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Chichester, 26th - 29th of June, 2014

When the Earl of March and a few like-minded started the Festival of Speed 21 years ago, little did they know about the dimensions the annual event should take more than two decades later. On the last weekend of June more than 200.000 visitors followed the siren call of the sports car racers, formula 1 bolides, touring cars, motorbikes and rally cars of the last 120 years to the south-west of England, the Festival of Speed should be the biggest event of its kind in the classic car calendar of the whole year. Although the FoS surpassed the traditional classic car event several years ago, latest with the end of the London Motor Show the major manufacturers saw the potential of Goodwood for the marketing of their products. In the last few weeks they set up an entire car city on the grounds of Goodwood house including huge temporary show rooms and outside activities. Some purists might complain about this development but the huge success certainly proofs the Earl and his team right. Back in the days the typical marketing slogan was “Win on Sunday and sell on Monday” but here you can even attract the potential clients directly from the race track to the show room, the additional day upfront with the moving motor show and especially the Michelin Supercar Run also attracts a younger public that might not go to a pure classic car event.

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But also the purists profit from the development as every year the manufacturers open their treasury to show their most iconic cars, where else can one see the legendary pre-war Silver Arrows, the Group C Sports Cars of the 1980s and single seater of the Turbo-era and contemporary F1 and Le Mans winners? The FoS also attracts a lot of drivers from all eras including Sir Stirling Moss, Jackie Stewart, Emerson Fittipaldi and Giacomo Agostini on one side but also current aces like Mark Webber, Jenson Button and Filipe Massa on the other, especially local hero Lewis Hamilton certainly is a crowd puller every year.

For one jubilarian this year had a special treatment: John Surtees. 50 years ago Surtees became the first driver to win a championship both on two and four wheels, something no one else ever achieved before or after. Surtees got an own class featuring his cars and bikes but as he is also the oldest living Ferrari Champion the idea came up sending him up the hill with the youngest, Kimi Raikkonen, both driving in their original championship winning cars, the 158 on one side and the F2007 on the other. One was really impressed by Surtees that weekend about his approach to the younger drivers and mechanics and his patience when he had to wait for almost one hour in the sun for his special run up the hill after the program was delayed because of some crashes. Whereas Raikkonen appeared shortly before the run, 80 year old Surtees was chatting with old friends, giving interviews and posing for the photographers.

But not just drivers are jubilians, so a special class for the centenary of Maserati could not be missed. Both in the hill climb and the Concours d´Elegance “Cartier Style et Luxe” several cars with the trident were lined up and especially the concours cars were spectators’ favourites, the 1953 A6 GCS Pininfarina Low Roof Coupe finally winning Best of Show.

Also 100 years ago was the 1914 French Grand Prix that was dominated by a triple triumph for the Mercedes works team, now 100 years later the winning Mercedes was brought over from the US to be reunited with its two sister car. This is just one part of the rich motorsport tradition of Mercedes-Benz and this year’s sculpture in front of Goodwood house symbolized the 120 years of Motorsport with the first Silver Arrow W25 and the latest GP car.

About 15 years later Bentley Motors was the dominating team at Le Mans with no less than 5 top finishes at La Sarthe. After the first success with the 4-cylinder engined 3 and 4 ½ litre finally in 1929 the straight-6 Speed Six got to race at the end of his production. Originally built to carry heavy coachwork the larger capacity model was used in 1929 due to W. O. Bentley´s aversion against the upcoming superchargers. Both in 1929 and 1930 the very same car won, this weekend “Old Number One” was reunited with the number 2 and 3 team cars to form the 1930 works team.

Today, 85 years later, the technology has changed very much as the hybrid cars are running for the crown in the long distance race. Traditionally the current Le Mans winner is coming directly from the track to Goodwood, this year the Audi R18 e-tron was driven up the hill by Andre Lotterer followed by its competitor, the Toyota TS040. Although this year’s favourite the Toyota just finished on the podium, technical problems prevented the desired victory. The third competitor, the Porsche 919 unfortunately stayed silent in the infield so Mark Webber was driving the latest Porsche Le Mans Winner, the 911 GT1 from 1998 instead.

Although most of the drivers use the 6 runs on the three days for some demonstrations and some even do donuts or burnouts, there are a few chasing the record of Nick Heidfeld. In the special shoot out of the fastest car live on television it was Sebastian Loeb in the 875 HP Peugeot 208 T16 Pikes Peak who took the best time in front of the Maserati MC12 of Michael Bartels that was specially prepared for this weekend including special Goodwood/Maserati100 livery and Kenny Bräck in the McLaren F1 GTR. So Loeb is not just the fastest at the top rally stage but also on the hill that day showing his special talent.

At the end of the weekend one could not see many disappointed faces, just a few crashes caused some lengths in the program and not all batches could be run to the end because of oil on the track. For the first time the Supercar run was also timed and some drivers might have overestimated their abilities.

At the final winners ceremony the Earl of March had to thank higher powers for the weather. The forecast for the entire weekend was very bad including thunder storms but for some reason there was a spot over Goodwood that stayed dry when all the surrounding areas had pouring rain. Just a few dark clouds could be seen but even most of the time there was some sun. At the end one could even see a small tornado showing that there was some movement of cold and warm air in the area.

Now that this year FoS is history Goodwood is preparing for the next major event in September, when the Revival will be held on the motor circuit but plans for the 2015 FoS are certainly well under way and one could be curious what special classes we will see next year.

Report & images … Peter Singhof