Goodwood Festival of Speed debutant, Richard Petty, proved that there is much more to being a star than merely winning in a racecar. For three days (July 7–9), Petty entered into the true spirit of the festival by making himself accessible to fans, happily signing hundreds of autographs and driving his famous #43 1972, 7.1-liter Dodge Charger up the hill. Petty wowed the Brits with his NASCAR record of 200 career wins, including seven victories at the Daytona 500.
Nigel Mansell was another making a first appearance at Goodwood and ran the Newman-Haas Lola-Cosworth T93/06, which he took to the 1993 IndyCar crown. As exuberant as ever in the cockpit, Mansell seemed to have a little trouble keeping to the strict rules necessary in such a confined space.
The main theme this year was a celebration of the Century of Grand Prix and Renault, who neatly book-ended the 100 years with victorious cars, and demonstrated their 1906 and 2006 racers. A 13-liter Renault AK 90CV recreation, similar to the type raced by Hungarian Ferenc Szisz to record the first Grand Prix win at Le Mans in 1906, was joined by a 2006 R26, driven by Giancarlo Fisichella, teammate to current F1 World Champion Fernando Alonso. A stunning display of “Silver Arrows” from Mercedes and Auto Union also drew much attention, especially with Sir Stirling Moss behind the wheel of a W196.
As usual, two paddocks were created either side of Goodwood House, where rolling history is displayed under covered bays. Excitement rises as the cars, often under power and with their original drivers at the wheel, are moved through throngs of visitors. This seems like a dangerous exercise but is conducted under the expert supervision of marshals. It still pays to have your wits about you and is just about the nearest recreation of an international circuit paddock of 40 or more years ago that you will find anywhere. The accessibility of many of the drivers of the past and some of the present make the festival special. If your motorsport hero wasn’t here this year, you can bet he’ll show up in the near future as the organizers constantly seek out debutants and popular returnees. Dan Gurney and Parnelli Jones were welcomed back, with Gurney in a rebodied 1966 Ford GT Mk2 Le Mans and Jones with his 1969 Ford Mustang Boss 302, 1970 VPJ-Ford “Johnny Lightning Special” and 1972 Parnelli-Offenhauser VPJ-1 “Viceroy Special.”
The 40 years of the Trans-Am subtheme brought out Bob Tullius and his 1977 championship-winning Group 44 Jaguar XJS and Hurley Haywood’s 1988 Audi Quatro. The Targa Florio centenary was also marked with a good selection of cars and drivers, including Vic Elford/Porsche 908/3, Nino Vaccarella/Alfa Romeo Tipo 33 and Arturo Merzario and Jacky Ickx/Ferrari 312-PB.
With each passing year, fewer and fewer entrants opt for timed runs up the hill, most preferring to just demonstrate their cars, fortunately some with gusto. This has led to the Festival of Speed becoming less of a contest and more of a show. The attractions and sideshows around the Goodwood estate are designed to appeal to anyone with even the slightest interest in competition cars and bikes. These include anything from sideways action from top rally stars on the newly extended stage at the top of the hill to sand sculptures depicting the 100 years of Grand Prix cars.
Some 150,000 enthusiasts attended over the three days of the event. Many will be hoping that Richard Petty keeps his diary free for this fixture next year.
By Keith Booker