When Lord March (who became the Duke of Richmond) established the Goodwood Festival of Speed in 1993, there were not many clues that this hillclimb through the grounds of his stately home on the Sussex coast would become one of the world’s most prestigious motoring events. Twenty-five years later it is now a four-day homage to everything automotive, and it has become the de facto British motor show, drawing the world’s most legendary cars, bikes, and drivers. Yet it maintains the style and open access that make Goodwood events unique.
There is so much to experience at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. From truly historic cars in open paddocks to modern manufacturers unveiling new models for the first time, famous drivers mingling with the crowds, a rally stage through the woods, a world-class concours, and a record-breaking auction. Selecting our top five highlights is almost impossible, but here goes:
The Central Feature
Every year since 1997, there’s been a Central Feature sculpture at the Festival. This year, it’s probably the best yet: a seven-pointed, 180-foot star, each point of which has a legendary Porsche car attached, celebrating the marque’s 70 years since production began. These are no mere models either: in the group are the 917 that Steve McQueen drove in the movie Le Mans, the 2015 LMP1 919, the 1987 Paris-Dakar Rally 959, and the very first production Porsche, a 1948 356. The biggest wonder though—how did they support all that weight on the point of a star that was around five inches across where it reached the ground?
John Surtees’ 1957 BMW 507
The Bonhams Festival of Speed auction often attracts some wonderful entries, but this year a very special car crossed the plate. Seven motorcycle world championships, F1 World Champion with Ferrari, the first man to win three back-to-back senior titles at the Isle of Man TT, John Surtees’ record as a driver has never been surpassed. This was his car, bought for him by MV Agusta “in appreciation of your winning of the Motorcycle World Championship in 1956 for our company.” In typical Surtees style, he set his own specification for his new car: increased compression ratio, high-lift cams, big 36NDIX carburetors, and Dunlop disc brakes all around. He used it until his death last year, at age 83, and it sold for $5.05 million—well over estimate.
Remember the original movie-car 1968 Bullitt Ford Mustang barn find? Of course you do. How would you like to see it drive up the hill at Goodwood, chasing the Dodge Charger R/T 440, just like in the film? And not just any old Dodge, one of the actual cars used for filming. OK, so the hubcaps all stayed on, the drivers went easy on their rides, and it didn’t end in a fireball, but it was still a wonderful sight to see.
1937 Mercedes-Benz W125 Silver Arrow
Pre-war racing cars are always a favorite at Goodwood, and this year was no different. The Mercedes-Benz W125 Silver Arrow is a crowd pleaser, especially when the 5.6-liter supercharged straight-eight producing 650 horsepower fires up. And, this being Goodwood, it does so in an open paddock, surrounded by onlookers. Where else will you see Jochen Mass or Martin Viessmann in such a car, close enough to touch?
1990 Porsche 911 (964), reimagined by Singer
Wow. Singer’s reimagination and restoration work on Porsche 911s is legendary enough, but this car, the result of a client-inspired Dynamics and Lightweighting Study (DLS) in conjunction with Williams, is something else. Two of the cars were unveiled at Goodwood, but for me the version in Parallax White with a Norfolk Yellow interior was one of the most beautiful cars at the show. Arguably the ultimate development of an air-cooled Porsche 911, the 4.0-liter naturally aspirated engine now produces 500 hp and every surface of the bespoke carbon-paneled body has been reassessed using computational fluid dynamics.
To quote Roy Salvadori, “Give me Goodwood on a summer’s day and you can forget the rest of the world.” If you haven’t made your pilgrimage yet, book now. You won’t be disappointed.