM travelled down on the Wednesday night, stayed in a cheap hotel and got to Goodwood on Thursday lunchtime. Luckily ESM’s mate Dave has a Seat Leon FR TDi which meant the trip and fuel costs weren’t too horrendous. Plus I very much doubt we would have fitted all the assorted detritus into the boot of the Polo!
Trying to work out who the FoS is aimed at isn’t particularly easy. On one hand you have the Veuve Clicquot champagne bar, exclusive restaurants and cafes, the Cartier Style et Luxe exhibit and a drivers paddock sponsored by an investment firm. Along with this you have big stands from Audi, Mercedes-Benz and Bentley and corporate hospitality seemingly packed despite costing around £500 a head for the cheapest seats. Blink, and at times it was hard to believe we’re in one of the worst economic situations the modern world has ever faced. Goodwood is about big money; the kind of money that gets richer during a recession. Where else would you see stands selling helicopters, private jets and bespoke carbon-fibre furniture.
However, the Festival of Speed is still what it says on the tin. A celebration of two and four-wheeled performance, and a chance for the petrolhead to get up close and personal with legendary vehicles and drivers. There aren’t many places where you can stand inches away from cars worth millions of pounds, whilst their drivers get ready to thrash them up the hill.
Getting such access does take some effort though. To really make the most of the FoS you need to be there on Thursday and Friday. Come Saturday and Sunday, the crowds have increased considerably and you’ll need to be patient to get trackside at the best points or snap photos of the most popular cars. Naturally this isn’t always practical for those who have to work for a living. However, it does become apparent that a small but significant proportion of those at Goodwood probably class “waiting to collect inheritance” as their occupation.
Perhaps it’s due to being from The North but I didn’t think people actually wore pin-stripe blazers with garishly coloured trousers. Given that Debretts (the society bible) lists Goodwood as part of “the season” probably explains the reason for a certain type of clientele. For them this isn’t an event to be deafened by the wail of an F1 V8 or choke on tyre smoke from another burn-out. No, it’s a place to be seen at; to say they were there for their social standing.
Does this detract from the experience for genuine car and motorsport enthusiasts? It shouldn’t do. But to an extent, if you pay for only the basic (but not necessarily cheap) ticket, you’re left feeling there are parts of the FoS you’re being denied access to. Dave, a first time visitor, summed it up as “feeling like you’re paying for the champagne and caviar” being enjoyed be the high rollers. And, if you read the advantages offered to Goodwood Road Racing Club members, you realise this isn’t such a far-fetched proposition.
“Standard” entrance tickets with camping for the four days came to around £200 per person. Not an unreasonable amount compared to events such as the British Grand Prix for instance, but not insignificant either. Add to that prices such as £12 for a programme, £4 for a pint of non-descript lager, £8 for a dodgy burger and £3.50 for a tiny can of Red Bull and it does begin to stack up. Naturally nobody forces you to pay these prices – you could always bring your own food and drink - but it does reinforce the costliness of attending. Oulton Park was far more reasonable by comparison.
At its core the Festival of Speed still offers the celebration of motorsport and all things automotive that it aspires to. At Goodwood you get sights, sounds and smells that no other event could possibly provide. Standing next to a deafeningly loud Opel Manta revving away whilst a Pikes Peak racer fires up is just one example. Watching a Shelby Cobra blast by whilst the Red Arrows perform aerobatics overhead is another. I doubt there is anywhere else on Earth that can match these kinds of opportunities and experiences.
It just seems to be a shame that this has to be tempered by gearing the Festival of Speed to appeal to socialites doing “the season” to be noticed. I have no issue with wealth and success, without such money an event like Goodwood wouldn’t exist. But that should not be an excuse to relegate the regular petrolhead punter to feeling they’ve been left with the cheap seats at the expense of the blazer and badge brigade.
As promised, here at the video highlights from EngageSportMode’s weekend at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. I’m no Ron Howard, and was only using either an iPhone or fairly basic digital camera to record these. As such, the quality is not HD, but I feel it does still capture the noise and fury of the GFoS. Due to the unique way WordPress works, the videos are hosted via YouTube. Enjoy; ear defenders advised.
