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11 Dec 2017

Goodwood Festival of Speed 2017



Text and Photos: Reinis Babrovskis 

 Welcome to Goodwood festival of speed, welcome to heaven…

Goodwood – a place where petrol heads from all over the globe gather for a week’s long, non-stop fuel infused orgy to celebrate the human's desire for speed. It is an event that cannot be labelled, described or depicted on film or photography; one simply must experience it to grasp the sheer size and magic this event has to offer.


The Festival of speed was founded in 1993 by Duke Charles Gordon-Lennox, also known as Lord March, who decided to revive the motor racing heritage on his recently obtained Goodwood estate in West Sussex, England. The marvellous estate features a manor, 2 golf courses, forests, flying club and a farm. Having issues obtaining the permit to race on the Goodwood circuit at first, Lord March decided in favour of a smaller invite-only event on his private grounds. The event proved to be an instant success attracting 25 thousand spectators; since then the event has grown in size and numbers with each year it's held, attracting as many as 150+ thousand spectators a day! Since 2010 the event runs over four days, with the final timed battle taking place on a Sunday.


An art piece, a sculpture if you like, has been erected annually from 1997 onwards in front of the Lord March's manor as a central feature of the Goodwood Festival of Speed, celebrating a specific automotive manufacturer. Aston Martin was the first manufacturer to be featured in 1993; 4 years later the sculpture became an integral part of the event. In 2017 for the first time the sculpture was dedicated to a person instead; a legend if you ask me: the notorious and mighty Bernie Ecclestone. It celebrated the career of the driver, team owner, F1 mastermind who turned a motorsport into a multi-billion industry.

The five formulas on the sculpture represented all decades of Bernie Ecclestone in F1. The formulas on display were Connaught Type B, Lotus 72, Brabham BT49, Ferrari F2001 and lastly the Mercedes F1 W07.


2017 also marked the 70th anniversary of the Italian supercar manufacturer Ferrari, thus setting the theme for the Goodwood 2017. Ferrari paraded 70 iconic and historic cars on the hillclimb before gathering them all up in front of the Goodwood house for a display to the visitors.

The pack was led by the 1947 124S and finished with the LaFerrari Aperta that also was the star of the manufacturer’s anniversary celebrations. Amongst the 70 prancing horses there were race cars, street cars and modern and classic supercars that were driven by equally impressive legends like Jackie Stewart, Derek Bell and Dario Franchitti.



Goodwood festival of speed features two main racing events – the famous 1.16 miles long hillclimb and a forest rally stage. And whilst the short gravel rally stage is picturesque and provides plenty of action and drama, the spotlight always shines on the hillclimb event. More than 100 drivers from various motorsport classes stormed up the twisty asphalt to attempt to break the record and win the event.

Previous winners include such F1 legends like Martin Brundle, Jonathan Palmer, Nick Heidfield, also WRC legend Sebastien Loeb; however, the most wins (6) are held by Justin Law who also topped the list on 2017 behind the wheel of a Jaguar XJR-12D recording a winning time of 0:46:13.


Well this is one thing one won't need to worry about when visiting GFS - there are plenty of things to do and see that will keep any generation or gender happy: from sports car and super-car displays, trade and food stands, souvenir shops to fulls car car auctions. Most important thing is to note the things you want to do and see. 



I am not kidding, you really do need to do a bit of homework and research the event to get the best experience whilst there. 

First of all take a note of the cars you want to see and the times they will run throughout the days, as sadly it is possible that the car you came to see will only manage to get out once.


Know your way around the massive estate and find out the best places where to stand; things will get busy and you want to know the best locations to spectate.


We started each morning at 5AM  with this lovely sausage, egg and bacon baguette from one of the many vendors at the carpark - it is a must! Bring loads of food, it is expensive there and not to mention the hours of queues that will make you miss a lot of action on the trackside.


Whilst the Goodwood Revival is strictly themed for the good old days, the Festival of Speed is more relaxed, so anything will do, just look "dapper" to blend in. 

Maybe not this dapper :)




Goodwood Festival of Speed organisers do know how to put up a good show and you'll not be short of things to see and do - from firework displays to Red Arrows. One could easily get lost in multiple activities on the day and lose track of the time. 

This years sports arena was dedicated to the talented BMX riders that demonstrated adrenaline filled stunt jumps and demo runs. 

A few times a day the spectators were entertained by the amazing pilots of the British Red Arrows performing stunt flights that require insane level of coordination and skill. 

