For the past 26 years, the Duke of Richmond has attracted the cream of motoring and motorsport to his Sussex estate for his annual Festival, or a garden party for speed freaks, or porn for petrol heads, call it what you will. Each year the Sussex downs and the Goodwood estate in particular are home to a host of rare, exotic, expensive (in many cases priceless), cars and bikes, in addition to thousands of fans.
It’s difficult to imagine that after so many years the Duke and his team can find new gems to delight the visitors, but each year they do. Yes there are old fiends from previous Festivals, but 2019 being no exception, there are always firsts at Goodwood.
2019 seemed to coincide with many anniversaries, resulting in Goodwood celebrating classes for: 100 years of Bentley; 50 years of March Engineering; 125 years of Mercedes in Motorsport; 60 years of Honda in motorcycle racing; Michael Schumacher at 50; and 70 years of Aston Martin at Goodwood. Other collections for sports racers, F1, Drifters and Rallying completed the live action. Concours classes graced his Grace’s lawns with classes for Bentley, Avions, Abarth, Bugatti, Zagato, Aston Martin and, unusually for a concours but why not, VW vans.
You get what it says on the tin, the event is a festival of speed, both old and new. Noticeable over the past few years is the emphasis on modern Supercars and now electric vehicles with the hillclimb speed record going this year, unofficially, to the 2019 Volkswagen ID.R all electric prototype. Unofficially, because although the ID.R broke the record in practice for Sunday’s timed shootout the hill was damp forcing driver Romain Dumas to back off in the whooshing VW monster. But the writing is on the wall.
Sunday’s morning drizzle also mixed with the chalk surface on the forest Rally Stage proving to be a dangerous combination for some of the competitors in the woods. With so many excursions into the straw bales there can be no doubt that most were defiantly not on “demo runs”! Goodwood’s Rally stage is a must for all visitors, take the free ‘tractor-trailer’ shuttle or walk up the hill to the forest and there you’ll find the 1 ½-mile course, cut through the woods. It’s a proper mini rally circuit were spectators get close to the action in complete safety, with the exception of a little, sometimes a heavy, covering of dust, but the action is well worth it.
2019 Festival highlights? There were many-too many to list them all. Each day the Aston Martin 70th anniversary celebrations, with 30-plus Astons gathering in front of Goodwood House accompanied by a firework display.
Sunday’s tribute to mark Michael Schumacher’s 50th birthday with 14 of his racecars on track, rival Damon Hill, team managers Ross Brawn and Jean Todt present. Ross commenting on Michael’s determination and professionalism inspiring the whole team to work in his support.
Perhaps the most moving tribute was for Sir Jackie Stewart to celebrate his 80th birthday and half a century since his first World Championship Drivers title. On the circular gravel drive in front of Goodwood House Sir Jackie was accompanied not only by Scottish pipers, all his Championship cars, and his two sons but also his ever supportive wife Lady Helen. Helen making one of her now, due to failing health, rare public appearances to be by her husband’s side for the tribute, she seemed in very good spirits, enjoying the day. Jackie was greeted by the Duke of Richmond and interviewed by fellow Scot Dario Franchitti after reviewing Sir Jackie’s career the interview turned to his latest and in his words “most difficult” challenge that of finding a cure for dementia. Ex-Ferrari works driver and Le Mans winner Jacky Ickx remarked, “This type of tribute could only happen at Goodwood.”
With the Festival’s open paddocks and many manufacturers exhibitions to cover it all and view the live action visitors need more than one day. A good excuse to return next year when, of course, there will be more new features awaiting you.