This ex-Paddy Hopkirk Mini-Cooper S entertained on the rally stage 50 years after the Mini's launch.
Photo: Keith Booker
The world may be in an economic downturn, but there wasn’t much sign of that at the 2009 edition of the Festival of Speed “garden party” held in the grounds of Goodwood House in West Sussex. Sponsors may have tightened their belts, but the paying public had prebooked in record numbers with some 150,000 turning out over the three-day event, held in warm sunshine. They were treated to a visual and aural extravaganza that included no less than 14 “Silver Arrows” from Mercedes and Auto Union and 12 Porsche 917s among a wide-ranging entry of 350 vehicles that, collectively, were said to be valued at more than US$420 million.
The Earl of March and his team created this year’s theme, “True Grit—Epic Feats of Endurance,” to honor the many motor racing heroes who overcame huge physical, mental, and mechanical barriers in their quest for glory.
It’s a Goodwood tradition to celebrate anniversaries around which to build the invited participants, and the most significant of these was the centenary of Audi, which brought along a selection of their racing and rallying machinery and six examples of prewar Auto Unions to add to the eight Mercedes on show. This was one of the greatest gatherings of “Silver Arrows” ever held, especially as many were demonstrated by the likes of Sir Stirling Moss, Jacky Ickx, Jochen Mass, David Coulthard, Jenson Button, and Nick Mason. The artistic display in front of Goodwood House also honored Audi and included an Auto Union Type-C Streamliner re-creation upon a simple loop of “banking” perched more than one hundred feet above the ground.
Remarkably, it’s now 40 years since Porsche introduced its 917 and the greatest-ever gathering in one place included six important “K” models along with their Can-Am monsters, culminating with the hugely powerful 917/30 turbocharged flat-12 with which Mark Donohue dominated the 1973 Can-Am series. Richard Attwood, Brian Redman, Jackie Oliver, Derek Bell, and David Piper were on hand to demonstrate them.
The centenaries of Bugatti and Morgan were also marked, along with 50 years of both the Mini and the Daytona Speedway, with Goodwood debutant Rusty Wallace present to drive his last NASCAR Dodge Charger. Sir Frank Williams was there, 40 years after creating his eponymous Grand Prix team, and was lauded for being a fine example of true grit if ever there was one. An impressive sampling of Williams history could be found in the paddock and performing on the Hill. It’s also 40 years since Jackie Stewart won his first Drivers World Championship and he was present to drive a Matra MS10-Cosworth behind his son Paul in the MS80. Jay Leno and Hollywood’s Peter Fonda made their Festival debuts, with Fonda aboard a replica of his “Easy Rider Captain America” chopper, one of a huge collection of motorcycles present.
A great part of Goodwood’s winning formula is the open access to all areas of the paddocks to take photographs and to talk to the team members and drivers and collect autographs. The sight and sound of racing machinery being moved among the crowds is a welcome throwback to the past and never fails to cause excitement. The modern era was represented by current World Champion Lewis Hamilton and present championship leader Jenson Button, along with Mark Webber, David Coulthard, Timo Glock, and Kazuki Nakajima, together with 2009 Le Mans winners Marc Gene, David Brabham, and Alex Wurz. They drove examples of last season’s F1 cars, current Le Mans cars, and some older machinery. This event is a rare opportunity for drivers of different disciplines and eras to meet up, often for the first time, and new friendships are formed. The list of other drivers present included Dan Gurney, Johnny Rutherford, Al Unser, John Surtees, Alan Jones, Johnny Herbert, Eddie Irvine, Arturo Merzario, Allan McNish, Jacques Lafitte, and Riccardo Patrese.
The action is centered on the 1.16-mile hillclimb course that winds through the Goodwood Estate. It is narrow and has minimal runoff areas, but that doesn’t stop those who choose to be timed in competition from giving their all. For the second successive year, it was Justin Law in the Jaguar XJR 8/9 who posted the fastest time. His run in 44.4 seconds cut the timing beam at over 130 mph.
The Rally Stage has become an event within an event and attracts large crowds who come to see rally heroes of the past and present throw their cars around a cleverly designed loose-surface course through the trees at the top of the Hill. The annual Cartier “Style et Luxe” is a concours d’elegance judged by a celebrity panel and draws an eclectic entry that is displayed on a lawn at the side of Goodwood House. There are no barriers and visitors are free to wander right up to the cars and enjoy live music performed on a traditional bandstand in the middle of the display.
Now into its 17th year, the Goodwood Festival of Speed continues to go from strength to strength. With so many treasures and treats all around, it would be easy to become blasé, but a quick reality check brings the visitor back down to earth—until next year at least!