Currently reading: How Goodwood is celebrating UK motorsport in a tough year
The pandemic decimated the 2020 motorsport calendar, but Speedweek will restore some normality
James Attwood, digital editor
News
9 mins read
15 October 2020

Since some of the world’s greatest drivers first attacked the Duke of Richmond’s driveway in anger back in 1993, the Goodwood Festival of Speed has been an annual highlight, a celebration of automotive culture and Britain’s de facto motor show. Meanwhile, the Goodwood Revival, first staged in 1998, is the centrepiece of the historic motorsport calendar as a retro-fuelled showcase of insanely intense racing.

Former British Touring Car champion Andrew Jordan is a regular at both events, having driven some of his tin-tops up the hill at the Festival and often competed at the Revival. “You don’t get the variety of cars and drivers at either event anywhere else,” he says. “They’re both brilliant.”

This year, of course, both have joined the depressingly long list of cancellations. But rather than just pencil some dates into a 2021 year-planner and crossing their fingers, Goodwood’s organisers are trying to keep the magic of both events alive with the one-off Speedweek event. Running from Friday until Sunday on the West Sussex estate’s race circuit, it merges the Festival’s demonstration runs, shoot-out and rally action with the Revival’s flagship historic races.

The event will benefit from the incredible ability of the Duke of Richmond and his team to draw in big-name racers and a fantastic array of classic and modern road cars and racing machines.

Jordan, who runs a historic race team with his father, Mike, will drive an AC Cobra, a Ford Cortina Lotus and a Mini 1275 GT in various races against some of the sport’s biggest names – and he expects the action to be as intense as usual.

“Some of the best races I’ve had have come at Goodwood,” he says. “It’s always hard but fair, and you can trust the people you race against. People are there for a good time – but they all want to do well.” Staging Speedweek on-track will help. While the cars performing demonstration runs at the Festival are usually limited by the tight constraints of the hillclimb, there will be much more space to push on the fast, flowing circuit – as shown by the quality of racing at the Revival meeting.

“Goodwood is a proper old-school circuit,” Jordan says. “You have to attack it. To do a quick lap round Goodwood in a Cortina, you need to be right on the edge, which means the car is sliding all over the place. It’s really hard work, which makes it spectacular to watch.”

Speedweek won’t admit spectators, although the action will be shown online and highlights on TV. But will the intangible magic atmosphere be lost?

Advertisement
Advertisement

Find an Autocar review

Back to top

“The crowd is normally a huge part of any event at Goodwood,” says Jordan. “But being Goodwood, I’m sure they will do very well. They know how to organise events well, and I have no doubt they will raise the bar for this sort of spectator-free event and do what they can to make sure everyone can still enjoy the action.”

However the event this weekend works, it won’t replace either the Festival or the Revival, but it will give enthusiasts a welcome reminder of both. And for Jordan, it’s still a chance to race at one of the country’s finest circuits. “I’m really proud to have won races at Goodwood,” he says. “It’s a career highlight.”

“It’s going to be different without the fans, but we’re going there to put on a show for everyone watching at home. And all the drivers will still be pushing as hard as they can – because it’s Goodwood.”

Why Goodwood is so uniquely special

This weekend’s Speedweek will attempt to recreate some of the best bits of Goodwood’s usual Festival of Speed, Revival and Members’ Meeting events. To celebrate these, the Autocar team have picked out their personal Goodwood highlights from years past.

Steve Cropley - Up the hill in a Model T

My best of many Goodwood memories was being invited to enter the 2003 Festival of Speed – whose central theme was celebrating Ford’s centenary – in my very own car, a 1917 Ford Model T Speedster. With its light weight and meaty 3.3-litre engine, it proceeded to storm the hill twice a day for three days. It felt surreal, competing every day in a very special Ford class that contained Sir Jackie Stewart, Sir Stirling Moss, Alan Mann and Jack Brabham, among others. The Speedster culture grew initially out of a glut of unwanted Model Ts (16 million were sold globally). They fell into the hands of modifiers (“If you clear the barn, you can have the old Ford”) and hot-rodding grew from there. I must have been crazy to sell my Speedster, which cost £6500, but a man in Germany paid £16,000 – mainly because of the Goodwood roundel on its barrel fuel tank…

Mark Tisshaw - Schumacher Celebration

Back to top

There’s no recency bias here: the celebration of Michael Schumacher at last year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed was as memorable a display of contemporary Formula 1 machinery as I’ve experienced in this country – and perhaps ever will experience given the diminished aural drama provided by today’s downsized hybrid F1 cars.

In the year that Schuey turned 50 and that marked a quarter of a century since the first of his seven title wins, cars went up the hill from each of the four teams he raced for (Jordan, Benetton, Ferrari and Mercedes), plus Formula Ford and DTM cars from when he was rising through the ranks.

Watching any F1 car go up that hill is quite something, but it is even better when the F1 car has a story behind it, gives you goosebumps when there’s a famous name driving it, and becomes the full hair-standing-on-the-back-of-your-neck experience when that name is as storied as Schumacher. My gun-to-the-head favourite? For nostalgia, the Benetton B194. For livery, the 7 Up of the Jordan 191. For sound and pretty much everything else besides, the V10-powered Ferrari F2004. Keep fighting, Michael.

