The Goodwood Festival of Speed has a long, illustrious history

As one of the best organized automotive manifestations in the U.K., the Goodwood Festival of Speed reached international fame really fast after its debut year in 1993. New car exhibitions coincide with the fantastic hill-climb course over which cars of all ages and shapes compete over a period of three days. The event gathers hundreds of thousands of people every year at the Duke of Richmond’s Goodwood Estate with some of the attractions including car testing, helicopter pleasure rides, music entertainment, extraordinary dining experiences, and much more.

The Goodwood Festival of Speed made such an impact on the world of cars that it shifted the car exhibition paradigm from something like an Auto Show to a three-day family event. The Goodwood Festival of Speed is like the Disneyland of cars, but there’s a lot of history behind the event, and this is its story.

History of The Goodwood Festival of Speed

A Historical Look At The Goodwood Festival Of Speed's Center Feature Sculptures
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In 1948, just after the WWII, the Goodwood Estate located in West Sussex, England hosted the first race on its newly-built 2.4-mile track which completely surrounds the Goodwood Aerodrome

It was on a calm, sunny day of 1936 when the 9th Duke of Richmond - Frederick Charles Gordon-Lennox - and Freddie March, a racecar driver, an engineer, and Charles March’s grandfather, decided to have a race over the driveway of the Goodwood Estate. They had a race up the driveway with a bunch of friends, all driving Lancias. After all, the event was organized with the Lancia Owners Club. At this point, it was clear that one day the 12,000-acre Goodwood Estate will thrive as a motoring heaven. That “one day” came 12 years later when Freddie March’s idea of setting up a racetrack at the grounds of the Goodwood Estate came to fruition. In 1948, just after the WWII, the Goodwood Estate located in West Sussex, England hosted the first race on its newly-built 2.4-mile track which completely surrounds the Goodwood Aerodrome. The aerodrome is also a part of the estate. Some of the most prominent drivers took their first steps there, including Sir Stirling Moss who competed the very first day and actually won one of the events. Later on, the Goodwood Circuit became somewhat of a financial burden for the Duke, and the racing, which occasionally included Formula One stints in some form or another, ended in 1966.

After all, car races being held at the Goodwood Estate were only a part of what the venue had to offer. Ever since the 17th century, when the Goodwood Estate was something like a hunters’ lodge (before becoming a permanent family seat for Charles Gordon-Lennox’s Dukedom,) the Goodwood Estate organized horse racing events and hunting events. That tradition continues to this day as the Goodwood Estate and its owner, the 11th Duke of Richmond, host the Goodwood Glorious horse racing event, the Goodwood Revival classic cars racing event, Golf tournaments, hunting, cricket tournaments and, as far as car lovers are concerned, their flagship show - the Goodwood Festival of Speed.

It was on Saturday, June 19, 1993, that the Goodwood Festival of Speed came to be, gathering motorsport royalty and celebrating automotive industry in all of its shapes and forms

It is exactly the Goodwood Festival of Speed that emerged under the leadership of Charles Gordon-Lennox, the 11th Duke of Richmond, in 1993. He is a proper gearhead and President of the British Automobile Racing Club, Patron of the TT Riders Association and, in some sense, my colleague. The Duke of Richmond is actually an honorary member of the Guild of Motoring Writers. See, a proper gearhead, or as the Brits would say, a petrolhead.

It was on Saturday, June 19, 1993, that the Goodwood Festival of Speed came to be, gathering motorsport royalty and celebrating automotive industry in all of its shapes and forms. That day, the driveway leading to and passing next to the Goodwood House had been bathed in the sound of motorcycle and car engines honoring that sunny day in 1936 when a couple of chaps with a bunch of Lancias had an awesome idea. The Goodwood Circuit does not have much to do with the Goodwood Festival of Speed, though. After all, the central event takes place at a 1.16-mile hill-climb track. There, all sorts of classic cars, modern cars, experimental prototypes, SUVs, supercars, and motorcycles, that compete to set the best possible time.

