From Ferrari to Toyota, Honda to BMW, everybody has had turns as the central feature at the Goodwood Festival Of Speed

The Goodwood Festival of Speed is a lot of things to a lot of people. For some, it’s the one auto event in the calendar year that really celebrates the history of the auto industry. For others, it’s a spectacle of some of the finest race cars and performance cars in history. Then there are those who go to the event just to see what the vibe is like. No matter where you fall in any of these groups, there’s an underlying agreement that nothing encapsulates the Goodwood Festival of Speed more than the event’s central feature, which traditionally takes the form of massive sculptures commissioned by automakers that are chosen by event organizers. More often than not, these companies are chosen if they’re celebrating a particular milestone that year.

The central feature has become a prominent fixture at the Goodwood Festival of Speed since 1997 when Ferrari was invited to serve as the marque of the event. Over the next two decades, a who’s who of the world’s top automakers have taken center stage with their own central features. Companies like Jaguar, Porsche, Mercedes-Benz, and Renault have been featured more than twice, while other companies like BMW, Mazda, Honda, Toyota, Ford, Lotus, and Alfa Romeo have had their turns as well. In fact, since 1997, this year marks the very first time that the event’s central feature will be about a person, not an automaker. Former F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone is going to be given that honor, a fitting nod to the man who brought the glitz and glamor back to Formula One.

Continue after the jump to read the full story.

The man behind the sculptures

When the Goodwood Festival of Speed decided to start showcasing sculptures that acted as Central Features, it tapped British artist Gerry Judah to spearhead the project. Judah’s involvement began in 1997 when Ferrari assumed the role of Central Feature marque. Since then, Judah has taken point when it comes to building these sculptures as manufacturers from all over the world have taken turns to partner with him whenever they’re chosen to serve as the event’s marque.

Knowing this, let’s take a look back at all the Central Features that have been displayed at the Goodwood lawn since Ferrari got the proverbial ball rolling 20 years ago.

1997 - Ferrari (50th Anniversary)

A Historical Look At The Goodwood Festival Of Speed's Center Feature Sculptures
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Like most beginnings, Ferrari’s Central Feature in 1997 looks muted compared to the massive sculptures that have come to define past year’s events. A small arch was constructed by Judah and the Italian automaker with a Ferrari F310B Formula One race car dangling inside the arch’s intrados. And to make sure that people understood that this was Ferrari’s creation, a massive Prancing Horse statue was placed on top of the structure.

1998 - Porsche (50th Anniversary)

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Porsche is one of only four automaker to have had more than one Central Feature at Goodwood. It’s first opportunity came in 1998 and it didn’t disappoint. Five massive poles were constructed to carry five race cars from Porsche’s illustrious history in motor racing, including a pair of 936 racers, two 917s, a 911 GT1, and a 956. While the sculpture itself actually looked as if the poles were skewering these iconic Porsche race cars, it actually set the bar for succeeding automakers to come up with their own distinctive Central Features.

1999 - Audi

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Remember the Audi Avus Quattro supercar concept that Audi unveiled at the 1991 Tokyo Motor Show? It never amounted to anything, but it did make an appearance eight years later in 1999 when Audi featured it as part of its Central Feature at Goodwood. The Avus Quattro was joined by a replica of the Auto Union Type C Streamliner as if the two cars were racing together on the AVUS in Berlin, the oldest controlled-access highway in Europe.

2000 - Jaguar (Formula One debut)

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Jaguar took its turn in 2000 as the Central Feature at Goodwood, the same year it debuted in Formula One. I personally don’t see the interpretation behind it, but apparently this structure was inspired by a cat’s cradle, whatever that means. I do know that it featured some prominent Jag models, including the XK120, the C-Type, the D-Type, a pair of XJRs, and most prominent of them all, the E-Type.

2001 - Mercedes-Benz (100th anniversary)

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This is the first Central Feature that really captured the imagination of a lot of people. It’s still talked about to this day because of the impressionable structure with a Mercedes 300SL on top, face to the ground as the structure is made to resemble a gush of water, falling and spreading as it hits the ground. Goodwill’s lighting set-up of the sculpture made it even more incredible to look at once the sun set.

