The event celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.
The 2018 Goodwood Festival of Speed is just around the corner, taking part this year from the 12-15 July on the grounds of the Goodwood House near West Sussex in England, and celebrating its 25th anniversary. But while it sounds traditional, exciting and while many of the cars performing are the stuff automotive wet dreams are made of, there’s more to the Goodwood FOS than meets the eye. So here are 10 things about the Festival of Speed you likely didn’t know.
That’s right, from 1949 to 1965, a non-championship Formula 1 race was held annually at the Goodwood Circuit. It was actually in this Grand Prix that the legendary Sir Stirling Moss’s career was ended after a rather severe crash in 1962. But the Festival of speed steers clear of the circuit – the reason being that the then Lord March (now Duke of Richmond and Gordon), founder of the Goodwood FOS, didn’t have the required permit to bring racing back to the circuit back in 1993. So instead he set up the hill climb on the grounds of the Goodwood House, and in doing so, birthed the Festival of Speed as we know it.
Being a fan of motorsport and its heritage, Lord March sought to bring the sport back to Goodwood – reviving its illustrious history. The very first edition of the Festival of Speed was the first and last edition to ever clash with top tier motorsport, clashing with the 24 Hours of Le Mans, though still drawing in crowds of around 25 000 people. However, out of respect for the sport, since then the Festival of Speed has been scheduled every year on a weekend that will not clash with any Le Mans or Formula 1 races.
Though the Goodwood Festival of Speed is classified as a hill climb event, from 2005 onwards it has also incorporated a rally stage. For just one year only, the rally stage ran down through the forest and returned along the same route, but from 2006 on participants have raced along a professionally designed track under standard rallying staggered start runs.
When the British International Motor Show was canceled in 2008, Goodwood added the MMS, or Moving Motor Show, to their weekend’s activities. Though it’s not technically part of the Festival of Speed itself, the Moving Motor Show allows visitors to drive new cars up the Goodwood hill climb course.
Though the hill climb record is currently held by a Formula 1 car (the McLaren MP4/13 with Nick Heidfeld), for safety reasons, Formula 1 cars are no longer allowed to participate in timed runs. They do still partake though, usually as exhibition runs for entertainment more than outright speed. Motorbikes are no longer timed for a more grim reason though – as at the inaugural FOS, Chas Guy was killed during practice when his Vincent motorcycle developed a steering wobble, throwing Guy into a tree and killing him.
Since 1997, sculptor Gerry Judah has designed a central display annually to honor automotive manufacturers, often celebrating anniversaries and special achievements through his huge artworks. However, 2017 marked the first time ever that the central display honored a person and not a manufacturer. The 2017 display honored Bernie Ecclestone and his contribution towards making Formula 1 what it is. It’s a fitting tribute given the historical relevance of Goodwood and Formula 1.
Nick Heidfeld’s record run in a McLaren F1 car is the only run to ever average more than 100 mph. The closest to the mark was 2003 winner, Graeme Wight Jr. in his Gould GR51, who raced up the 1.16 mile hill climb in 42.9 seconds, averaging 97.34 mph in the process.
When annual exhibition events such as the Isle of Man TT or the Pikes Peak Hill Climb come around, there’s always a high risk of a fatal crash. The Goodwood FOS has a relatively impressive safety record in this regard, with only two fatal incidents ever recorded. The first was the aforementioned biker, and the second was in the year 2000 when John Dawson-Damer lost control of his Lotus 63 and crashed into the finish gantry, killing him and one of the race marshals.
From inception until 2015, one man, Peter Hearsey, was responsible for the design of every event poster. The only reason Hearsey stopped was due to retirement.
Since 2000, the Goodwood Festival of Speed has been home to an annual supercar run up the course. The event is open to privateers and manufacturers alike, with the option for timed runs available. It has become common practice for manufacturers to get heavily involved, often giving the public their first look at the capabilities of their latest supercars, and sometimes even those of limited run models, one-off models (Ferrari has a knack for this), and even working concept cars.
The Duke of Richmond and Gordon has successfully brought motorsport back to the grounds of Goodwood House – ensuring the rich heritage of the property continues to live on. But although he initially was unable to bring racing back to the Goodwood Circuit, the famous track now once again hosts motorsport in the form of the Festival of Speed’s sister event, the Goodwood Revival. The Revival gives the public the chance to witness period correct classic racecars racing on the circuit where many of them enjoyed success decades ago.
The Duke's dedication to the sport in a world where racing legally is becoming rarer by the minute is a breath of fresh air, and the spectacle he’s created is truly a one of a kind setup. When it comes to bucket list items for enthusiasts, the Goodwood Festival of Speed is an absolute must.