What is the Goodwood Festival Of Speed and Why Does it Matter?
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Since its inception, the Goodwood Festival of Speed has attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors each year by holding many themed events specifically tailored to connect you with auto manufacturers

Since its inception, the Goodwood Festival of Speed has attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors each year by holding many themed events specifically tailored to connect you with auto manufacturers. Considering the sheer number of automotive stars attending and cars exhibited at the show, the Goodwood Festival of Speed is probably the most outstanding car-related event in the world. Save maybe for the 24 hours of Le Mans. You as a visitor have more opportunities to interact with cars, manufacturers, your motorsport idols, and even test out cars compared with, say, what you could do at an Auto Show. No wonder that tickets for the three-day event are usually sold out well in advance.

Why is the Goodwood Festival of Speed Important

What is the Goodwood Festival Of Speed and Why Does it Matter?
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What sets the Goodwood Festival of Speed apart from any other similar manifestation is the sheer eagerness of its organizers to provide a pure, unfiltered experience to both the attendees and manufacturers

With classic Auto shows being less popular every year, events like the Goodwood Festival of Speed seem to be more important than ever. However, what sets the Goodwood Festival of Speed apart from any other similar manifestation is the sheer eagerness of its organizers to provide a pure, unfiltered experience to both the attendees and manufacturers. Plus, they do it at a majestic place so wonderful only its owner can put it into words:

“The location of Goodwood is unique, right next to Trundle Hill, which has a lot of earthworks dating back to the Iron Age,” the Duke said sometime in 2011 to Telegraph. “Then there’s a view stretching 27 miles in one direction without a single building and in the other right down to the coast and the Isle of Wight, so you get a feeling of being somewhere very ancient and atmospheric, a place where people have gathered for millennia.”

What is the Goodwood Festival Of Speed and Why Does it Matter?
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Car debuts, such as of the world-renowned and restlessly expected Toyota Supra, give manufacturers the opportunity to showcase their cars like never before

Now, with tens of thousands of visitors every day, and noises from engines of all configurations imaginable, I am not convinced you would be able to catch all this bliss, but you will be able to enjoy every single car far more closely than anywhere else. Maybe even drive one, or be driven in one.

Manufacturers obviously recognized the potential of the event and seized the opportunity to socialize and showcase all they have to offer at the same time. It’s not surprising that preparations for the Goodwood Festival of Speed usually last for 19 months. Charles once said:

"We’re planning about 19 months ahead these days, and I do find it odd starting to plan an event for the following year before this year’s has taken place, but that process does reduce the stress and makes the job easier."

Car debuts, such as of the world-renowned and restlessly expected Toyota Supra, give manufacturers the opportunity to showcase their cars like never before. Heck, hitting the hill-climb and setting a time coinciding right with the introduction of the car is simply awesome. It reminds me of the practice German manufacturers used when they raced their new cars in front of large crowds in the thirties, only hours before putting their cars on sale.

What is the Goodwood Festival Of Speed and Why Does it Matter?
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You can almost immediately compare new cars to all the other cars that have ever tackled the 1.16-mile hill-climb

You can almost immediately compare new cars to all the other cars that have ever tackled the 1.16-mile hill-climb. Then, classic cars from yesteryear tackle the short track giving a perfect automotive experience for all. Revealing cars here may be a bit of risk, sure, but one that pays off big time. After all, sports cars are all about risk.

How is the Goodwood Festival of Speed Structured?

What is the Goodwood Festival Of Speed and Why Does it Matter?
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One of the most appealing aspects of the Goodwood Festival of Speed hill climb is the fact that one can see all sorts of vehicles tackling the course

One of the most appealing aspects of the Goodwood Festival of Speed hill climb is the fact that one can see all sorts of vehicles tackling the course. From the pre-1914 machines to the Silver Arrows, famed Formula 1 cars from history, NASCAR machines, purpose-built Pikes Peak monsters, and rally cars. With such diversity, you are to witness a historical journey that will give you a unique opportunity to see some oddballs such as the Beast of Turin, the Alfa Romeo that Tazio Nuvolari drove and become famous in, and even some of the Ford drifting machines Vaughn Gittin Jr shreds today. Yup, all of them on one track, trying to set the best time.