2002 - Renault (return to Formula One)

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Renault’s sculpture in 2002 was created to signal the automaker’s return to Formula One. I still can’t comprehend the feather-looking structure, but I have been a fan of this sculpture for a while now because it’s been the only to feature that many Formula One cars. Take a look at this list: Renault RS01, Renault RE40, Renault RE60, Williams FW14, Williams FW18, Benetton B195, Renault R202. All these F1 racers were prominently displayed in the sculpture with that, well, feather.

2003 - Ford (100th Anniversary)

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To this day, this still ranks as one of my favorite Goodwood Central Features. Ford got prime billing that year and it certainly didn’t disappoint with a sculpture that depicted the now famous 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans where the Blue Oval’s GT 40 Mk.II scored an incredible 1-2-3 finish. About the only let-down to this sculpture was that the GT 40 Mk.II’s that were used in it were replicas, and not the actual cars that scored that historic finish for Ford.

2004 - Rolls-Royce (100th Anniversary

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If you didn’t know about Rolls-Royce’s history, you probably wouldn’t have understood this Central Feature. If you did, you’d be blown away by it. The aeronautical-themed design of the sculpture was meant to stamp Rolls-Royce’s history as a pioneer of land, sea, and air travel. Notice then that the sculpture also included replicas of the Supermarine S.6, the Campbell-Railton Blue Bird, and the Bluebird K4.

2005 - Honda (return to F1 as its own team

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Leave it to Honda to take Renault’s vision from its Central Feature and turn it into its own. The F1-themed sculpture was designed to showcase the automaker’s long history in the sport ahead of its return in the 2006 F1 season. Of the six race cars that were included in sculpture, three of them were the actual race cars that the company used in the past. The other three were replicas because the real things were being used during the weekend.

2006 - Renault (100th Anniversary of Grand Prix racing

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Renault was the first automaker to make a two-time appearance as the Central Feature in Goodwood. In 2006, the French automaker brought its R26 F1 and Type AK 90CV race cars into its massive sculpture, which helped emit the sounds coming out of the engine of the cars. Like the Mercedes structure from 2001, Renault’s Central Feature looked absolutely stunning when the lights were turned on.

2007 - Toyota (75th anniversary and 50th year involved in motor sports)

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Toyota had a lot to celebrate back in 2007 and it’s Central Feature certainly didn’t disappoint. Not only was it celebrating its 75th anniversary, it was also paying tribute to a half-a-century’s involvement in auto racing. The list of cars it included in its sculpture included a Toyota TS010, Celica GT-Four, GT-One, TF107, and a Lola B2/00. The whole sculpture was even designed to emulate the look of torii gates, a traditional Japanese gate most commonly found at the entrance of or inside a Shinto shrine.

2008 - Land Rover (60th anniversary

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Land Rover has never been afraid to tout the essence of its brand and no more was that on full display than in 2008 when it took center stage in the lawns of Goodwood. Building a massive structure meant to depict a mountain or a boulder, Land Rover took the time to remind everyone of its “all-terrain” identity with some of its models - the Defender, Discovery, Freelander, and Range Rover - scaling different portions of the structure in different directions. It’s not what I’d call an artistic interpretation, but when have we ever used the worlds “artistic” and “Land Rover” in the same sentence anyway?

2009 - Audi (100th anniversary

Following in Renault’s footsteps as a repeat headliner, Audi went with a much more refined sculpture in 2009, showcasing the company’s history that dates back to the Type C Streamliner all the way to the R8, which at that time was still the talk of the whole automotive world. If there was ever a Central Feature that perfectly depicted the past, present, and future of a company, this was it.

2010 - Alfa Romeo (100th anniversary)

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Seven years later and I still don’t understand Alfa Romeo’s Central Feature from 2010. I do know that it featured the P2 and the 8C Competizione in a similar nod to its past and present like Audi did a year before. But whereas Audi’s sculpture represented a clear road of where it came from and where it’s headed, Alfa’s structure looks confusing, even though the company said that it’s meant to replicate the cloverleaf in its company logo. I do appreciate the inclusion of those two cars though. They’re arguably two of the finest models Alfa has ever made. Maybe next time the company can include the Stelvio in that list.

