Speedsters have a rare old time

By Brad Lord

Goodwood celebrates the best of 20 years, writes Brad Lord

Stirling Moss will drive a W196 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR at this year's Festival. Photo / Newspress UK
Stirling Moss will drive a W196 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR at this year's Festival. Photo / Newspress UK

As it has for the past two decades, Goodwood Estate in West Sussex, England, will come alive to the sights, sounds and smells of the "world's largest motoring garden party", when the annual Goodwood Festival of Speed returns this weekend.

More than 185,000 people visited the three-day extravaganza last year and it is expected that number will be topped this year, on the event's platinum anniversary.

The milestone is being celebrated by the 2013 festival's tagline: the "best of the first 20 years". The theme will bring some of the two and four-wheeled racing machines that have competed at the event previously back to Goodwood, where many of them will be driven by past and present motorsport personalities.

The Goodwood name is synonymous with British motor racing. Within the boundaries of the 48,000sq m property lies the Goodwood Circuit - a 3.8km track that originally served as the perimeter road of the Chichester/Goodwood Airport that was built and used by the Royal Air Force during World War II.

After the conflict ended, the land and aerodrome facilities were handed back to Goodwood Estate, and racing began in the late 1940s. The circuit was used regularly for national events throughout the 1950s and into the mid-60s before it closed.

When the idea to bring motorsport back to Goodwood was first floated in the early 90s by the Earl of March, the plan was to use the historic track. Permitting issues prevented that from happening, so instead a hill climb was planned for the 1.86km driveway that winds its way up Goodwood's grounds.

Although the hill climb component remains the mainstay of the event, two decades on, Lord March has grown the Festival of Speed into what is arguably the largest car culture event in the world, and one of two major motorsport events held each year at the venue. The other is the Goodwood Revival, which recreates the Goodwood Circuit's heydays every autumn.

For the Festival of Speed, which runs from July 12- 14, an eclectic mix of machinery will be exhibited and brought to life on the driveway. While not everyone will be out to shatter the fastest time recorded up the hill - 41.6 seconds set by former German F1 driver Nick Heidfeld driving a West McLaren Mercedes MP4/13 in 1999 - it's a facet of the event that many of the invited participants take rather seriously.

In many cases, drivers and riders will be reacquainted with the vehicles which helped define their careers.

For 2013 that includes Formula 1 heroes of yesteryear, including Alain Prost who will be back behind the wheel of his Renault RE40, Jackie Stewart in a Tyrell 006, and Nelson Piquet in a Brabham BT52. Current F1 driver Jenson Button will do double driving duty in McLaren's forthcoming P1 hypercar and a McLaren M8D Can-Am car, while British motor racing royalty Sir Stirling Moss is scheduled to take the controls of a Mercedes-Benz W196 300 SLR.

New Zealand rally great Rod Millen will drive the Toyota Tacoma that took him to two of five wins at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb during the 1990s. Although not being driven by Sebastien Loeb, the Peugeot 208 T16 that shattered the Pikes Peak record earlier this month will also be demonstrated.

The on-course competition is just one part of the event. The estate is also home to a 2.5km forest rally stage where World Rally Championship drivers including Mikko Hirvonen and Andreas Mikkelsen will take to the gravel in their modern-day WRC machines alongside rallying legends Carlos Sainz, Waldegard and Hannu Mikkola.

Along with the Moving Motor Show, where more than 20 manufacturers will showcase their products, and the Cartier Style et Lux, where 50 cars will compete in a Concours d'Elegance on the manicured lawns outside Goodwood House, there's an air show, an action sports arena and - new for 2013 - a special parking area inside the event for 300 spectator-owned supercars.

Live updates from the 2013 Festival of Speed can be found across social media channels via the hashtag #FOS.

- NZ Herald

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