Purists say there can’t be grades of perfection, but if they existed, the 2011 Goodwood Festival of Speed would surely have moved the peg higher.
This year’s 19th annual edition of what has become the world’s best-loved motoring event — for spectators and participants alike — featured a crop of vehicles of more striking diversity than ever, everything from the fastest F1 turbo cars in history, via the most believable selection of electric cars yet, to an awesome gas turbine motorcycle and a bigger assemblage of champion drivers than ever gathers anywhere else.
The big theme this year was “racing revolutions”, which is why such extraordinary cars as Parnelli Jones’s jet-powered, wedged-bodied Lotus 56, an “almost” Indy winner, were on hand. A couple of classes away was the “banned” twin-chassis Lotus 88B (it set this year’s fastest time) and other rule-stretchers such as Jim Hall’s 1970 7.6 litre Chaparral sports/racer which used two fans driven by a snowmobile engine literally to suck itself to the track. Displaying innovation on a completely different level, the superb Cartier collection featured beautiful, early examples of cars like the Citroen 2CBV and Renault R4. But the real hotbed of techno-progress was to be found in the “dome village” of the green-themed FoS-Tech collection, where production and near-production cars like the Nissan Leaf and Vauxhall Ampera rubbed shoulders with cars chasing completely new targets, such as the terrific new all-electric Delta coupe and Peugeot’s outrageously (and outrageously quick) EX1, the closest thing to an electric rollerskate yet designed. This year’s most-seen car over four days was probably the new Morgan Three Wheeler, both because it looked so surprisingly agile and practical, because its outrageous machine-gun exhaust kept turned heads, and because Lord March chose to use one to open the event. This was highly appropriate, when you think about it, because the Three Wheeler is an entirely modern idea that draws on great ideas from the past. Just like the Festival.