The Goodwood Festival of Speed has everything the diehard car fan wants and needs

It is now the second consecutive year that I have attended the Goodwood Festival of Speed and it seems that each time I go, I even more fervently want to return next year to see its gloriously eclectic mix of motors. There is literally nothing else like it in the world - it’s a unique venue that brings together cars and bikes from all eras, some famous faces, and it is peppered with cool events crowned by the famous Hillclimb

There is so much to like about it. Even just the atmosphere you experience by merely perusing its grounds, centered around the historic Goodwood House - there is nothing else like it. Then there are the vehicles present at the event, which range from century-old classics that you rarely get to see running, to the very latest cars that have yet to make their showroom debut. Oh, and everything in between too.

Getting to Goodwood

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The Goodwood House (a stately country house built around the year 1600, the focal point of a 4,900-hectare/12,000-acre estate) is located just north of the small town of Chichester, in West Sussex.

It apparently attracts some 800,000 tourists per year, some of which come to experience the history of the place that just oozes from its centuries-old flint walls, while some come to see the headquarters of Rolls Royce (also located on the premises). There’s also a cricket club there, as well as the Goodwood Racecourse (a horse racing track) and an actual racing track (the Goodwood Circuit) where the Goodwood Revival event is held each September.

If you land in London, you should make your way from the airport via underground to Victoria station - it’s located close to the famous Westminster Cathedral which you might also want to check out if you’re in the area and enjoy a spot of architecture hunting. From there you can catch a direct train south to Chichester (around 75 miles away), and it will cost you around £31.50 ($39.40).

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Unless you book months in advance, your chances of staying in Chichester at any kind of fair price are slim. Prices for accommodations shoot up as the Festival approaches and those who have attended many times know this and book as much as one year in advance. You can, however, look for accommodations in the town of Portsmouth, as well as Bognor Regis, Littlehampton, Worthing, and Brighton - you can reach Chichester from any of them via train in less than an hour.

However, since the Goodwood House is located outside of the town of Chichester, you might find it difficult to travel from the local rail station up to the Festival - the distance is around 5 miles and, on foot, it will take you about an hour and a half to complete.
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What I did was rent a car, which ran me about $40 per day. I found an affordable room for rent in Worthing, some 20 miles away, and commuted to the Festival and back each day. This was far easier and less stressful than last year’s experience when I relied on trains and friends’ willingness to get to and from the venue. I chose to rent a car (a 2009 Renault Megane drop-top via the Turo app) because trains in the United Kingdom are quite expensive and while you do end up paying a bit more if you opt for a car, it’s not that much dearer and with the extra comfort and flexibility it provides, it is definitely worthwhile to consider getting a rental.

But you don’t have to stay in Worthing, or anywhere on the coast, but in my case, I figured that a quiet and very pleasant seaside resort town would be just the ticket to unwind after a hectic day of constantly being distracted by cool cars at Goodwood. And for me, it paid off because attending the festival as a car-obsessed nut really is draining, so coming back to Worthing each day was just the ticket. You can search for accommodations on Airbnb or Homestay and you’ll find plenty of options.

What you might expect to see at the Goodwood Festival of Speed

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Whether you like new cars, old cars, electric cars, motorbikes, airplanes, or just a good Hillclimb, the Festival of Speed has it all and more. In recent years, manufacturers have been bringing new cars and showing them to the public here for the first time, so you will definitely be seeing some fresh models before anybody else has had a chance to see it in the metal.

This year, for instance, the venue hosted the debuts of the De Tomaso P72, Ford GT Mk2, Ford Focus ST, Honda e, McLaren GT, Mercedes-AMG A45, MINI Cooper S JCW GP, Bentley Flying Spur, and Aston Martin DBS Superleggera Volante.

The best part, though, is that you get to see most of these cars being driven (hard, up the hill), so it’s even better than the usual static motor show presentation.

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Even before you enter the event proper, though, you will be struck by the variety of cars in the various parking lots (called car parks in the U.K.). The walk around the parking lot is really rewarding as you get to see a very wide selection of cool cars (both old and new) that aren’t really cool enough to make it into the event, yet still cool enough to impress the odd enthusiast. There’s even a special parking lot called “Performance Parking” (located in close proximity to the Media Center) where you see supercars, rare classics, or just cool new cars that are worth your attention - check it out in the video below.

For me, though, it’s the priceless classics that really draw me to keep coming back to this event.

You literally get to see cars you only saw online, going to auction where they fetch millions and millions, and you think they will be relegated to the back of a collector’s garage. So, seeing cars worth millions not only running and driving, but being driven hard as they were designed to is amazing. For an enthusiast, there really is nothing better.

