They said it would be different for 2019, and it was. Since the Goodwood Festival of Speed began its relentless climb 26 years ago towards today’s status as Europe’s — possibly the world’s — greatest motoring and motorsport festival, this event has faced many calls to keep new interest coming without damaging a much-loved formula – to refresh as well as reassure.
The Duke of Richmond and his henchmen usually manage it; this year, they managed it big-time. The major addition was a big arena where the Cathedral Paddock used to be, a new venue for all manner of drifting demos, motorcycle action and stunt driving.
The noise and crowds made it obvious that this was an important element the festival had previously lacked – and the spectacular, unruly and deafening appearance of drift cars on the main track, several times a day, advertised their presence.
The main track action – from rumbling antiques to tyre-smoking racers, from rally cars to new(ish)-spec Formula 1 cars – was more or less non-stop, including on a streaming wet Sunday morning and early afternoon. Goodwood doesn’t stop for anyone.
All the stalwart attractions were there, but there was expansion and improvement for most, such as the First Glance Paddock, whose roll-call of new models has become as important as that of the Supercar Paddock, and an improved, expanded Future Lab to show off our connected, electrified future, much of it being designed in the UK.
However, it was the extraordinary roll-call of new car models that really took centre stage this year. Aston Martin had pride of place as the event’s headline sponsor, feted via a typically gigantic Gerry Judah central sculpture that hefted a DBR1 60ft into the air to commemorate the marque’s Goodwood race debut 70 years ago. The place was practically poulticed with new Astons — the Rapide AMR, the electric Rapide E, numerous Zagato variants and, best of all, the mighty £250,000 DBS Superleggera Volante.
Other supercar brands were everywhere, Ferrari very prominent with the P80/C track special. Other debuts ideal for the Goodwood scene were Radical’s new road-going Rapture and the rare, harder-core BAC Mono R. Mercedes-AMG had a new, 415bhp A45, Mini was there with its new British-built electric car and Ford had the Puma compact crossover (in which it's investing much hope) plus the very surprising Ranger Raptor pick-up truck. Mark Webber appeared on the hill in a lightly disguised Porsche Taycan and Honda demonstrated its tiny e prototype at the other end of the electric scale. But carrying the EV gauntlet was the astounding Volkswagen ID R, which broke the hillclimb record that had stood for two decades in near-silence.
Of course, there were plenty of anniversaries beyond Aston Martin’s. Goodwood honoured the career of Michael Schumacher by running several of his most successful F1 single-seaters on the hill – and producing team leaders of the time, Jean Todt and Luca di Montezemolo, to lend gravitas. Jackie Stewart’s career was also celebrated, with the champion driving several championship-winning single-seaters himself and watching while others were paraded. A fleet of Pagani Zondas and Huayras was on hand, because it’s now 20 years since the first. And Citroën drew attention to its centenary with the very different, very Citroën 19_19 concept for a comfortable electric touring car.