It doesn’t matter how many times it happens; you always feel very fortunate to be a part of the Supercar Run at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. Very fortunate and – if you’re driving, at any rate – very nervous at the prospect of the damage you might do if it all goes horribly wrong in front of tens of thousands of people. Gulp.
I’m pleased to report, though, that you feel no such nerves or stress sampling the hill from the rich and expansive back seat of a Bentley Flying Spur V8 S. In fact, with someone as skilled as Andrew Unsworth, Bentley’s Head of Chassis Dynamics, at the wheel, I’d say there’s no better way to just drink in the experience.
The Flying Spur V8 S is the latest mid-range version of Bentley’s big-selling limousine. It’s got an extra 20bhp over a regular V8, bigger wheels and grippier tyres. It also has reprogrammed control software for its active air suspension, steering and gearbox, in order to deliver that little bit of extra sporting edge.
It also has every bit as much leg room as the regular Flying Spur, as well as the obligatory air-conditioned massager seats and Naim stereo. These are features that interested me much more than what was under the bonnet on a muggy Goodwood day with plenty of waiting around before our run. The V8 S is also quiet enough that you can grill your driver about his day job as he prepares to chauffeur you up the hill. I did plenty of that, too.
The fantastic cheeriness and bonhomie of Goodwood can pass you by when you’re fixated on getting your priceless vintage exotic to the start line, and then getting it away successfully. People smile and chat. Every single marshal waves with the enthusiasm of an eleven-year-old at a Justin Bieber concert. You get to mix with the great and good of the motorsport and the car industry as you prepare for your run.
And when the poor bloke in the Caterham breaks down on the start line, or stunt man Terry Grant rolls his Jaguar F-Pace at the top of the hill, you can be supremely chilled about it all. It’s not as if your Bentley’s going to ‘DNS’, after all – and there are plenty of spare seats in it in if anyone needs a lift back down.
It was Andrew’s first ever attempt on the course, and I think he did brilliantly. Having shared a car with him around the Nordschleife before, I know he could have gone quicker. Fortunately for my comfort, he agreed with me on the most important priority for any Festival of Speed driver: don’t shunt. That way, you get invited back next year.