2011 - Jaguar (50th anniversary of the E-Type

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Ranking the greatest British cars of all time will inevitably conclude with a list of two cars: the Aston Martin DB5 and the Jaguar E-Type. It’s no surprise then that when the E-Type celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2011, Jaguar wasted little time using the car as the inspiration behind this massive construction. According to Jag, the sculpture was made from several hundred meters of steel tubing that the company got from parent firm Tata Motors. The whole thing was meant to resemble the E-Type and for the most part, Jag succeeded in turning it into one of the most obvious sculptures in the history of Goodwood’s Central Feature.

2012 - Lotus (Past, Present, Future)

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Lotus’ turn to build the Central Feature at the Goodwood Festival of Speed resulted in tangled sculpture that’s meant to resemble a winding road. In it are some of the automaker’s most famous race cars, including the Lotus 49, 79, 99T, and the E20. It’s a meaningful creation meant to showcase the company’s motor sports history with an eye towards building on that legacy in the future. And for what it’s worth, the sculpture was also a tribute piece to Colin Chapman, the founder of Lotus.

2013 - Porsche (50th anniversary of the Porsche 911)

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Arguably the most famous sports cars of all time celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2013. Fittingly, it was also the subject of Porsche’s Central Feature at Goodwood that year. Instead of the skewered race cars from 1998, the German automaker went with a more meaningful structure, depicting various Porsche models - the 911, 911 Carrera RS 2.7, and the 991-Generation 911 all racing to the sky to take their spots in God’s heavenly garage. Ok, I added the God part of the interpretation, but let’s face it, if the Lord Almighty did want to drive a sports car, he’d be choosing the Porsche 911, right? Right?

2014 - Mercedes-Benz (120th anniversary in motorsport)

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The king of the understated yet meaningful Goodwood Central Feature returned as the marque attraction in 2014. Like its previous creation from 2001, the Silver Arrows opted for the “less-is-more” approach with a structure that actually soared over the Goodwood house. Two arches were made from opposite sides of the house and right near the top of each arch were the Mercedes-Benz W25 and the Mercedes-AMG W4, crossing paths in some kind of multi-generational nod to the automaker’s rich motorsports history.

2015 - Mazda (Motorsports heritage and Japanese identity)

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This is one of the most memorable Central Features ever to be displayed at the Goodwood lawn. Not only did it catch so many eyes with its double-helix look, it was also inspired by Mazda’s KODO design philosophy and highlighted by the presence of the 787B that won the 1991 24 Hours of Le Mans and its spiritual and virtual successor, the LM55 Vision Gran Turismo.

2016 - BMW (Motorsports success)

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It’s a little weird that BMW’s first chance to be the Central Feature at the Goodwood Festival of Speed only took place last year. Not that it mattered because Bimmer made up for lost time with a breathtaking structure featuring three enormous steel curves with three cars - BMW 328 Mille Miglia Roadster, Brabham-BMW BT52, and BMW V12 LMR - precariously placed on each of the three structures. Two of these cars, the Gordon Murray-designed BT52 and the 1999 Le Mans-winning LMR, were even placed upside down as a nod to BMW’s engineering heritage and the company’s “endless pursuit of power.”

2017 - The life and career of Bernie Ecclestone

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For the first time in the 20-year history of the Goodwood Central Feature, no automaker was chosen to build one. Instead, the subject of this year’s feature is former Formula One chief Bernie Ecclestone. The sky-sweeping structure is called the “Five Ages of Ecclestone,” meant to pay homage to the five defining eras of Bernie’s career in Formula One. Most people may remember him for his role as the boss of the sport in the last few decades, but Ecclestone’s career in the sport also included stints as a driver, manager, team owner, and outright legend. It’s worth noting that Judas’ sculpture perfectly depicts Bernie’s carer with five arms coming out of a loop, each carrying a Formula One race car from all the eras that Ecclestone has been involved in with the sport.

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