The Festival of Speed attracts 150,000 visitors, and alongside the legendary Revival meeting it’s the highlight of the year at Goodwood in the south of England. Visitors and drivers come to celebrate anything and everything to do with racing. Classic car lovers come to enjoy rare race cars dating all the way from the earliest days of motorsports to modern future classics.
Toyota Celica: A Pikes Peak legend tackles the hill climb
One modern car already seen as a classic is the 1999 Toyota Celica “Pikes Peak”. With its 850 hp and 4 wheel drive it came third in the famous hill climb against strong competition. Only Olly Clark (in a Subaru Impreza Gobstopper II) and Jean-Philippe Dayraut (Mitijet Mini Pikes Peak) were faster on the narrow roads of Goodwood. The Celica seems to be a frequent visitor to the festival. Driver Rod Millen held the speed record for the legendary Pikes Peak mountain climb in Colorado between 1994 and 2007 – so Goodwood and Rod’s Toyota are a perfect match.
Mazda 767B on top of the sculpture and in the bales
One of the Festival of Speed’s visual trademarks is the car sculpture in front of Goodwood House. There’s a new design every year and in 2015 it was sponsored by Mazda. The sculpture was crowned with the body of a Mazda 767B, an ‘80s prototype car with a rotary engine. While one car sat imperiously atop the sculpture 40 meters in the air, another 767B unfortunately crashed into the straw bales during a race and was badly damaged.
Powered by explosions: Fiat’s Beast of Turin
The project to bring the 1911 Fiat S76 back to life was completed not too long ago. This monster of a car, also known as Beast of Turin with its gigantic 28 liter engine, made a grand entrance on to the racetrack at Goodwood’s Festival of Speed. The remarkable noise left you in no doubt that the car is powered by explosions. The car had been mentioned in the media in early 2014, but restoration was only finished a couple of months ago so its appearance at Goodwood was a real highlight. Here’s a short YouTube clip by US car blog Jalopnik.
Other highlights in the paddock, in the forest and on the hill climb
The narrow road used for the Goodwood hill climb is a world away from the Daytona Tri-oval. But spectators can get much nearer to the track and to the cars than at any of today’s racetracks with their huge security zones.
For US car fans the 2015 Festival of Speed was an outstanding opportunity to see some historic American racecars (NASCAR, …) in action. Some fine European Formula racing cars were also present, including historic Lotuses, Ferraris, Auto Unions and the iconic Maserati 250F. Alongside the Mazda 767B, there were some 24-hour prototype racers made by Toyota and Porsche (including the Gulf Porsche with its cult blue/orange design).
The owners of classic rally cars have a choice at Goodwood – to go up the hill or take a tour round the rally track through the forest. The latter provided some exciting moments as the heroes of yesteryear drifted through the curves and jumped over the bumps. As well as the early rally cars, there was a celebration of the monstrous cars of the “Legendary Group B”. One shining example was a 1986 Lancia Delta S4 in authentic Martini livery.
Classic cars on the lawn
Away from the racetrack, there was a classic car display on the lawn around the castle featuring some beautiful vehicles. The highlight of this part of the event was the collection of Peter Mullin. When the famous US collector thinks about French curves, he’s not thinking about Brigitte Bardot, but about the exceptionally designed French classic cars produced before the Second World War. We don’t know how Lord March, the host and Head of Everything at Goodwood, convinced Peter Mullin to bring some of the most precious jewels from his museum in California, but the result was spectacular. His collection is hailed as one of the most exquisite of its kind, and the teardrop shaped classics by Talbot-Lago, Delahaye, Voisin and the like were as pleasing as the collection’s exceptional Bugatti racecars.
Hard to beat: seven 300 SLRs at the Festival of Speed
Driving up the hill is not all about speed, but one of the biggest sensations of the 2015 Festival of Speed was caused by a special family of fast cars. Celebrating the 60th anniversary of Sir Stirling Moss’ victory in the Mille Miglia, Mercedes-Benz brought an armada of Mercedes 300 SLRs to Goodwood. Seven out of the eight surviving cars (nine were produced) were brought to the festival, wowing Mercedes fans and everyone else.
Six cars were contributed by Mercedes-Benz Classic in Stuttgart, while the other 300 SLR came from the French National Car Museum in Mulhouse. To make the event even more special, Sir Stirling Moss himself took the seat in his original Mille Miglia car, chassis number 4 with starting number 722 – the number used when the car began its epic journey in Brescia back in 1955. The organizers at Goodwood captured this historic reunion of car and driver using an onboard camera.
Another important protagonist in the legendary 1955 race, Hans Herrmann, was also at Goodwood. The German racing driver dropped out of the race when in second position, preventing a Mercedes-Benz one-two-three. His 300 SLR Uhlenhaut-Coupé was equipped with a hard top to make it more weather proof – though some say that inside the car it was so loud that drivers preferred the open 300 SLR. The design of the closed version is very reminiscent of the 300 SL sports car, the more “civilized” version of the race car. Its creator Rudolf Uhlenhaut, head of the racing division of Mercedes-Benz, used one of these Coupés not only for tests but as a daily driver. His driving skills are legendary, though we don’t know how much he spent on speeding tickets…
At this year’s Festival of Speed, Lord March and his team once again provided a show full of superlatives and wonderful historic cars.
Pictures of the 2015 Festival of Speed were provided by Julien Mahiels.