This, above all, was Bernie Ecclestone’s do. In the months leading up to the 2017 edition of the world’s most remarkable motorsport festival, most of us presumed Ferrari’s much-ballyhooed 70th anniversary would take precedence over everything else at Goodwood — and there was indeed plenty of Prancing Horse action on the most famous hill in East Sussex.
But for this year’s, the 25th, founder Lord Charles March decided months ago that his mission would be to celebrate the unique career of the man who built Formula 1 and in this he received extraordinary support from many directions. Sculptor Gerry Judah’s eye-popping installation on the front lawn of Goodwood House suspended five of Bernie’s own racing cars at impossible angles, high above the crowd, to mark the five phases of Ecclestone’s career — as driver, manager, team owner, impresario and legend.
Bernie’s friends and acolytes were there in depth (Goodwood’s celebrity count, always impressive, seemed practically to double) and many teams and individuals brought cars relevant to his reign — not least a wonderful array of Brabham F1 cars which combined the talents of Ecclestone and Gordon Murray between 1972 and 1987. The whole enterprise was admirably supported (to the tune of a rumoured £1 million for design and erection of that “five phases” sculpture) by CVC Capital Partners and Liberty Media, F1’s departing and arriving owners.
And at the critical moments, the event was graced by attendance the little man himself. In his pomp, Ecclestone knew that one way of underscoring his power was never to allow his arrival at events like this to be predictable. But this time he was prominent at the Saturday night Festival Ball and at a special ceremony on Sunday afternoon for which the faithful gathered in thousands below Goodwood House’s balcony while Bernie was interviewed, honoured and cheered to the echo.
Other stuff happened. The Bernie events chimed perfectly with the 50th anniversary of the winning debut of Ford’s immortal DFV racing V8 (in the back of Jimmy Clark’s impossibly beautiful Lotus 49 at Zandvoort). The same engine powered nearly all of Ecclestone’s Brabhams, and was staple power for most teams while Ecclestone’s expansion of F1 was in its its steepest trajectory.