The term ‘bucket list’ gets used to the point of – well not even death – these days. It’s well past that. Possibly somewhere beyond the point of cremation might be more accurate. However, allow me to indulge…
If you love custom, muscle car or Hot Rod culture, the ultimate automotive extravaganza is SEMA. Held each year in Las Vegas, the Speciality Equipment Manufacturer’s Association event is the pinnacle of all that is good about modified cars both on – and off – road. It’s an industry-only event though and getting in isn’t as simple as turning up and buying a ticket.
For every other type of motoring pursuit though, there’s only one event you should have as a must attend on the, ahem, bucket list – and that’s the Goodwood Festival Of Speed. If there is such a thing as heaven for automotive tragics of all persuasions, it’s on Lord March’s sprawling estate in the south of England.
CarAdvice attended the 2017 spectacular with Porsche to take a close look at the new 911 GT2 RS, launched a few hundred metres from the hillclimb circuit at the historic Goodwood racetrack and it’s safe to say there would be no more appropriate event to reveal that car to the public properly.
Nowhere else on earth are you likely to see the sheer variety of cars, from every era, every form of motorsport, every type of road-going supercar and hypercar, all in one place.
NASCAR, Indy, F1, IMSA, WRC, Le Mans, AMLS, land speed racing, they are all represented. The FOS as it’s known is as much a celebrity spotting event as it is an automotive event too, with all manner of notable people turning up to either drive or be seen.
The F1 paddock alone is made up of a vast array of ex-racecars from the 1940s/’50s/’60s/’70s/’80s/’90s and more modern iterations. Valteri Bottas drove a 2015 Mercedes-AMG F1 car up the hill this year and if you’re into F1, listening to a ’90s Ferrari being warmed up right in front of you will bring tears to your eyes – not to mention industrial deafness to your ears. F1 ain’t quite the same anymore…
You can simply walk up to all of these incredibly valuable cars too, watch them being worked on, listen to them, smell the fumes, talk to the mechanics and marvel in the technology of years gone by.
This year, the selection of Martini-liveried race cars was also mind blowing. We counted 17 Bugatti Veyrons together in one parking area, it’s utter insanity. As a punter walked through that paddock, he muttered to his mate, “oh, this must be where the normal cars are”. Seventeen Veyrons? Normal? Only at Goodwood.
The drivers are likewise more than happy to chat to punters, pose for photos and generally soak up the same hard to believe atmosphere that you would as a spectator. We saw Rene Arnoux, Mark Webber, Bottas, Derek Bell, Walter Rohrl, Nico Rosberg, Damon Hill, Jackie Stewart, Tom Kristensen and Alan McNish to name a few.
Walter Rohrl told CarAdvice Goodwood is something you’ll never see anywhere else in the world.
“It’s amazing you know,” he said. “It’s so great to see so many people, so many drivers, so many cars here and you can’t imagine this taking place anywhere else, in any other country.”
The Goodwood Festival Of Speed isn’t just a static show and that’s perhaps its most engaging trait. Watching priceless race cars being punted hard up the hillclimb course is something you can sit and do all day if you desire. You don’t need fancy corporate facilities either, the whole event is catered toward general admission and there are plenty of great vantage points. A Bugatti P35, for example, was pushed so hard, the old racer was sideways into every corner. It’s truly awesome stuff to watch.
This year featured a Red Arrows flyover each day, a Typhoon fighter jet demonstration and stunt driving as well. Trophy Trucks, drift cars and motorcycles joined the demonstration thrashes up the hill as well, catering to all enthusiasts. Mad Mike came all the way from NZ in his manic quad-rotor powered MX-5 drift cars and showered the fans in smoke.
The atmosphere is typically British too. It’s orderly, respectful and enthusiastic, a true display of genuine motoring passion. With the British motor shows going the same way as the Australian versions (into that cremation I mentioned earlier), Goodwood has also become something of a default display opportunity for manufacturers too, and as such they all attend with enthusiasm.
“It’s an amazing event,” Wayne told us. “I’ve got my wife and sons here this year and they are so excited to see all these cars in one place.”
Land Rover has a specific off-road course constructed each year, Jaguar has a skidpad circuit behind the stand and punters line up all day, just to cut a few laps as passengers in the various JLR vehicles.
It’s a festival of speed in every way imaginable and while 2017 was my second visit, I won’t be ticking it off the aforementioned bucket list just yet. I need to get back there a few more times before I’m ready to do that, along with the estimated 200,000 people who pour through the gates each year.
Let’s see more manufacturers follow Porsche’s lead and launch new vehicles there. They won’t have any problems whatsoever getting media there.
Click on the Photos tab for more images from the Goodwood Festival of Speed