The Goodwood Festival of Speed is a heart-stoppingly special event. I remember my first back in the late 1990s: marvelling at the splendour of Goodwood House; impressed that you could walk up so close to the cars and stars that enrich the atmosphere; and wondering just how Lord March had turned his back yard into one of the world’s premier motoring events.
Make no mistake, the Festival of Speed is unlike any other I have ever attended. It might be a cliché to describe it as a garden party for petrolheads, but it’s true. Goodwood House and the grounds make a stunning location and the attention to detail is exquisite. Corners aren’t cut at Goodwood, but the lawns are. With millimetric precision. It’s scones and cream meets sports stars and screaming V8s.
I’ve been most years since my first visit in 1998 and I’m expecting 2008’s Festival of Speed to be just as special. Granted, the festival has grown considerably in the past decade and you can now expect crowds where once you could wander in quiet. But the spirit of Goodwood remains unaltered.
Be sure to look out this year for the big names from the world of motorsport as they race up Lord March’s 1.16-mile driveway. To be honest, the theme each year is window-dressing – the festival follows the same tried-and-tested formula each year, so just make sure you visit the paddocks before and after each hillclimb. Regulars like Lewis Hamilton and Stirling Moss come every year, so important has the event become.
It’s still possible to get up close to such stars at Goodwood – certainly much nearer than the remote, hospitality-centric modern grand prix – and you must swing by the paddocks and watch the engineers and owners fettle their pride and joy.
Don’t miss the Cartier Style et Luxe, either. It’s a concours event with an unfailingly intriguing mix of cars entered every year, and 2008’s crop will include a few Bond cars. So don’t get too close.
I’ll be looking out for the tribute to Colin McRae on the rally stage and making sure I walk the length of the hill to check out the different vantage points available. Crowds will congregate around the main crossing points, big TV screens and refreshment stalls (which offer great wholesome grub, by the way; no McDonalds in Lord March’s feudal festival).
So dive away from the crows, and just wander. I guarantee you’ll find something new every year. I always do.