I shot quite a lot of video during Friday’s Michelin Supercar Run. We were down by the start line, which gave a great opportunity to film the cars coming off the line and powering towards the first corner. Here are some of the highlights:
Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport
Wiesmann GT MF5
New Aston Martin Vanquish
Alfa Romeo TZ3 Zagato
Alfa Romeo 8C Spider
Filmed from the same location but on a different day during the run of Lotus cars. This is the Classic Team Lotus 97T
For sheer sonic pleasure I think I’d have to cite the Lexus LFA or perhaps the Ferrari FF as my favourites. More videos to come tomorrow, including F1 action.
Following a wet night, and resulting wet tent, ESM set off for a third day at Goodwood. Naturally, being the weekend, Saturday was far busier than the preceding two days. Whereas earlier access to cars was pretty much unfettered, Saturday meant queuing up to try to get photos or see things. ESM took a tactical decision late on Saturday that, rather than risk several hours attempting to leave on Sunday afternoon, we wouldn’t bother with the fourth day of the Festival.
This meant Saturday was the last on track action we saw; neatly topped off with the fireworks display to celebrate the Festival of Speed Ball. Enjoy:
That’s all photo-wise from ESM at the Festival of Speed. However, expect some noisy video action and a more serious editorial piece soon.
Friday is the first main day of the actual Festival of Speed. ESM spent the vast majority of it taking the long walk from the bottom of the paddock all the way to the rally-stage at the top of the hill. This is what we encountered along the way.
So that is Friday’s action covered. Come back for Saturday and video highlights soon.
Whilst the Festival of Speed “proper” doesn’t begin until Friday, Thursday plays host to the Moving Motor Show event. Designed to let the public get up close and personal with a range of new cars from Skoda and SEAT to Mercedes-Benz and Ferrari. Of note were the BMW M5′s which seemed to rev and crackle for fun, and sheer awesomeness of five Audi R8 V10 Spyders tearing up the hill one after another.
Thursday is also the quietest day of the Festival of Speed, with not all garages and paddocks full with cars. The number of spectators is also lower, giving the early bird the chance to get close up with the vehicles on site without wading through a wall of elbows.
ESM arrived on Thursday in sweltering humid conditions at around lunchtime. Once the tent was up and somelight refreshment taken onboard, we set off to explore. Below is a pictorial summary of what we found:
Stay tuned for further photo and video highlights from the other days of the Festival of Speed.
Now that my hearing has started to recover, the sunburn has begun to fade and the numerous pictures and videos have been uploaded, I can now begin to make sense of the previous four days.
For the uninitiated, the Goodwood Festival of Speed (FoS) is an annual event which first began back in 1993. The idea is simple; legendary and iconic cars and bikes from the world of motorsport are invited to be hammered up the Earl of March’s drive, at his house in West Sussex, by the greatest riders and drivers from history. In addition, between runs up the hill the cars/bikes are displayed in simple awning-style paddocks with spectators able to get right up alongside them. The additional Moving Motor Show event has in recent years fundamentally replaced the traditional British motor show, with stands from leading manufacturers and new cars being unveiled. Have a look at this if you still happen to be in any doubt as to what the long weekend entails.
The event felt bigger than ever this year, with a sprawling exhibitor’s area, numerous special paddocks, off-road displays and the more recent rally-stage taking up huge acres of the Goodwood estate. Trying to fit all this into even four days is a challenge, given the vast array of distractions both on and off the track. As a result, and for this week’s first FoS themed post, I’ve picked out my top five moments from the weekend.
ESM’s FoS Top Five
5. Ayrton Senna’s Lotus 98T
Every year Goodwood chooses to celebrate a certain manufacturer, with a giant and extravagant display outside the main house and a range of vehicles intended to showcase the marque’s successes. For 2012 the FoS picked Lotus as the company to be revered. As many will know, the brand has taken a battering lately with the optimistic strategy of Dany Bahar, and his subsequent removal. However, the FoS allowed fans to remember the Norfolk firm’s finer moments, including it’s Formula 1 back catalogue. Of particular interest was this one:
Driven by Ayrton Senna and Johnny Dumfries during the 1986 Formula 1 season, the 98T took Team Lotus to 3rd in the constructor’s championship and gave Senna 2 wins and 6 additional podiums. The Renault EF15bis engine gave up to 1,300 turbocharged-bhp, produced from only a 1.5 litre V6. Anything with the name “Senna” on the side always makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up, so to be only a couple of feet away from an iconic car was a special moment.