More stunts and crazy drift shows were performed on ground by drifters and stunt rider from all over the globe, including such drivers as Mad Mike and world famous stunt driver Terry Grant.

Also don't forget your notebook for collecting autographs, as there are plenty of celebrities just wondering around the event. 


There were plenty of manufacturers stands on the event to keep one occupied for good two days with their various activities. Here are some I had a chance to visit: 



Obviously I am going to start with my favourite manufacturer, that is Honda, that actually set up not one but two stands. Their main HQ featured the all new Honda Civic Type-R and Honda NSX attracting plenty of people. The Japanese manufacturer brought along not one, but two stories building that was filled with various challenges and simulators, and above all hosted by the friendly staff that happily gave out some goodie bags. 


The British luxury SUV manufacturer Land Rover came well prepared demonstrating their family SUVs are not just designed for rich footballers wives to sit in traffic; the purpose built 4X4 track featured some ridiculous cambers and angles that anybody could have experienced in one of their models in the passenger seat for free. 


Jaguar really nailed it though - nothing says better than this car is worth looking into than getting the potential buyer out for a ride sideways. Skip all the unicorn leather seats and bamboo tree trim options and go right to what matters - rear wheels spinning and you are looking through the passenger window. Even though the queues to the free runs might have been rather long, trust me it was worth it. 


Porsche put up an exceptional stand featuring a racing simulator room, display of various motorsport and street models and a completely different driving experience to the rest. The German manufacturer that usually would be associated with circuit racing took it to the dirt and offered the Goodwood fans a chance to slide around in a big open dirt pit in the Porsche Cayenne; epic!


There were so many other stands to visit and enjoy; however, time limited I really didn’t get a chance to visit them all. Amongst other impressive stalls I must say the Chiron in the Bugatti section really did stand out for me. What an amazing engineering masterpiece with looks to match the speed. If I wasn’t sold on the Veyron, the Chiron really has hit the nail on the head, impressive, isn’t it?



One of the things I appreciated most about Goodwood festival of speed was the open door policy at the pit lane. It was a magical experience to be so close to the cars and be able to be walk around and see all the great machinery from all decades. Most of the drivers and mechanics were always up for a chat and this is really something you don’t get to do often in modern racing events.

There were plenty of extraordinary cars present at the event: from formula 1, world rally cars to fully custom build race cars; amongst them one of the most uniquely engineered vehicles - Redbull’s rotary Mazda MX-5 drift car driven by Mad Mike himself. Being able to be up close and personal to see them tune it was an experience on its own. 

And unless you are a well-known celebrity or better yet a VIP where else in the world would you be able to get as close to the F1 cars like here in Goodwood, and get a chance to see the Italian finest working on the prancing horses.



If engineering and mechanics are not your thing, the show held on the west wing of the Manor might be. The grass car park was filled with billions of pounds worth of “metal”; from classic treasures like Ferrari 250 GTO to most modern hypercars like Ferrari Enzo, Bugatti Chiron etc. it was all there to be admired abnd photographed. 


Holding an auction at event of such a grand scale makes sense, so if your bank account shows a few decimals on the balance sheet, you may want to visit that, for the cars that were being auction there were truly exclusive, like my personal a Jaguar Type-E that sold for a small amount of £400,000+.


And whilst I was wondering who could ever afford things like those, I just had to look at one of the many car parks at the event to be reminded again – the closest car park was filled with supercars and hypercars with plates from all over the globe. I had never seen as many impressive cars gathered up in a car show before, never mind an ordinary car park. I could have spent a day easily just wondering around one of the 10 car parks admiring the cars some of visitors arrived in.




Goodwood festival of speed offers a mind blowing collection of cars and bikes from any era and motorsport discipline. It’s any petrol heads dream to witness and hear all of these cars at a single event, there is nothing, absolutely nothing else in the world like Goodwood festival of speed, I can promise you that. Resembling a real-time Wikipedia, one can experience formula 1, british touring cars, Nascar or world rally withing minutes and without moving an inch.   


Supercars clearly have become a dominant part of the motoring industry with the wealthier clients looking to spice up their image and life, and there were plenty of them there – from Lamborghini, McLaren to Ferrari, choose your pick! 


What if you are ridiculous wealthy and want to stand out amongst the supercar boys, well then you buy a hyper car, and yet again GFS didn’t disappoint there with plenty of them present allowing us, the mortals, to see and hear loads of them up close and personal. My personal – the Ferrari FXXK, oh baby!


