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Chichester, 25th - 28th of June, 2015

The last weekend of July saw this year’s edition of the annual Goodwood Festival of Speed, one of the main events in the car event calendar both for classic cars and for the modern supercars. Over the last few years since the loss of the London Motor Show the Festival became more and more important for all the major and smaller manufacturer to present their latest toys to a large audience and again the extra day upfront, the “Moving Motor Show” on Thursday was very well visited. Although none of the actual entered classic cars of the Festival ran up the hill that day the visitors had the opportunity to explore the huge infield opposite the Goodwood house with the two-storey buildings set up by the different brands with large displays of their model range, the supercar paddock now located at the spot of the former pre-war paddock with an own entry gate presented by Michelin and some shows of the bikers and trial artists in the GAS arena. Especially the Supercars most of the visitors only know from the former Top Gear episodes were always surrounded by spectators, be it the latest Ferrari FXX-K, the all-new 488 GTB or the more exotic SCG003 of the Scuderia Glickenhaus and the Koenigsegg One:1 with an even power/weight ratio. Furthermore some of the more affordable sports cars were available for passenger runs up the hill all day long.

For those more into the classic cars the preview day was a good opportunity to have a closer look at the cars in the paddocks before the rush of the weekend and Bonhams had its viewing of their interesting selection of classics headlined by the Aston Martin Ulster Team Car and Sir Stirling Moss Porsche RS61 to be sold the next day. Glorious sunshine and an almost perfect weather forecast also helped to get another record breaking Festival.

The heart of the FoS, the actual hill climb started with its first runs on Friday morning and all those making it to the first main day had to be there in time to avoid the annual traffic jam around Chichester when thousands of car head to the natural car parks around Goodwood house.

Looking over the entry list sorted by classes it soon became clear that the FoS is not a pure classic car event as the Revival is but it presents all sorts of vehicles from the last century on two, three and four wheel having one thing in common: being special either by their history, their sound or their show. Huge capacity pre-war machinery is going up the hill alongside screaming Formula 1 cars, the latest WEC sports cars, insanely loud Nascars and Can-Am racers plus the show cars of the drift challenge and stunt drivers on two and four wheels giving the audience an entertaining day.

The FoS has to manage the split between the Top Gear audience of a younger generation and those admiring the good old days of racing and this could be seen especially at this year’s superb Cartier Style et Luxe Concours. 7 classes of about half a dozen cars each showcased the modern interpretation of the classic car on on side, the more and more popular supercars of the 1980s, the elegant coach built Ferrari and pre-war cars of Figoni & Falaschi plus the classes of the Citroen DS and the rare supercharged sports cars of the 1920s and 1930s.

Whereas the younger audience was especially pulled by the McLaren F1 and the Ferrari F40 plus the Glickenhaus Pininfarina P4/5 it was the supercharged class that drew its attention to the connoisseur as it featured some extremely rare machinery. Whereas the Alfa Romeo 8C MM is a more common sight on the lawn one does rarely see it alongside a Triumph Dolomite, the British interpretation of the supercharged straight eight built in just 3 units. Almost as rare was the marque Squire with just 7 cars (and 3 afterwards from parts) built featuring a blown 1.5 Litre engine capable of more than 100 hp giving this car a superb performance. The car on show was a lightweight version with bodywork by Markham serving as a works demonstrator and entry at the 1936 RAC Rally.

The second pre-war class was certainly more a show class attracting more with its design than the technical finesse although the five cars with Figoni & Falaschi design brought over by the Mullin Collection from the US were certainly built on the best chassis available at the time. Peter Mullin is a very well-known and regular entrant at the major concours of the world already winning Pebble Beach with a Violin but having a class on its own might be even a first for him. Dedicated to French design the flamboyant coachwork of Figoni & Falaschi was a show stopper even for those less interested in classic cars just as a work of art. Especially the floating lines both of the Delahayes and the Talbot-Lago were highly admired and at the end it was the Talbot-Lago T150 C-SS Teardrop that was awarded Best of Show by the Jury and a few were joking that this might have been a first that the two-tone blue Delahaye did not even win its class.