4. The Mazda MX-5 GT Concept
What, amongst all the exotica on display a Mazda MX-5 makes it this high up the ranking? Yes, because this is no ordinary MX-5; the standard (normally aspirated) 2.0 litre engine has been taken to 205 bhp, carbon fibre bits added, weight reduced and suspension tightened. Amongst the countless supercars, the little MX-5 managed to sound ridiculously raucous.
This was probably in part due to the enthusiastic driving style of those responsible for flinging it up the hill. 19-year-old kart/sports car racer Jade Paveley was the most fired-up of all, and she really made the GT fly. The fact it is bright orange also swung ESM towards liking the dinky convertible, and seriously made one want to be on its drive. Mazda certainly needs to build it.
3. Nissan GT-R GT1
Given that the regular Nissan GT-R sounded relatively tame whilst speeding past, ESM assumed the race car would not be that much louder. Wrong, oh so very wrong indeed. This thing made the earth shake like an original Dodge Viper GTS-R. Piloted by last year’s FIA GT1 world champion Michael Krumm, the GT-R set some of the quickest times across the weekend. Too quick, in fact, for ESM to manage any video of the damn thing! You’ll just have to imagine instead.
2. Renault Alpine A110-50
Built by Renault to celebrate 50 years since the launch of the original Alpine A110, this concept car is based on a Megane Trophy racer tubular chassis, using a mid-mounted 3.5 litre V6 to offer up 400 bhp. Whereas the GTR above sounded scary, the A110-50 just sounded as enchanting as it looked. Another fan favourite, and ripe for at least some sort of production offering surely?
1. Sebastian Vettel
Along with celebrating a specific manufacturer, the FoS also has a theme to the selection of cars on offer. For the 2012 event, the subject was “Young Guns, Born to Win” and to be honest, it’s a title that could have been handwritten for Vettel. The German, who turns 25 this week, already has two F1 world championships and a host of other achievements under his belt. I remember watching him take his first win, and become the youngest driver to do so, in the wet at Monza with Toro Rosso. It was obvious then what a star he was going to be.
Making his first appearance at the FoS, Vettel enjoyed himself as much as he possibly could. Whether it was ripping up the lawn outside the house in his Infiniti FX (Vettel edition), or doing possibly the longest ever display of show-boating in his 2011 F1 car, Seb seemingly had a wail of a time. You get the impression that, whilst many drivers would be there under the forced hand of corporate media pressure, Vettel was there simply for the fun of it. I apologise for the poor video quality, but I think you can get the idea:
The rest of the Red Bull team present made sure they got involved in the fun also:
If those were the highlights, then what were the lowlights?
Well, the Lamborghini Aventador managed to sound muter than a mute swan. The Infiniti emerg-e electric concept failed twice causing the track to be red-flagged. And a Gumpert Apollo had a nasty incident at Molecombe corner cutting short Saturday’s running. But as I’m sure you can gather, these were only small issues compared to the enjoyment shown above.
Check back later in the week for more photos and videos, followed by an editorial post on what Goodwood actually offers to the average petrolhead.
Despite errant Sat Nav units, hot coffee in lap incidents and road closures, ESM has made it back home from Goodwood.
A full write-up will follow tomorrow, along with lots of photos and video action. Check out the twitter feed for a sneaky, and orangey themed, preview.
This weekend, EngageSportMode will be at the Goodwood Festival of Speed.
Expect some live tweeting and photos (battery and 3G dependent) from across the four days, along with a full report and write up later.
Unfortunately there’ll be no ESM roving photographer, but there will be ESM’s mate Dave. Keep an eye out; he’s very tall.