Those who know me know of my obsession with motorsport and my love for Glastonbury. In 2016 for one reason and another it has not been possible for my family and I to head to Worthy Farm, so for the first time in a long time I found myself free over the last weekend in June. That was until I saw an email come through with the subject line: Invitation to the Goodwood Festival of Speed!
I was invited to Goodwood by my friends at Shell & BMW. Shell are the fuels and lubricants partner of the festival, BMW this year take centre stage (quite literally! As you will see in the above image of the huge sculpture presented by BMW featuring iconic cars through the ages of the brand) at the festival, celebrating their 100th year of operation.
To do the event justice I would say you say need to give yourself at least two days, there really is something for everyone. I would break down the Festival of Speed in the same way I think of Glastonbury. The Hillclimb which runs through the centre of the grounds is like the Pyramid stage, the key feature, a must see element of the day will run up the hill and you could easily spend a day solely focus on the hill climb and go home satisfied. Adjacent to the hill climb are the manufacturers stands, similar to those you might expect to see at an indoor motor show but turned up to 11. Each stand is trying to out do the other, and the only real winners are the fans. Honda turned up this year with a life size recreation of the iconic Fisher Price garage that many of us born in the 70s, 80s or 90s may have played with us as children. Heading away from here you begin to unearth some of the other manufacturers at the event, supercars you thought you had discovered that it turns out everyone is excited to see, then stumbling on a gem like the FIA stand where you could see, touch and experience the 2017 F1 designed halo system. Everyone involved with the automotive industry it seems, has a presence of some sort at the festival.
Heading over to the other opposite side of the festival you have the excellent collection of classic BMW’s through the ages, and Goodwood house itself. Spending time here felt as exclusive as the moment you stumble upon the Eavis family farm whilst touring the Glastonbury site. Getting to the nitty gritty of the festival you see the temporary garages of every car taking part in the Hillclimb, every car you can imagine is represented, it’s almost too much to take in. Short of time I made my way to the Toyota LMP1 area, to give homage to the rightful winner of the 2016 running of the Le Mans 24hr, and check out some of the iconic touring cars of my childhood. With more than 140,000 in attendance over 3 days one thing the festival is not, is quiet. The crowds can be substantial but never overbearing, you find yourself with groups of like minded people respectful of the environment they are in and the machinery they are bearing witness to. There must be 100’s of millions of pounds’ worth of cars on display over the weekend, and yet rarely do you find an owner unwilling to let you get up close and personal with the car of your dreams. There is a sense of openness and sharing to the event; a true appreciation of motorsports.
Returning to my hosts, to celebrate the Shell BMW partnership and 100 years of BMW we were tasked to complete a set number of challenges within 100 minutes. Progress against these challenges was to be reported on Twitter. The challenges included speaking to Shell technicians around the virtues of using Shell V-Power Nitro+, something which despite my initial reservations a number of months I fully subscribed too, not only in terms of performance improvement, but in vehicle maintenance. Checking out the Shell Eco-marathon cars, challenging yourself to drive in the most efficient way possible, which at Festival of Speed did feel a little counter intuitive, engage my followers on Twitter in competitions to win Shell V-Power vouchers, through questions on BMW’s successes in Motorsport, I should say at this point; congratulations to those submitting correct answers to the challenges, I’ll be in touch soon to arrange your prizes! Finally heading over to the BMW stands (of which there were at least five!) to reward a random member of public with a £30 Shell V-Power fuel voucher and a very cool BMW cap.
Following the challenges, our attentions were turned to a somewhat exclusive experience. Under the mindful eye of driver instructors from Palmer Motorsport, we were given the opportunity to try out the very latest BMW M models and be taken for a lap around the Goodwood circuit with Eric van de Poele. I took the opportunity to try out the BMW i8 and M4. The i8 is a car I have adored since concept, but until today never even sat in. The experience did not disappoint; the car is nothing short of spectacular. The acceleration is incredible and vehicle dynamics similar to those I have experienced in other performance cars. Stepping into the M4 was something else entirely, having turned a few laps in the i8 my confidence possibly exceeding skill I set off on my first lap. A BMW driver myself, the car felt instantly familiar. I felt I could push much harder than in the i8. Attempting the Ford Water corner flat out on my first lap was in retrospect a little too ambitious though, with the instructor calmly informing me on the cool down lap the only thing saving us from a rather expensive moment was the active traction control. The car is nothing short of a beast.
As if all this hadn’t been enough, we were then taken back to the festival to interview an idol of mine, Alex Zanardi, if you’ve read my review of No Limits you’ll know what a big deal this was for me! The interview taught me a few things, the first of which being I desperately need to go on a media training course! Zanardi plans to return to the Paralympics in Rio this year, taking part in 3 separate events, determined to secure Gold in each. His motorsport ambition too, remains undiminished. He plans to head back to the Spa 24hr in 2017 regarding the race very much as unfinished business.
So what makes Goodwood the Glastonbury of Motorsport? Is it the; mud? 😉 the sheer magnitude of things to see, do, touch, and feel? The atmosphere? Or the people? The answer is simple. Its all of it! I’m not sure what I expected from the Festival but I know I will be back!
You can see highlights from the 2016 Goodwood Festival of Speed here.