In that regard, the Goodwood hill climb is structured in ten different classes to accommodate all the cars on the grid. Hierarchically, the Goodwood Festival of Speed Hillclimb classes include:

Goodwood Festival of Speed Hillclimb Classes

What is the Goodwood Festival Of Speed and Why Does it Matter?
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Obviously, the hill climb is under constant use during the event as more than 120 different cars have to finish practice runs and compete
Pioneer Racing Cars Pre 1914
Post-Vintage Racers (such as the Parnell-MG or the Maserati 8CM
Rear Engined Single-Seaters (1950-1970)
Winged Single-Seaters (post-1970)
Road Racers (1945-1964)
GT & Sports Prototypes (1965-1980)
Modern Endurance Racers (Post 1980)
Racing Saloon Cars
Ultimate Rally Cars (post-1975) - usually Pikes Peak monsters
Rally Cars

Obviously, the hill climb is under constant use during the event as more than 120 different cars have to finish practice runs and compete. Then, after all of that is done, the best of them finally get to compete within the so-called Shoot Out. There, 40 or so cars from all eras of motorsport tackle the course trying to set the best possible time. It was during these runs that many records of the Goodwood Hillclimb were set. Yet, perhaps even more important than the records set is the fact that this is a televised event that serves as a celebration of motorsport. It is like walking up the ladder of car giants in one hour and witnessing the magnificent evolution the car has made since its inception. It is a gearhead’s dream.

Goodwood Festival of Speed Records

Yup, many records were set here with the one from 1999 still being the most elusive

Although the Goodwood Festival of Speed is partly a car show, partly an entertainment event, and partly a family picnic, at the heart of it is 1.16 miles of rather rough asphalt everyone wants to go over as fast as possible. Yup, many records were set here with the one from 1999 still being the most elusive. Back then, at the time when Formula 1 cars could actually compete, German racing star Nick Heidfeld tackled the course with the McLaren-Mercedes MP4/13. He set the time of 41.6 seconds - a time no one has managed to beat to this day. But it is funny how we can compare all the other cars to it. See, the fastest road-going car at the Goodwood Hill ever is the Lanzante prepared McLaren P1 LM. Back in 2016, this car with Kenny Brack behind the wheel and 990 horsepower, set the time of 47.07 seconds. Sure, the Lanzante McLaren P1 LM is a $3.5+ million car, but taking into account that this is a road-legal machine and that it was slower than the F1 car from 1999 by only 6 seconds, its results are staggering, to say the least.

Now, long before the McLaren P1 was even conceived - in 2003, Toyota brought a rather curious truck to the show - the Tacoma. Not any Tacoma, mind you, as this one was a Pikes Peak monster with a 850+ horsepower engine, four-wheel drive, and Rod Millen behind the wheel. Many, to this day, say that the run the Tacoma did back then was the best run the Goodwood Festival of Speed ever gave us. Furiously fast and scarcely loud, the Toyota Tacoma Pikes Peak crossed the 1.16 mile track in 45.08 seconds. Only three and a half seconds slower than the benchmark Heidfeld set four years before. Sure, faster runs have been recorded. Just for the sake of comparison let me show you some of them:

Driver Car Time
Sebastien Loeb Peugeot 208 T16 ’Pikes Peak’ 44.6 seconds
Justin Law Jaguar XJR8/9 44.19 seconds
Graeme Wight Jr Gould-Cosworth GR51 42.95 seconds

Obviously, these were all scary fast cars and had really courageous drivers behind the wheel. Bear in mind, this is not a purpose-built track, but basically a driveway, which, according to some F1 drivers, is in bad shape. That is why F1 teams actually avoided appearing at the Goodwood with their priceless vehicles. Regardless, wouldn’t it be awesome to see the newest Mercedes F1 car come up this hill?

Infamous Drivers of the Goodwood Festival of Speed

What is the Goodwood Festival Of Speed and Why Does it Matter?
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Racers such as Mika Hakkinen, Nick Heidfeld, Valentino Rosso, and Ken Block have attended the venue continuously

Over the years, the Goodwood Festival of Speed hosted a number of automotive celebrities and stars. Racers such as Mika Hakkinen, Nick Heidfeld, Valentino Rosso, and Ken Block have attended the venue continuously, but all of them combined pale in comparison with one story about reuniting two old racers.