Two single marque classes featured the Citroen DS celebrating its 60th anniversary and the coach built Ferrari. When looking at the entry list of the DS one gets an impression about the significance of this model as most of the variations were entered by rather prominent collectors so a DS is not to be missing in a serious collection, especially the rare convertibles or the Coupe de Paris. Ferrari on the other hand was represented by a set of Vignale bodied 212 Inter both as cabriolet and coupé, a rebodied Zagato type 250 GT, the Pininfarina designed 250 GT Cabriolet S1 plus a modified 250 GT Lusso by Fantuzzi, the elegant PF design of the 500 Superfast and Jay Kays 330 GT Shooting Break.

Going from the static display at the lawn behind Goodwood house to the hill one could see no less than 24 classes in addition to the Supercars and the Forest Rally Stage on top of the hill.

Apart from the traditional classes of pre-war and post-war racing cars of different origin the FoS always features some specialities making the trip to Chichester very interesting to the regular visitors. Like every year a special sculpture was shown in front of Goodwood House representing the featured marque, this year two Mazda racers were high up in the sky. When thinking about Mazda motorsports is not the first that comes to mind but people tend to forget that Mazda is still the only Japanese constructor ever winning the famous 24h of Le Mans with the rotary piston engined 787B in 1991. As this is part of the very popular Group C era that is always very well represented at the FoS no less than three orange-green Mazda racers could be seen alongside the RX7-GTO and the RX-792P as regularly seen during the Monterey Motosport Reunion at the Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca. Unfortunately the Type 767B ended in the straw bales at Molecomb on Friday just as several other cars the following days. Fortunately the driver was unharmed but the accident reminded that this is not just a fun demonstration run but some drivers take the race against the clock very serious, especially at the final shoot out both for the classic cars and the supercars on Saturday and Sunday.

Less competitive today but even more in the past were the stars of this year’s FoS. Just after the lost war it took Mercedes-Benz until 1952 to get back to the international racing with the 300 SL that encouraged the board at the manufacturer with the three-pointed star to get back to Grand Prix racing that was dominated by the famous silver arrows before the war. In 1954 the W196 went to win the F1 championship and for 1955 Mercedes entered both the Grand Prix circuit and the World Sportscar Championship with their straight-eight engined silver arrows. Just like in the year before the W196 secured the F1 championship with Fangio winning over Moss but especially the sports car variation, the 300 SLR (also known as W196 Sport) made this the most successful year in the long history of the oldest car manufacturer in the World. Until today the 300 SLR is the only sports car in the championship that never failed to finish because of mechanical trouble but winning every race it entered beside Le Mans when the car was withdrawn after the horrible crash of Levegh. Despite missing the first two rounds of the championship and the horrible result in Le Mans Stirling Moss secured the trophy with his record run at the famous Mille Miglia and further successes at the RAC Trophy and the final round at the Targa Florio. With further triumph in the not championship races at the Nuerburgring and in Sweden the SLR achieved not less than 5 double victories in this season making this the most successful race car ever. Unfortunately the accident at Le Mans finally meant Mercedes to step back from racing and the evolution of the open SLR, the Uhlenhaut Coupé never had to fight for points. Exactly 9 300 SLR were built and not less than 7 of the surviving 8 examples were shown at Goodwood making this the largest gathering of these cars to the present day. As 6 of them (including the two coupés and the final lightweight version) belong to the museum’s collection itself it was joined by the car from the Schlumpf collection, unfortunately the German Museum in Munich showed no interest to add their exhibit to make the set complete, chassis 03/55 was only present as a poster in the line-up. Reunited with the car of his biggest success was Sir Stirling Moss in the legendary “722” alongside his old team mate Hans Herrmann who climbed into the car featuring his “704” livery (although it is a different chassis) despite being well into the 80s as well. They were joined by Mercedes ambassador Jochen Mass and Susie and Toto Wolff to drive the running quartet up the hill. Hearing four of the desmotronic-valves staight-eights warming up in the morning and roaring up the hill was certainly a memory that will last for a long time.

