Goodwood Festival of Speed 2019

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By Nick Chivers

You hear it, well before you see it. The sound of something well out of sight, it serves to intensify the anticipation on your in-bound journey. However, it’s a while yet until you’ll even glimpse a single vehicle featured in this event. Granted, there are plenty of cars (and some extremely lovely ones) on the final approach to the Sussex Estate. Year on year the last few miles of English countryside are taken at an extremely sedate pace behind the queues of like-minded automotive fans.

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There it is again. A resonant exhaust note on full chat, rasping through the air across the surrounding fields. Your mind paints the missing picture of a (insert choice of car) roaring up the famed hill climb.

For the huge number of fans seeking to feed their addiction to motion and vehicles, the soundtrack of motor and exhaust is an intoxicating mix. This event is for everyone. For younger generations, it sets them on a journey of desire for machines of the road, track and field. For those more senior in years, it continues a life-long passion and sparks memories of by-gone eras of motoring.

This is the big one. This is Festival of Speed.

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Since its inception, the gathering on the Duke of Richmond’s front lawn has been a celebration of motorsport, speed and endurance. This year’s theme was straight from the heart of the event’s founding principles, entitled: ‘Speed Kings – Motor Sport’s Record Breakers’. The agenda was a packed schedule, incorporating the earliest pioneers of racing, through the various and notable eras of motoring, to a glimpse of tomorrow’s technology and possibilities. The weekend’s capacity crowd, vying for a glimpse of automotive finery heading up the hill climb, were never without a moment’s entertainment.

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New for 2019, were additional areas and displays to enhance the familiar tried and tested format. Making its debut in the Cathedral Paddock, was the newly created ‘Arena’ which played host to drift cars in an incredible display of stunts, a masterclass in the art of sideways car control and the rapid transfer of rubber from wheel to tarmac! If the noise from the crowd was any kind of barometer, it was clear this new kid on the block should become a festival regular.

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Putting on an electrifying performance – albeit with some contested technicalities – was VW’s ID.R prototype electric racer and record breaker. Having proven its capabilities and blistering performance at Pike’s Peak in 2018, Roman Dumas spent the weekend piloting this bolt of blue to sensational success. Friday’s timed session made quick work of the fastest run ever recorded on the Goodwood hill climb, before going on to break its own record, in the blistering sunshine of Saturday. The turn of weather and subsequent rain had changed the track conditions for the ‘official’ Sunday Shootout and as such, the ID.R was left wanting. On this occasion, Dumas was unable to break the previous Sunday Shootout record set in 1999 by Nick Heidfeld’s McLaren-Mercedes MP4/13. All said and done, Goodwood eventually confirmed that VW’s electric dreams had come true, with the ID.R’s Saturday dash of 39.9 seconds, being the fastest ever time up the hill.

A much-anticipated highlight but closely guarded secret of the Festival of Speed, is the impressive and often mind-boggling Central Feature. Situated dominantly in front of Goodwood House, each sculpture looks to out-do the last, while representing the focus of celebration for that year. For 2019, it was the turn (and return) of Aston Martin. Marking a 70-year relationship between Goodwood and the iconic British marque, the swooping 30m high display was topped with an Aston Martin DBR1. It was in 1949 when an Aston first raced at Goodwood, beginning a long and enduring connection between manufacturer and motor circuit. Despite fiery drama in the pitlane, it was the DBR1 in the hands of Stirling Moss, that made history and secured Aston Martin as World Sports Car Champions in 1959, at the Goodwood Motor Circuit.

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Across the weekend, visitors were treated to several ‘moments’ to celebrate Aston Martin, with exquisite examples from their history, the present line-up and project cars of the future. The convoy paraded up the hill, before making a left turn onto the gravel driveway and coming to rest under the balcony of Goodwood House. An impressive show of heritage and development.

Aside from the event’s key features, the vast choice of attractions was more than enough to have your Fitbit celebrating the daily steps goal before lunchtime. If road-going high-speed luxury is your thing, a wander through the SuperCar Paddock will fuel a passion for expensive exotica.

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Formula 1 fans are always well catered for at the Festival of Speed, with cars and drivers making a significant appearance in the paddocks and on the hill. Notable celebrations included Michael Schumacher at 50, with a collection of his race and championship winning F1 cars and Jackie Stewart in his 80th year, joined by family and friends to celebrate the Scot’s legendary racing career.

Such is the success and notoriety of the Festival of Speed, it is often the choice of manufacturers and race teams to reveal new models or observe successes, in front of the 100,000 daily attendance of motoring enthusiasts. Significant anniversaries included Bentley and Citroen centenaries, 60-year festivities at MINI and Pagani at 20.

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As Sunday’s summer sun finally eased behind Goodwood House, the Lord of the manor concluded the weekend with an intimate gathering at the car and driver prize-giving. With the paddocks finally falling silent and crowds all but gone, it is a poignant moment to reflect on four days of automotive indulgence, revelry and competition. The celebration certainly lived up to the anticipation.

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