Forget the inevitable rain here in the south of England. Forget about the traffic jam that will delay your arrival for an hour or more. Forget about the rich people flying in and out on helicopters. Forget the long lines for beer, gelato or the toilet.
These are mild inconveniences to be overcome at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, now in its 30th year and staged a few hours south of London in the rolling hills of a vast estate owned by the Duke of Richmond, a short distance from the home of the quintessential British brand Rolls-Royce.
I’ve heard about this event for years, and when I try to explain it to non-car people, they say, “What???” Yes, some 50,000 people gather in this tiny hamlet for four days in a row to watch the likes of four-time Formula 1 champion Sebastian Vettel drive up a long driveway in front of the Duke’s estate in powerful cars that can number as many as 100. years old or maybe just out of the R&D lab.
Ultimate bragging rights go to the driver who completes the hill climb in the shortest time. Some of it is just plain fun, like the dudes leaving the starting line from a ramp and going the distance on two wheels, with the other two in the air.
You come here thinking, “Wow, the duke knows how to throw a party, but he’ll probably leave town when this rabble shows up to sully his lawn.” Or his security detail should guard him closely and keep him out of sight.
And yet you’ll never guess who personally greeted me, along with other journalists who attended the Pirelli tire stand at Goodwood this week, as the whole event kicked off Thursday morning.
Heck yes, Charles Gordon-Lennox, the 11th Duke of Richmond walked into the Pirelli tire pavilion – one of hundreds of occupied space on the trackside property – and kicked off the company’s press conference by the premium Italian tire maker who signed warmly for the first time this year as an official Goodwood tire partner.
And after completing his ceremonial duties – like throwing out the first pitch at Fenway Park – he slipped out to visit another esteemed corporate sponsor, like McLaren or Aston Martin or MG or Bentley – none of them would make this event. miss on your own.
A few minutes after the Duke left the Pirelli stand, the Royal Airforce Aerobatic Team, known as the Red Arrows, hovered overhead – and made a second pass! — to kick off the festivities under fairly clear skies on a thankfully cool day.
The second day started wet, which explained why the Goodwood site is covered in floating aluminum or composite decking – there must be miles of the stuff taking up huge warehouses when not in use – to avoid a muddy mess .
My first day at the Goodwood Festival of Speed was mostly seen through the eyes of our host Pirelli as they launch a new generation of P Zero E tires for battery electric cars. Pirelli organized visits with McLaren, Ford, Pagani, Polestar, Ferrari, Lotus and Rolls-Royce to talk about how these global car manufacturers use their tires.
In addition to the Goodwood business component – an important aspect of sustainable sponsorship dollars – there is something for everyone. You can stand in the Ineos pavilion and look up through a Plexiglas ceiling to see the underside of the rugged Grenadier off-roader, and there’s a small track for the next generation of speedsters to ride on small electric dirt bikes.
Shopping for car curiosities? Whatever you’re looking for – maybe a rusty old Pontiac Motors sign to hang on your garage wall above your Firebird – you’ll find it at Goodwood.
There’s so much going on in Goodwood that you might forget to spend time sitting in the huge grandstands or standing along the hay bales watching cars hurtle up the hill. But onlookers should take note: Yesterday, a high-speed rear tire came off a vintage Jaguar, rolled, bounced high into the air, and then crashed into the crowd, miraculously causing only minor injuries.
But today the cars are back on the road, the noon fireworks display went as planned and the sound of internal combustion engine racing engines roaring reminds visitors why they came.