As our manufacturing industry disappears down the throne, inflation rises, credit crunches and our leaders gaze like stunned rabbits into the headlights of approaching recession, there is at least some crumb of comfort that can be derived from knowing there are still some things we do better than anywhere else.
It’s 15 years since Lord March held a small garden party and let a few nice old cars run up his drive, more as a way of passing the time until he could get his beloved Goodwood Motor Circuit reopened, and from that tiny acorn sprang the mighty oak that is the Festival today. The numbers are mind boggling: 150,000 people, over 300 cars and bikes, a course that takes 2000 man hours to prepare, not least because it requires 4000 bales of hay and the laying of over four miles of temporary roadways.
This year as ever there was gathered at Goodwood a collection of cars you could not find at any time in any other country of the road. Grand Prix cars from over a century of racing took turns to clatter, rumble, roar, howl, shriek and scream their way to top of the narrow 1.16 mile course, with everyone from Sir Stirling Moss to Lewis Hamilton taking time to thrill the crowd with their mere presence.
But the most spellbinding sight of the weekend were the efforts of ace classic car racer Justin Law and former BTCC star Anthony Reid to claim the fastest time of the weekend. Law was armed with a Jaguar XJR-8 from 1987, Reid with a 1980 Williams FW07. Law was flawlessly smooth in a car about as suited to a narrow hillclimb course as a race horse to a dog track, while Reid looked over the limit everywhere.
Two contrasting cars, two contrasting driving styles but two fabulous British machines driven by two extraordinary British drivers. Law came out on top, crossing the finishing line on Sunday a scarcely believable 44.19sec after dropping the clutch, with Reid less than 0.4sec behind.
It was a dramatic culmination to a weekend I’d call irrepeatable if I did not know already that, this time next year, it will all happen again.
If you’ve never been, you don’t know what you’re missing.