When something involves cars, cakes, music and general merriment, and is half an hour from my doorstep, it frankly seems churlish to not attend. Plus, my curiosity had been piqued by the ever-growing furore surrounding Chris Evans’ CarFest events, so this year I went along.
There’s plenty about for the automotive obsessive. I particularly enjoyed wandering the car auction, with highlights from the Morris Mini Moke that featured in Prisoner and had clearly seen some neglect since, through to the usual auction exotica, including a rather lovely old Merc SL (which currently tops my personal list of appreciating classics to own one day) and a very retro-brown Land Rover Defender.
Scheckter’s enthusiastic approach to the hill in a Merc A45 AMG, and the sounds and sights of all his F1 cars, were the real highlights of the runners up the hill, although it was a shame that you couldn’t get up close to them in the paddock. Still, while Goodwood FoS still gives free rein in the paddocks, actually getting to the cars often involves a mass bundle, which was never the case at CarFest. It was hardly quiet at the Laverstoke Park-based South event I went to, but it was really laid back and you could always get to what you wanted to see pretty easily.
All in, it’s a really fun, relaxed atmosphere, and one that I found to be quite different from either of the bigger, more glitzy Goodwood events. For a start, you could certainly do the event justice in a day, and there’s loads to do even for those not overly bothered by cars. We were in a group of 30-something-year-olds, so the spectacular array of posh food and booze on offer – free tasters at the Badger Beer tent were particularly popular - kept us as entertained as the cars. The music is the final element, which has universal appeal and made the entry cost feel pretty acceptable, particularly factoring in the Children in Need element.
Generally, it all feels more intimate and more family-orientated than Goodwood; more of a country fair complete with cars, and that’s a pretty awesome thing. Certainly, Goodwood FoS and Revival both offer more to see for hardcore enthusiasts, not least a much bigger array of cars, the thrill of proper hill climb time attacks and the full-on racing with the classics. Honestly, given that they're all expensive events and many will choose one, I'd personally go for the Revival. Even so, I can well see why those with young families might choose otherwise, and Carfest is all the better for being different: it’s great fun, funds a remarkable contribution to charity, and makes cars exciting, even for those who might not already be as enthused by them as we are. Sure, the celebrity endorsement can get a bit much. Other than that, what’s not to like?