LAT Archive: The Goodwood Festival of Speed’s most memorable moments

With the famous Festival celebrating its silver jubilee this weekend AutoClassics and LAT look at some of the event’s finest moments complete with stunning pictures

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The annual Goodwood Festival of Speed, the latest of which is this weekend, is a central part of the motorsport calendar. And it is no ordinary Festival this time as it marks the event’s silver jubilee.

There was nothing inevitable about its longevity either. The Duke of Richmond, formerly Lord March, put on the first festival in 1993 expecting 3000 people to show up – he got something like 25,000.

And it is in the vein that the event has carried on. Thanks to the LAT Archive, AutoClassics looks at a few of the most memorable moments from the last 25 years of the Festival of Speed.

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Heidfeld sets the Goodwood hillclimb record

A record that likely will never be broken. McLaren tester Nick Heidfeld turned up in 1999 with his MP4/13 – the previous year’s double Formula 1 championship winner – and he and his team set their minds to how to complete the 1.16-mile, nine-turn hillclimb course as swiftly as possible.

The car was set up specifically for the challenges, Heidfeld had the chutzpah of youth – as well as a desire to be noticed by Formula 1 bosses – and plenty of experience of the car. His ascent was clocked at 41.6 seconds. ‘Apparently Nick hit 160mph on that top corner,’ said the Duke of Richmond. ‘It still makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.’

Subsequently F1 cars and the like were not to be timed up the Goodwood hill – such appearances now are for show not speed. A sensible move given it essentially is a country lane…


Soapbox opera

What goes up must come down – and in the year 2000 the Festival added a soapbox race descending the famous hill. But while such a thing may seem like only a bit of fun that reckons without the mind-set of a motor racing participant.

Even though various restrictions were laid down for the soapbox race many brought incredibly high-tech pieces of kit. Williams and McLaren entered – McLaren’s machine even is on display with its grand prix winners in the McLaren Technology Centre. General Motors went so far as to do some testing on the hill in advance.

Williams’ model with in-line wheels reached 70mph. Several crashes later across the piece and Goodwood banned in-line models forthwith, and according to the Duke of Richmond, ‘Patrick [Head, Williams technical director] was furious, it was as though the FIA had banned them from a grand prix…’


Wheelie good

One of the Festival’s many beauties is that it encompasses the weird and wonderful as much as the thoroughbred. And you’d struggle to find more weird or wonderful than the Hemi Under Glass dragster, owned by Bob Riddle, which made its Goodwood bow in 2001.

Designed to be driven in a wheelie, to the point that it has a window in its floor so the driver can just about see where they’re heading, it is trailed by a shower of sparks as the car’s rear shaves the track.

Riddle has become a Festival regular in the years since, and the spectacular machine never fails to be a standout.

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An air display like no other

Air displays are also a regular part of the Festival of Speed yet one from 2004 stands out. Former Red Arrows pilot Tim Miller who worked on organising the Festival aircraft presence had a friend who flew for South African Airlines, which had developed a much-heralded display of its Boeing 747s.

The green light was given to perform it at Goodwood and all were astonished by what they got – the planes performing slow flypasts lower than some of the estate’s trees it seemed, being able to hover almost stationary above the place before performing some dramatically steep climb outs – and almost impossibly for machines of that size. ‘It was simply extraordinary’, noted the Duke.

2005 and 2006

Rally cry

In 2005 the Festival added another string to its bow – a one-at-a-time rally demonstration run was marked out at the top of the hill for the event’s many rally cars and stars to really show their wares in an environment designed specifically for them.

For the following year the run was extended into a full forest stage, designed to replicate a World Rally Championship stage and overseen by 1983 WRC champion Hannu Mikkola. The torturous wind through the woods with a slippery chalk surface created a proper high-speed challenge. Many car and driver rally greats from Group B, modern, historic and national rallying have since graced it.


Alonso arrives as leader of the pack

In 2005 the Festival had a major coup of attracting the sitting F1 world championship leader, in the shape of Fernando Alonso. He’d started that campaign with several wins and had firmly staked his claim as Michael Schumacher’s long-awaited challenger and successor.

At Goodwood he drove the previous year’s blue and yellow Renault up the hill and showing the event’s stretch of history he followed Rene Arnoux in Renault’s first turbocharged F1 car from 1977.

And even Alonso was astonished by the event’s scale and inimitable atmosphere. ‘It’s been wonderful to see so many people here, I've never been anywhere where there is such direct contact with the fans,’ he said. ‘It’s not like the grands prix where you have to focus completely on racing. Here I can enjoy myself.’


Festival first with British Lewis mania

Early 2007 was characterised by Lewis Hamilton’s overnight rise to celebrity as he stunned all in his freshman F1 season, winning races and marching to the top of the world drivers’ championship.

And the Festival got itself in place to be part of it with Hamilton taking his McLaren Mercedes up the hill in that year’s event. Indeed it was Hamilton’s first ever appearance in the car in front of his home public, Goodwood beating his debut British Grand Prix by two weeks.

That the rain was relentless – typical for the local Chichester climate – did not dampen anyone’s spirits as Hamilton put on a show and got a rapturous reception from those gathered to watch.


The five ages of Bernie

Festivals of Speed have routinely a central theme which is reflected in the year’s towering and often breath-taking central sculpture placed in front of Goodwood House.

Last year’s gathering was no exception with the event paying tribute to Bernie Ecclestone, who had recently stepped aside from his all-powerful Formula 1 role, as well as charted the ‘five ages’ of Ecclestone’s extraordinary and extended career: as driver, manager, team manager, impresario and legend. It was the first time an individual, rather than a marque, got this honour.

The sculpture was made up of five white gleaming arms extending from a circle, each with an F1 car to represent an Ecclestone age. And Mr E was in attendance to appreciate it all.

Images courtesy of LAT Archive

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