The Goodwood Festival of Speed 2020 is postponed

For the second time in a week, I have to report that another major Goodwood event has been postponed, this time it’s the jewel in the crown: the Festival of Speed.

Postponing the Members’ Meeting, as Goodwood did last week is one thing. It is by far the smallest of the Goodwood signature events, attracts a very specific crowd of vintage and classic racing enthusiasts, and could theoretically be run at any time of year.

Postponing the Festival of Speed is quite another thing entirely. Launched in 1993, the event quickly grew from a popular hill climb into the major U.K. motor show. Now a four-day sell-out event that entertains around 200,000 visitors annually, it features huge displays from all the major motoring manufacturers, showcases cars both new and historic, and attracts the entire spectrum of motoring royalty: from F1 drivers past and present through NASCAR teams to personalities like Ken Block and Magnus Walker. With Bonhams holding one of the U.K.’s most prestigious classic car auctions, the Cartier Style et Luxe concours and a closing party that is the ticket of the season, the Festival generates £70M for the local economy according to a survey conducted in 2015.

The problem with postponing the Festival of Speed is not just its size: it is dependent on the weather. Everything is outside or housed in temporary structures, even the visitors’ car parks. On years when there has been an unseasonable amount of rain, mud has become a problem. The thought of running an event in October or later, when the weather is even more unpredictable than normal, is a huge gamble. At the moment, Goodwood’s line is that they’re not ruling anything out. A spokesperson told me: “As you can imagine, as FOS is an outdoor event we would naturally want to avoid holding the event in winter. However, at this moment in time we are keeping all options open.”

vintage race car front at goodwood
Drew Gibson / Goodwood

Then there are the exhibitors. I’m told that one of the major factors in Goodwood’s decision to postpone the Festival this year was that the 2020 lead brand was Alfa Romeo. Not only is the Italian marque based in the heart of Lombardy, the region of Italy most affected by coronavirus, but so are many of the leading Alfa Romeo collectors. Understandably, none were focused on delivering a motor show in the British countryside. Many motoring manufacturers had already cut back hugely on marketing budgets in the last few years, and this situation has made it a whole lot worse. Finding the requisite cash to lay on a show for nervous visitors, even after the all-clear has sounded, may be a big ask.

At the moment, Goodwood is planning on rescheduling both its postponed events, plus the Goodwood Revival which remains in the diary for September. “We will continue to review plans for the Goodwood Revival, in the anticipation that this will be able to go ahead as planned in September,” said a Goodwood source. “At same time we’re planning the rescheduling of the Festival of Speed and the 78th Members’ Meeting—it’s still very early days to say when these will take place and if the format will change.”

I really feel for Goodwood. Almost all of their income is generated from activities that have been hit the hardest by the virus: major events (both motorsport and horse racing), golf clubs, the hotel and restaurants. All are closed. For the last quarter-century, the Duke of Richmond has arguably been the most influential person in the British motor industry and has created world-class events that support manufactures large and small, whilst entertaining the masses. We, the members of the motoring community, need Goodwood to thrive; I can only hope that we’re free enough of this disease by September that the Goodwood Revival is unaffected.

In the meantime, those in need of a Goodwood fix can find it online: Goodwood Road & Racing will be streaming the best of its motor racing content this weekend, which would have been the 78th Members’ Meeting. There will be live blogs running, interactions with fans and more, and it’s open to everyone, taking place from 10 a.m. GMT (6 a.m. ET) on Saturday and 10 a.m. (5 a.m. ET) Sunday.

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