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There’s really nothing like seeing (and especially hearing) a 1937 Mercedes W125 Grand Prix car start up its glorious supercharged straight-eight that made around 600 horsepower - it was capable of reaching well over 186 mph (300 km/h). Then seeing said car being hooned up the hill, watching the driver fight the car as it tries to fling its rear end out on any corner exit - if you really like cars, this gives you such a special feeling that really could not be matched by anything else.

There are, of course, newer classics too. I was most impressed by the noise and drama of the Group C sports prototype Porsche 956 from 1982. It is just grabs your attention with its low-slung and very wide stance, cool livery, and the (pleasantly) infernal racket coming out of the back of it. The source is a 2.65-liter, turbocharged, flat-six that made around 635 horsepower, more than enough to give the 1,764-pound (800-kilogram) racer scary straight-line pace. Such a treat to see one going full throttle up the hill.

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Then there’s the plethora of more modern (usually road-going) supercars that fly up the hill too.

You see everything from Pagani Zondas, to rare Ferraris, to McLarens and Koenigseggs tackle the hill.

Each and every one are given the beans and it’s just a spectacle to witness then fly up to the top of the hill one after the other.

Your eardrums might be sore from all the noise at some point and, in that case, you might want to do a spot of walking around to see some of the static displays. And there are plenty at Goodwood. This year, for instance, the FOS Future Lab exhibit had plenty of cool stands about smart cities, the future of flight, life in outer space, robotics and AI, as well as the future of Earth.

There were also official manufacturer stands too. Polestar, Aston Martin, Toyota, Honda, Ford, Alfa Romeo, Citroen, Volkswagen, BMW, MINI, JLR, and DeTomaso were all present at the event and each was trying to outdo the other’s stand with cool events announced by quite loud MCs, celebrity cameos, and free branded merchandise. And as with each edition of the show, at least in recent years, it is dedicated to celebrating a manufacturer milestone and this year it was Aston Martin’s 70th anniversary.

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The monument, that is different every year, is also worth checking out.

Since this year was all about Aston, the sculpture was a loop on the end of which they hung a 1950s Aston Martin DBR1 that won the 24 hours of Le Mans race back in 1959.

You can usually get some pretty cool photographs if you put some thought into using the shape of the base/sculpture to your advantage, and this year was no exception.

It’s a lot to take in and you may, at some point, just want to lie down and take a load off. And there are plenty of places where you can just freely sit on the grass (unless it’s raining). There are some places that even provide shade and you can enjoy some tea or coffee as you relax too. Food is not a problem as there are plenty of different areas dedicated to feeding the crowds, and there is a sufficient number of these so that you don’t have to queue for too long to get your preferred form of nourishment - there really is a wide choice, plus there are a few high-quality ice cream stands too, should you find yourself craving some cool refreshing whip.

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Still, the highlight of the entire event, on top of all of the above, has to be just sitting on the sidelines of the Hillclimb and just watching the amazing variety of vehicles go up. It would be sufficient to warrant the trip to the U.K. on its own, but since the Festival offers so much more, it’s definitely worthwhile.

Other things to consider

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It is worth noting that a pass for all four days is a bit pricey - £164 ($204) and the price of single-day tickets can vary from £37 ($46) to £60 ($75) depending on which day you choose to go.

Food and drinks inside the event are also not the cheapest and hitting the official Goodwood store for souvenirs will further dent your budget if you don’t exhibit self-control and restraint.

In my experience, all people I ran into were friendly, random attendees and official event staff alike. If you’re into photography and you want to take nice, clean shots of the cars, you will run into a bit of trouble, though. Since the event is quite packed and people can get right up close to pretty much any of the cars there, having a clear frame that only shows the car is not the easiest thing.

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I, for instance, spend nearly an hour pacing around the De Tomaso P72 to get the shots that I did because there were just so many people around it. And you could even get up on the platform right next to the car, as many people did and ended up ruining my shot. So do take this into account if you plan on taking photos there. It wasn’t the only time-consuming car to shoot, though, and most of the hot, popular new appearances were packed with people craning over one another for a better look.

Overall, there are pretty much only positives associated with attending the Goodwood Festival of Speed since it is well organized, well run and extremely pleasant overall. So if you like cars (and/or bikes) and don’t know any new place to see them, book tickets to the UK for early July and enjoy the Festival - I’m sure you will find plenty to like, as I did, literally around every corner.

Further reading

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Coolest Cars At The Goodwood Festival Of Speed 2019

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