Extremely Goodwood…

14 07 2009

Last weekend saw the total and unmolested manifestation of my automotive desires.  Every fibre of my body wanted this event to be as good as I’d already decided it should be.  And it was.

The Festival Of Speed is one of those events my friends and I hurriedly and sincerely earmark, even to the extent of Putting It On Our Phone Calendars.  But as a group we are, shall we say, disorganised.  So the very fact that two of us managed to scrape our collective brains together and actually buy some tickets is quite an achievement.

The weekend began with an early morning blast in my S2000 down an empty M1, where we were joined by a convoy of Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Porsches, headed up by none other than the hypercar top trump – the Bugatti Veyron.  First time seeing one on the road, probably the last, and watching the driver mash his foot into the deep-pile redefines the parameters of ‘fast’.  Not a bad start to the weekend really, possibly only trumped by arriving inside Megan Fox.

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Everything about the FoS has been clearly designed by a person with petrol coursing through their veins.  Not a battery.  They think briefly about the massive amounts of traffic descending upon a village not much bigger than a ten-pound note, but think long and hard about whether Porsche should provide not one 917, but enough to fill a small grid.  The ‘shuttle buses’ are beautifully clean tractors, rustically dragging people to their next glass of Pimms.  Lord March willingly lets some builders destroy his front garden, only to erect a magnificent (but very temporary) statue.  The likes of Sebastian Loeb, Walter Röhrl and Stirling Moss arrive, and thrash the wingnuts off some fast cars.

And there’s so much detail in its execution.  There is literally a car or bike for every fan, from Morgan V-Twin to Zonda R, via some of the most evocative motoring bloodlines in history.  Now, being new to Goodwood, maybe we just picked a particularly coincidental year, but everyone seemed to be celebrating a birthday or anniversary of some description: Mini’s 50th; 75 years since the arrival of ‘Silver Arrows’; 40 years since Matra’s ascendance to Formula 1; 25 years of Prodrive; the 50th anniversary of the Daytona Speedway; 40 years of Frank Williams; Bugatti’s 100th year…  The list goes on.  For me, one of the main sources of appeal was Audi’s centenary, which brought with it not only the majestic and terrifyingly proportioned Auto Union racers of the 1930s, but also my second opportunity to come face to face with a Sport Quattro S1.  I’d first seen a lesser iteration of this brute earlier this year at Loton Park hillclimb, the inaugural event of the Top 12 Run-Off calendar.  But seeing a dream car is like seeing a celebrity in the flesh (one you wouldn’t be ashamed to admit to): after the initial rush of recognition you viciously scan every inch, almost verifying its reality by trying to spot tiny clues that it too suffers flaws.  This in itself is a wonderfully rewarding task with true motorsport cars, because they’ve lived a life of dedicated servitude to the track, often left with battle scars and misaligned panels.  Of course the need to ensure panel gaps are millimetrically perfect like a production car is only as strong as the function it provides, so exhausts rub valances, wheel arches bear black scuffs and Stirling Moss’ 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR has two dirty great exhaust stains down its flanks.  True perfection has to be imperfect, as a Gallagher once whined.  Quite.

A surprise lot in the Audi fleet was the 1989 IMSA Audi 90 quattro GTO.  This was, without doubt, one of the most visually and aurally shocking cars of the entire weekend.  The very definition of the term ‘wideboy’, with circumferentially-vented deep-dish wheels and an exhaust cannon firing out flames in front of the passenger door, this 720bhp menace captured everyone’s attention with its shameless 80s flares and bizarre transmission whine on the overrun.  Joined by its equally certifiable big brother, the 200 Trans-Am, the line-up of competitive Audis took some beating.

Unfortunately for Audi, that’s exactly what it got, in the form of Porsche’s iconic 917.  Seeing a 917 in the metal is pretty special by any standard, but Porsche brought along eight of them.  Many superlatives and half a roll of film later, we eagerly gazed as each incarnation (sadly minus the Pink Pig) thundered up the hill.  For a fan of motorsport from any era, this ranks about as high as it gets.  Even a McLaren F1 and Chris Evans’ controversial but still utterly gorgeous white F40 paled into relative insignificance.

Goodwood’s great at surprises.  An unassuming Toyota Celica clinched 6th in the Top Timed Run, driven by Fensport’s Adrian Smith.  Needless to say that this was no ordinary Celica, it had the running gear from a previous-generation GT-4 and enough horsepower to melt rock, but nestled beneath an entirely normal silhouette.  I love big wings and splitters, fierce Venturi tunnels and exposed engines amidships, but there’s something very warming about a dark horse. It was Bruce Lee in a beige cardigan, or a shot of absinthe in a Countdown mug.

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So, after poring over Seb Loeb in his C4 WRC, the spectacular Ferrari 250GTO Breadvan at full chat, a brace of decorated Formula One machines, three Veyrons, a Citroen BX Group B rally car, Jaguar’s Silk Cut-liveried XJ-8/9, a Ford RS200 and Jesse James’ deafening 900bhp ‘Trophy Truck’, we left Goodwood wondering what on earth we hadn’t seen.  As my FoS compatriot Ash pointed out, the RS200 was a static display car, and we’d very much like a Brabham BT46B Fan Car please.  So I suppose we’ll just have to go next year…

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