Yes these are cars that really don’t do corners and go round an oval for billions of hours, but oh my word they sound amazing; sky was shaking when these North American stock cars went past the grand stands. Being able to see them without going across the ocean is really magical. And dare I say these were one of the most memorable cars for me from the event. 



Inviting “hooligans” to an aristocratic event was never going to end well; however, it did and quite the opposite actually, people LOVED the bad boys. World famous drifters like James Deane, Mad Mike, Baggsy and others were cheered by the crowds as they set the hillclimb on “fire”. Since the first appearance of drift cars on the Goodwood festival of speed a few years ago they have been one of the main crowd favourites and rightly so.


Is there anything that really has to be said about the historic formula one cars apart from the fact they will trump anything that may ever go up this hill. There is a certain magic and otherworldly feeling seeing, hearing and feeling (in your stomach) these cars flying buy you. 


Whilst the modern formula one cars may be faster and more aerodynamically efficient than the predecessors they somehow lack the “value” that the history can add to them. Potentially we view them as just something normal now, but one day we shall look back and say: yes these were the good ones as well. Age adds value to everything…


Yet another car one would never experience to see unless you travel far and wide to the land of deadly spiders and snakes would be the great Aussie V8 supercars, and here we were standing in the glorious sun in UK enjoying them in full screaming sideways glory.


And whilst there really are no “standard” Pike’s Peak cars as anything goes there, the crazier the better, seeing some of them in person was spectacular. There is no surprise that some of these beasts obviously set up incredible times, even though they may be set up for different sort of hill climb.


Touring cars are epic, full stop. They really are and have been (to me) one of the purest and most adrenaline packed racing series out there. There have been many generations and hundreds of touring cars here in British touring car series and of course rest of the world so there were plenty of them present on the GFS.



Yet another set of motorsport vehicles we may never see anywhere else up close and personal are the Paris – Dakar endurance series monsters that fight through the rough terrains of South America (yes Paris – Dakar has now just remained only in its name due to the security risks of the race), like this beast of a machine – Kamaz. The Russian Redbull lorry was not afraid to get the tail out on the very narrow asphalt to cheer up the crowds.


Rallycross and rally cars can launch to 60mph from standstill under 3 seconds on any surface, did you know that? They actually launch quicker than formula one cars. They have been popular since the crazy era of Group B rally when many of them moved to rallycross and now with rallycross growing in popularity again it was nice to see the historic rallycross vehicles (along with modern ones).


Did you know my favourite motorsport is rally, and you know what - I never even managed to get to the forest stage... This is just a testament of how huge and epic the Goodwood event really is. On the good-side; however, there was no shortage of the rally cars on the hillclimb either.


Goodwoof festival of speed not only celebrates the past, shows the present but also embraces the future. And whilst yes most of us are still trying to avoid the noiseless EV machines, we deep down all do know it is the future. 2017 Goodwood had a future booth and plenty of hybrids, EVs and concept cars stormed up the hill climb during the event.


While bikes are not officially timed on the hill climb due to the historic accidents, Goodwood festival of speed certainly isn't short of them. One can see historic and modern racing bikes from TT, Moto GP and even Paris - Dakar. Obviously the spectators were not short of wheelies and burnouts either.


If you think that was it, forget it, there were cars from other spectacular classes - LeMans 24h, Formula E, and so on rushing up the hilll without a stop, but I'll let the pictures do the talking. 


The hidden gem of the event for me was the unicorn itself: the Audi RS002 Group S rally car. When the Group B era was coming to an inevitable end the Group S was ready to replace it with more relaxed approach to the homologation of the vehicles and more bonkers designs. Audi motorsport group created this 400hp 5 cylinder beast that sadly never saw an inch of a world rally stage due to the tragic accidents of the Group B Portugal in 1986. The Group S was cancelled, as was the project for this car. Until last year the 2 versions built were sitting sad in a museum in Germany until finally Audi decided to unleash it here, right in the Goodwood festival of speed. It was driven by rally legend and Hannu Mikkola, who is no stranger to the Audi as he claimed 10 victories with the Quattro himself. What an amazing experience it was to see and hear this car in person.

It was an event that left me speechless, gave me goosebumps and I couldn't sleep after it. That is how magical it really was. I cannot wait to go back and experience it all over again. Thank you Lord March, thank you Goodwood!

If you really are a petrol head and like Motorsports this must be on your bucket list, it truly is the most amazing event you will ever be able to visit.

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