Celebrating the 40th anniversary of one of the most amazing wins Mercedes-Benz ever made - Mille Miglia in 1955 - the Duke of Richmond and Mercedes-Benz reunited the racing driver Sir Stirling Moss and his co-driver and famous motoring journalist Denis Jenkinson. In 1995, exactly 40 years after their astonishing feat at the Mille Miglia in their Mercedes-Benz SLR No. 722, they were reunited at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. As some report, grown men were crying in the stands after seeing these two old chaps in the very car which brought them the biggest win of their lives. Jenkinson was of rather poor health then, and Sir Stirling Moss came there with a broken leg. Regardless, he drove a car up that hill that has seen so many legends. After they finished the race, Jenkinson had to take a nap on a sofa in Duke of Richmond’s living room. He was exhausted. This is the most touching story one could possibly imagine.

However, it was not all sunshine and rainbows there either. Ken Block made sure of that when he visited the Hill in 2016 with his ’65 Hoonigan Mustang, the very same he’s used in the shooting of one of his Gymkhana videos. There, instead of getting up that hill as fast as possible, he did a few donuts to please the crowds.

Valentino Rossi is a kind of a bad boy, too. When he visited in 2015, he was so smitten with the organization that he actually canceled his return flights to remain a little bit longer. Then, after driving his bike up the hill, he set out to try a number of different, really expensive, cars up the hill. People lost count on how many times he went up to that hill.

1999 wasn’t only big on records, but that was also the year when Richard Burns and Colin McRae, great competitors in rally racing, faced off at Goodwood. As the story goes, Richard Burns actually prepped his Subaru perfectly for the Goodwood Festival of Speed hill-climb which made it possible for him to win against famed Colin McRae, a Ford Focus rally magician. From there, Burns continued to win the championship next year.

What to Look Out For at the 2018 Goodwood Festival of Speed

2019 Toyota Supra Exterior Exclusive Renderings Computer Renderings and Photoshop
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The 2018 Goodwood Festival of Speed promises to be one of the best so far.

The 2018 Goodwood Festival of Speed promises to be one of the best so far. Not only did the likes of Robert Kubica, rally driver Eflyn Evans, or Jenson Button, Emerson Fittipaldi and Mika Hakkinen confirm their attendance, but a number of car manufacturers announced they will showcase their newest gear.

The Toyota Supra may be the most anticipated car out there right now, but the Festival of Speed will see the likes of the astonishing Aston Martin DBS Superleggera, the McLaren Senna and the 600LT, the BMW 8 Series and the Polestar 1. However, I’m mostly looking forward to seeing the Volkswagen I.D. R electric race car at the start of the hill climb. This car recently made a record run at Pikes Peak when it smashed the old record. Now, Volkswagen wants to smash the record at the Goodwood hill climb as well. Considering what we have seen on Pikes Peak, I am sure the I.D. R is capable of doing so.

Yet, its sister company - Porsche, will be bringing their LMP1 prototype which killed it at the Nurburgring. They too will try to take the record of the track. I can’t wait to see both of them fight their way up the hill.

2018 Volkswagen I.D. R Pikes Peak Exterior
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Now, Volkswagen wants to smash the record at the Goodwood hill climb as well

This is a big year for Porsche. Celebrating the 70th anniversary since the production of their first sports car - the 356, Porsche is actually the main sponsor of this year’s event, and the company will take the Central Feature in front of the magnificent Goodwood House. However, Land Rover also celebrates an anniversary. And a 70th at that. Land Rover will drive up the hill a cavalcade of the most astounding cars the company has produced over the past 70 years, thus marking the prosperity and importance of their cars. The cars to drive up the hill will actually be owned by Land Rover customers. The customers will drive up the hill, not some test drivers or PR staff. That is the spirit of the Goodwood. Pure, unaltered emotions only cars and their rich heritage can evoke.

Finally, this year you may see a real race of RC quadcopters, take a pleasure ride in one of the helicopters, or witness a man with a jetpack on his back taking on the hill climb course. Ladies and gentlemen, the 2018 Goodwood Festival of Speed is the ultimate in motorsport, technology, old-fashion, and futurism. It is a celebration of cars, a celebration of geniuses, and of everything that helps us complement the civilized world of today.

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