Although this year theme “Flat-out and Fearless” can be easily mentioned for the drive at the Mille Miglia in 1955 it was even more appropriate for the pioneers at the beginning of the last century when large capacity monsters with simple chassis and almost no breaks were driven to unbelievable speed at the record runs and at Brooklands. The first class of the “Clash of the Titans” featuring those early survivors of the dawn of motor racing is always a spectacle but it was even more this year. After making its static debut at last year FoS the Fiat S76 from 1911 finally made its first outing at the hill this year. Powered by a 28.4 litre 4-cylinder engine (!) and no exhaust the monster as tall as a man blasted up the hill very low idling splitting huge flames. Not less spectacular was the driving style of Mark Walker in the 200hp Darracq of 1905 who blasted up the hill with his brave passenger in just under 70 seconds averaging almost 60 mph over the 1.16 miles distance making this the most impressive run of the weekend.

Featured driver this year with an own class was Derek Bell. Looking back over an impressive career in sports car racing the 5 times Le Mans winner was honoured with a selection of some of his historical racers ranging from the Formula 1 cars of the early 1970s including the Surtees-Cosworth TS7 driven by John Surtees himself, the touring cars like a Triumph Dolomite but certainly the winning cars from his Porsche years with the Type 936, 956 and 962. One of his first major sportscar races was the Spa 1000 Kilometers in the Ferrari 512 S in the yellow colour of the Ecurie Francochamps. For the 1971 season Bell started his successful partnership with Porsche that should become a works driver 10 years later. In the beginning he drove the Gulf coloured 908 and 917 for John Wyer, later the Gulf Mirage and GR7/8 to win his first Le Mans partnering Jacky Ickx. His most successful years were from 1981 to 1988 when he finished seven successive years on the podium at La Sarthe including 4 times on top. Bell went on to drive at Le Mans until 1996 in the McLaren F1 GTR were he finished 6 after a third the year before partnered by his own son and Andy Wallace who is todays ambassador of Jaguar regularly driving their racers on various events like the D-Type here.

But Bell was not the only well-known racing drivers at Goodwood. The Festival of Speed is very well known for attracting the most successful drivers of all eras and the crowd of autograph collectors is always large in front of the drivers club. Traditionally several F1 teams show their former cars (as the current is affected by the testing ban) and usually some of their team drivers. This year included again Kimi Raikkonen, Nico Rosberg and Jenson Button on the F1 side and the works drivers from the latest WEC racers of Audi, Porsche and Toyota with Andre Lotterer, Benoit Treluyer, Brendon Hartley and Anthony Davidson on the other. But star of the weekend was without doubt Valentino Rossi. Although a seasoned racer in the MotoGP the Doctor finally made its Goodwood debut in 2015 and rarely did a driver attract that much attention. Only comparable with the hype Lewis Hamilton causes (who was missing due to supporting his brother in his race the same weekend) this is even more remarkable as Rossi is not local but apparently his skills and his youthful appearance does make him popular all over the world. The assembly area was surrounded by those hoping to get a picture of him before he climbed both his works Yamaha but also a Rothmans Porsche 956 to go up the hill and when interviewed on the balcony of Goodwood house he could oversee a crowd of flags with his famous race number 46.

With the FoS in June and the Revival in September the Earl of March and his team have set up two of the most popular events of the year, both of them very different in appearance. Whereas the Revival attracts especially with its charm and nostalgic touch the FoS is more of a spectacle.

People are cheering both the heroes of the past in their historical racers but even more on donuts and burnouts from the Nascar and F1 drivers, the louder and smokier the better.

Now that the smoke has vanished the preparations for the Revival are in full swing and in about two months we can go back to Goodwood to report on the annual Revival that will feature a pure Ferrari race amongst other highlights. Hopefully the Earl and his team will have as much luck with the weather as they had at the FoS as this sunny edition was certainly one of the better ones.

Report & images … Peter Singhof

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