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‘Like no other motor show’: a weekend at the Goodwood Festival of Speed

There you are, hunched over the endless tight rows of supercars, when suddenly you realize. Many of these cars are unique. They are multi-multi-million dollar asset classes alone. And yet, none of them are roped. You can press your nose directly on the glass.

“It’s a very important aspect of the Goodwood Festival of Speed,” says Charles Gordon-Lennox, 11th Duke of Richmond and founder of the annual summer event in the south of England which will celebrate its 30th anniversary next year. next. “You can get up close to these extraordinary cars. And not once did we have any of them damaged. We’ve had five of the six surviving Bugatti Royales a year. People are very respectful of these kinds of vehicles.

When he says “people”, it is not a small number. Some 200,000 people now attend the four-day event on the rolling grounds of the historic Goodwood House. They crowd into local hotels, come in RVs and with tents, and for good reason. The Goodwood Festival of Speed ​​is arguably the only motor show in the world to combine classic and contemporary cars and motorbikes, driving experiences, hill climbs and track racing – something you have to get used to is the constant sound of roaring engines and screeching tires, and clouds of rubber smoke, plus the unveiling of new models and concepts, seminars and a taste of cars to come.

Turn a corner and here is motorsport legend Jackie Stewart. Turn another and there’s a flurry of outstretched pens following a man with a trimmed mustache – it’ll be CART Indy Car and Formula 1 World Champion Nigel Mansell, who will reunite with his Williams race car for the first time in three decades. Look down the track and Grand Prix motorcycling star Wayne Rainey races again for the first time since being paralyzed in 1993. In the skies, almost ignored, are the Red Arrows, the aerobatic team of the RAF.

Wayne Rainey, seen up front, is riding again for the first time since being paralyzed in 1993.

Photo: Nick Dungan via Goodwood

“The event had a life of its own from the start,” says Gordon-Lennox. “We expected a few thousand at best in the first year and even then 25,000 people showed up. I think it works now for the reasons it worked then: it’s a shared experience and everyone here loves cars and motorcycles. He never tried to be very commercial and always focused on access. Thirty years ago there was no way to see the kind of cars we have at the Festival of Speed ​​unless you were lucky enough to own one. But the goodwill towards an event that brings everything together – Paris-Dakar, NASCAR, Formula 1, Formula E, TT, rallying, it’s all there – is incredible.”

It has to be, not least because, unlike most concours, none of the owners are paid to show off their incredible vehicles at Goodwood, whose grounds are also the headquarters of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars. They do this because they want their vehicles – taken from museums or a very secure warehouse for private collections – to be included in the conversation.

“They ship their cars from all parts of the world just because they think it would be great for people to see and enjoy them here in this setting – and because we give owners a really fun time,” says Gordon Lennox. . “In a way, it’s a coming together of this world. We hate to be called just a “car show”. It really is a thing of the past. It’s a celebration, whether it’s the future of mobility or the last 100 years of invention and creativity.

Charles Gordon-Lennox, the 11th Duke of Richmond, seen here in a tan suit at the 2022 Goodwood Festival of Speed

Charles Gordon-Lennox [left]the 11th Duke of Richmond, founded the Goodwood Festival of Speed ​​in 1993.

Photo: Dominic James via Goodwood

“It’s like no other car show. There’s certainly nothing like it overseas,” agrees Andrew Pilkington, UK managing director of luxury brand Hyundai Genesis, which has staged events at Goodwood for the past three years. “I actually think traditional car shows aren’t of much interest to manufacturers anymore. There’s just no return on investment and they’ve always tended to be pretty static. In contrast, Goodwood is a celebration of everything good about the automotive world in a very dynamic way. It’s a brotherhood of enthusiasts. They’re not here to buy a car but to experience cars. It’s an immersive and visceral experience : odors, noise, seeing the whites of drivers’ eyes.

It’s certainly not just the static cars you can get close to. No bets are being taken with visitor safety, of course, but still, there aren’t too many occasions at motor shows to be separated by a mere bale of hay from a car taking the leap. air as you pass, then the next minute to indulge in the luxurious lifestyle that the high-end automotive world is increasingly associated with.

“In fact, I would say Goodwood works so well because it’s as much about lifestyle as it is about performance. He has this good recipe for emotions, ”says Sadry Keizer, marketing director of Roger Dubuis. Always mindful of this link between cars and watches, this Swiss luxury brand is also at the Festival of Speed. “At the end of the day, Goodwood does what other motor shows don’t: it allows you to really feel the passion behind this broad interest in cars that all visitors share. It’s not just a matter of engine size. That’s all cars like this stand for.

A man and woman in a classic car at the 2022 Goodwood Festival of Speed ​​on the left.  On the right, vintage cars exhibited under a tent.

“Goodwood is a celebration of all that is good about the automotive world in a very dynamic way,” says Pilkington. “It’s a brotherhood of enthusiasts.”

Photos: Tom Baigent via Goodwood

The Festival of Speed ​​- which has a vintage car-focused sister event, the Goodwood Revival, in mid-September – certainly gets back to the heart of what fuels many people’s love for driving, and for cars. and motorcycles simply as objects of design and Culture. Gordon-Lennox was brought up in the automotive business; Freddie March, his grandfather and an amateur racer, established a motor racing circuit on the estate in 1948, becoming Britain’s first post-war motor racing meeting on a permanent site. It held competitions for 18 years but, thanks to “noise and politics”, as Gordon-Lennox puts it, it finally closed to anything other than trials in 1966. The Duke of Richmond had always wanted to revive at the track. And, he concedes, it would also bring in much-needed money to help maintain the huge 17th-century house, its 12,000 acres and 550 employees.

“We were very lucky as we needed to find new ways to generate income for the estate and we always wondered if cars could be the solution, and of course that fits the history of the place as well,” he said. “Now we are looking to make the festival a unifier of all kinds of ideas around mobility and we are wondering if we could make the event work elsewhere in the world as well. We actually have a huge following outside of the UK. We are closer than ever to getting there, although the challenges are obviously different because here we have full control of the site.

Indeed, perhaps what ultimately makes the Goodwood Festival of Speed ​​so appealing is its sense of place – that contrast between mechanical bustle and English countryside calm, grease and grime of V12s and the elegant sophistication of one of the UK’s most striking Grade I listed buildings. . It is, concedes Gordon-Lennox, a rather special place to spend his childhood.

“Since I was about five years old I’ve spent a lot of time here with my grandfather, I’ve met all the racing drivers of the day, I’ve seen all the great cars, so loving them was probably inevitable,” he recalls. “I’ve always wanted to bring this association back to Goodwood. Of course, there is always the pressure to elevate our game every year. It’s a terrifying experience for everyone involved, trying to accommodate drivers we didn’t have before, to get our hands on cars we didn’t have before. But it ends well in the end. »

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