I lost my Goodwood virginity and now I want it back
Yep, you heard me. I attended Goodwood Festival of Speed this year for the first time, and now I want to take it back. It’s not because I didn’t enjoy it, or that I thought there was something wrong with it. Far from it. You see, the problem with Goodwood, is that there’s far more to see than I anticipated.
I’m no stranger to motorsport. My dad built Formula Ford and Formula Atlantic engines in the late 70s, so our garage at home was like a museum – Lotus Twin Cam racing camshafts hanging on the wall, Weber carburettors in a hundred pieces on the workbench, distributor testing machines and spare sets of forged racing pistons. If you can name it, it probably exists somewhere in my dad’s garage. And then, at age 5 or 6, I watched my first bit of live motorsport. His mate had a green Mk 1 Cortina and was doing some kind of club race at Calder raceway, a small club track in Melbourne’s west. What I remember most about that day was not how fast a race car was, or how skilful one must be to race a car, but it was the smell and the sound of some of the faster, bigger cars I saw that day. If you’ve ever been around motorsport long enough you’ll know what I mean. It’s the earth-shattering vibration that shakes you to your core as a top-fuel dragster roars past you at absolute warp speed. It’s that crisp and fierce exhaust crackle caused by camshaft overlap as an 8-litre Can Am car downshifts into a corner right in front of you. It’s the smell of a 2-stroke Honda NSR500 running on Castrol R, smoke billowing out the back of it as it screams out of the pits at Phillip Island. The smell and sound of motorsport is a drug, it’s addictive, and it’s had its way with me at any opportunity since that fateful day at Calder.
So when I moved to London at the start of the year, there was absolutely no question about where I’d be June 25-26 2016 - Goodwood Festival of Speed was the first event I marked in my calendar. Of course, I had some preconceived ideas about what I’d see at Goodwood – classic cars, fast cars, people walking around in vintage dress, and the usual take-me-to-a-different-time-and-place that you come to expect from historic motorsport events. So I bought tickets, took a camera, and made my way down the A3 towards Chichester. After parking the car and heading towards the gates, that old familiar sound could be heard all around where I was standing, and it gave me goosebumps. To my left I could hear a car screaming its lungs out doing burnouts. To my right, off in the distance, I could hear some kind of Group B rally car thumping through the forest, sounding like a war machine ready to take out anything in its path. And straight ahead, out of sight but unmistakeable, a ferocious big-capacity V8, which I later found out was a McLaren M8F Can-Am car.
So you’re probably asking “Yeah, and what’s your problem with all this?” and it’s a fair question. But in the same way a wide-eyed and bushy tailed teenage boy has an assumption about what his first time is going to be like, I wasn’t at all prepared for the sheer scale of this event. To say it’s huge is an understatement. Festival of Speed is collosal. One day isn’t enough. I don’t even think two days is enough. But because I wasn’t prepared for this, I ended up missing a heap of it. I ended up having to skip through the pits and not stay too long at each car just so I could see half of what was on display. I actually didn’t watch many cars on the hillclimb track. Most of my time was spent wandering through the pits, hiking up the hill to see the rally stage, and admiring the myriad of concours condition cars on display. Not long into my journey through the pits, looking at all these timeless classics, I stumbled across one of the most important racecars that’s ever been built – A Porsche 917. It was just sitting there, quiet and still, with its engine compartment open, that air-cooled flat-12 on display for the world to see. I’ve seen more than a few 917s, but seeing this one was different. Not a single other person was looking at it. I spent 10 minutes walking around the car, taking photos from different angles, and not once did someone else do the same. It was at that exact moment that it hit me: “Goodwood is so damn impressive that a Porsche 917 isn’t even a head-turner”. And it was like that for most of the day – staring at cars I read about as a kid, there, right in front of me, as if I was taking a walk through the carpark at Westfield.
Before I knew it, the day was over, and it was time to head back up the A3, full of regret I didn’t make it a 3-day trip. Full of regret I didn’t take enough photos. Full of regret that I didn’t plan my day as much as I could have. I’ll be back next year for sure, attending the Members’ Meeting, Festival of Speed, and also Revival, but I don’t think anything will be quite like that first walk through the hallowed gates at Goodwood House for the first time.