James Attwood - Hidden treasures

The brilliance of the Festival of Speed is the variety of machinery you can find. Trawl the hillclimb paddock and you will see pre-war racers alongside modern F1 cars, Group B rally beasts next to vintage motorbikes and thunderous stock cars across from high-tech electric racers.

Back to top

While many of the cars are regulars at the Festival, it’s particularly notable that, after 26 years, organisers and manufacturers are still finding new machines to demonstrate.

In 2018, for example, Porsche marked its 70th anniversary by showcasing a wide range of cars, including the seldom-seen March-Porsche 2708 CART chassis and the LMP2000, a stillborn Le Mans prototype that had never been seen in public before.

Last year, a ‘lost’ Ford GT40 prototype powered up the hill, and the event has also allowed British fans rare chances to glimpse never-raced six-wheeled Williams F1 cars, Pikes Peak hillclimb specials and other oddities. That’s why Goodwood is always worth the time: even if you think you’ve seen it all before, you’ll always find something new… 

Damien Smith - Silver Arrows reunion

The eye-watering whiff of something resembling shoe polish stands out almost as much as the visual memory of the once-in-a-lifetime Silver Arrows reunion at the Goodwood Revival in 2012. The Auto Union and Mercedes-Benz grand prix behemoths of the 1930s had appeared before at the Festival of Speed, but never in such number – and on the Goodwood Motor Circuit all at the same time. This was no race, but the instruction was for the drivers, who included Sir Jackie Stewart, John Surtees, Jacky Ickx and Jochen Mass, to put on a fast demonstration that anyone present would never forget. And I haven’t.

For motorsport enthusiasts, the 1930s prewar grand prix era has a certain exotic, almost mystical draw. Clearly, it’s a time complicated by the inextricable Nazi association, but what’s incontrovertible is just how incredible these cars were – and remain. And the shoe polish? That would be the aroma of methanol, nitromethane and acetone used in the fuel. Emissions? Don’t ask.

Jim Holder - The future in action

Back to top

Sacrilege though it might be to admit this, my standout memory from Goodwood – and I think I’ve been to every Festival bar the very first, and most of the Revivals – doesn’t relate to a car from yesteryear but rather one that looks to the future.

It occurred two years ago, and my sensations were heightened, I suspect, because I wasn’t really paying attention to anything in particular at the time and there was no audible warning of what I was about to witness. It was, as so often, a hot, sunny Saturday, and I had spent the morning running around interviewing various car industry folk in attendance. Now, for half an hour or so, I had some time to unwind. Glancing down the track towards the exit of the opening right-hander, my senses were assaulted by the sight of Peter Dumbreck at the wheel of the electric Nio EP9 coming through the corner on its limits and then punching its way forth at a pace that was beyond what my eyes and expectations could comprehend.

The only other car that has made me stop in awe in quite the same way was a Top Fuel dragster – and it will be a while before they fire one of those up the Duke of Richmond’s driveway at full tilt.

Paul Lawrence - Edwardian racing

The cars pre-date the opening of the Goodwood Motor Circuit by at least 25 years, but the way-out leviathans in the SF Edge Trophy race at recent editions of the Members’ Meeting are real headline-stealers. The grid full of pre-1923 racing machines makes a glorious sight as these century-old cars are driven with commitment and bravado. They come in an incredible array of shapes and sizes from a time when race-car design was down to fertile imaginations rather than wind tunnels.

Star turns include the fabulous 28-litre Fiat S76 land speed record car from 1910, otherwise known as the Beast of Turin, now perfectly restored by Duncan Pittaway. Then there’s the infamous 1922 GN Thunderbug with an implausibly low-revving two-cylinder 4.0-litre vee-twin engine. In top gear, owner Mark Walker reckons he gets an explosion every five feet.

With a grid full of such machinery, some with monstrous aero engines, it adds up to a wonderful annual spectacle at the Members’ Meeting.

Back to top

Matt Saunders - Bike heroes battle

I’ve been attending the Festival of Speed for the thick end of two decades now, but my first time at the Revival was only last year. Somehow the idea of dressing up and watching old cars never appealed to the twenty-something in me. Lordy, did I ever get that one wrong.

I found the Revival a much more special event; more atmospheric, of course, but also smaller and better contained at the Motor Circuit. Just getting to watch the racing from the paddock grandstands, at up-close-and-personal terms with the cars and drivers just a few feet below in the pit lane, is a treat like little else you will find in modern motorsport.

The car racing was wonderful, particularly watching brilliantly driven Minis beating much more powerful cars, but the bikes of the Barry Sheene Memorial Trophy were the highlight. I couldn’t take my eyes off all the star riders – Dani Pedrosa, Peter Hickman, Lee Johnston and James Haydon – just standing around on the pit wall and having the time of their lives, as if they were at some mad weekend club meet. Which, for them, is probably exactly how it felt. 

READ MORE

2020 Goodwood Festival of Speed and Revival cancelled 

BTCC 2020: former champ Jordan withdraws from season 

Goodwood Festival of Speed 2018: the best of Porsche

Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review