The annual Goodwood Festival of Speed certainly is a very high-octane English garden party. Although it’s now held over four days, it remains so packed with action and activities that even a week wouldn’t suffice to take in all the sights and sounds. We were on the ground throughout the weekend and here present as many of the highlights as possible. Our focus was mainly at the hillclimb, which featured some spectacular runs and many celebrations, including featured marque Aston Martin, Bentley’s centenary, and 50 years of the all-conquering Porsche 917.
It is a Festival of Speed tradition that one marque is highlighted with a spot on the bespoke statue in front of Goodwood House. This year, Aston Martin starred with an example of the DBR1 that won Le Mans outright 60 years ago. Another reason the fabled British manufacturer was featured: This year marked the 70th anniversary of an Aston first racing at Goodwood.
A fabulous selection of early Bentleys was assembled to celebrate the company’s centenary. These were raced with great verve during the 1920s and early 1930s by the legendary Bentley Boys. The cars and their drivers were as flamboyant as they were successful, scoring five outright Le Mans titles for Bentley during the period. Also on the hill was the Speed 8 that was driven to Bentley’s sixth win at Le Mans, in 2003.
The 1969 running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans was one for the history books thanks to the Gulf-liveried Ford GT40 and its drivers Jacky Oliver and Jackie Ickx, both of whom were in attendance along with the car at Goodwood this year. They won with smallest margin of victory ever despite Ickx protesting the famous Le Mans start by walking to his car and making sure his safety belts were done before leaving the grid, rather than, as was traditional, running to the car and securing his belts on the Mulsanne Straight—or not at all. The Belgian finished the first lap in last position but his point was made, and the Le Mans start was scratched for 1970.
Michael Schumacher 50th Birthday
Earlier this year, seven-time Formula 1 World Champion Michael Schumacher turned 50. Although he wasn’t always very popular in England, this occasion was marked with great style by bringing out many of the iconic cars he raced during his successful career. Schumacher’s wife Corinna and his former Ferrari bosses Jean Todt, Ross Brawn, and Luca di Montezemolo were there, and it was also poignant to see Damon Hill drive his fierce rival’s 1994 Benetton.
Porsche 917 50th Anniversary
The 1969 Le Mans race also saw the debut of the Porsche 917. Although one example led until the 22-hour mark, the relatively poor showing (no 917s finished the race) was in stark contrast in the car’s superb showings that came soon after. Now the most revered of all Porsche of all time, the 917’s 50th anniversary was celebrated in great style. Among the dozen examples present was the very car that won Le Mans for Porsche for the very first time, in 1970. It was reunited with one of its original drivers, Richard Attwood.
It’s safe to say that 1969 season was a banner year for motor racing. During that season, Jackie Stewart also scored the first of his three World Championships. This was marked in great style at Goodwood this year, as not only was Stewart reunited with his 1969 Matra MS80, he was also followed up the hill by his sons Paul and Mark in the 1971 and 1973 Tyrrells he raced to titles.
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Abarth 70th Anniversary
One of the lesser-known anniversaries this year is Abarth’s 70th, but it didn’t pass unnoticed at Goodwood. Five cars were run up the hill and an interesting selection of models was also shown at the Cartier Arts & Elegance Concours d’Elegance. Many of these were the famous Fiat-based machines, but there was also an earlier Abarth 205 that was awarded Best of Show.
One of the big stories of the 27th Goodwood Festival of Speed was the chase for the new record hillclimb time; the previous record was set 20 years ago by Nick Heidfeld in a contemporary McLaren F1 car. The main threat to the 41.6-second barrier was the all-electric, Pikes Peak–winning Volkswagen ID.R driven by Romain Dumas. (The car also recently set a Nürburgring lap record for EVs.) The Frenchman didn’t disappoint, first clocking a 41.16-second run then shattering it with a mind-blowing 39.9-second time the following day.
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