This year’s 23rd Goodwood Festival of Speed had absolutely no trouble living up to its 'Flat out and Fearless' theme.
It mixed all-action appearances by old-time heroes such as Nascar’s Richard Petty and drag racing’s godfather, Don Garlits, with cameos by global stars of the modern era such as Ford’s Ken Block and his incredible 845bhp Mustang 'Hoonicorn', grabbing every eye in a spectacular, tyre-smoking gymkhana display.
The most extraordinary debut of all was surely that of multiple motorcycle world champion Valentino Rossi, who appeared without warning on stage at Goodwood’s traditional gala ball on Saturday night, its crowd already rocking to the Kaiser Chiefs.
Rossi, often regarded as a festival regular, was in fact making his debut at the South Downs’ most famous annual event, having jetted in direct from a storming race win in the latest MotoGP round at Assen in the Netherlands.
Resting on his laurels was never in Rossi’s script, and the next day he first rode his MotoGP Yamaha directly into Goodwood House (before appearing on the balcony with Lord March and BBC TV’s Suzi Perry to celebrate the Yamaha’s 60th anniversary) and then turned his hand to driving the most famous Mazda racing car of all, the Le Mans-winning 787B, and later a Lancia Delta S4 Group B rally car.
Mazda’s new MX-5, new to most of Goodwood’s bumper audience, led off a glittering array of Supercars and First Glance models that included the three 'pinnacle' hypercars: the McLaren P1, LaFerrari and Porsche 918 Spyder.
Mazda was this year’s featured marque; its Kodo design philosophy was celebrated in Gerry Judah’s latest monumental sculpture to take pride of place on Lord March’s front lawn. The company’s impressive lineage of sports/racing cars seemed to be everywhere - except for one 767B that hit the notorious hay bales at Molecomb corner early in the event.
Another to suffer this fate was the world’s fastest man, Andy Green, who next year will attempt to reach 1000mph in southern Africa in Bloodhound SSC. There was exquisite irony in the fact that Green’s passenger was Daily Mail reporter Ray Massey, who predictably chose to write up what Bloodhound’s press department dismissed as Andy Green killing a hay bale as his “terrifying brush with death in £300,000 rally car”.
Extreme horsepower claims were everywhere. Aston Martin’s latest and greatest track-only special edition, the Vulcan, complete with a 7.0-litre V12 producing “800bhp-plus”, made a dignified world debut in the hands of regular works driver Darren Turner, having been finished at the factory only a day earlier.
Lotus boss Jean-Marc Gales removed the wraps from his new track-day special, the 3-Eleven, whose 'basic' 450bhp power output looks plenty for a car weighing less than 900kg.
The F1 teams came as usual, although no one ran a 2015 car, because grand prix’s regulation-obsessed authorities would have considered it extra testing. Not so many regular grand prix drivers made the trip to the south coast this year, either, but Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg chose Goodwood as the setting for his 30th birthday celebrations - and showed off the noise difference between now and the good old days by bringing a 2013 2.4-litre V8 Merc. And Jenson Button was on hand to demonstrate Ayrton Senna’s championship-winning 3.5-litre McLaren Honda V12 from 1991, which set the traditionalists grinning with delight.
No one would want to get into an argument over the festival’s most popular fixture, but the traditional Supercar Run for more than 40 cars - which annually summarises the entire market for expensive, high-performance cars in Britain - would be a popular choice.
Bringing up the rear was Vauxhall’s VXR Road Train, consisting of Corsa VXR, Astra VXR, Insignia VXR and mighty VXR8. The cars, driven by Paul Swift’s stunt drivers, produced 1400bhp in total and set a precedent for the 2015 festival’s departing traffic by travelling impossibly closely together but doing it in a good spirit. As ever, a great time seemed to be had by all.