Now in its 23rd year, the Goodwood Festival of Speed 2015 (FoS) has grown exponentially over the years, and is now held over four days compared with just one day back in 1993. In late June each year, Lord March opens the grounds of the Goodwood Estate to the multitude of motoring enthusiasts and associated family members, who duly trample his front lawn into submission, creating a dustbowl or a quagmire, depending on the weather.
A fully international event, the FoS offers what no other motoring event can, a selection of both road and racing cars, and motor bikes from around the world in a location one would normally only find on a chocolate box. Speaking to owners, drivers and the public, the overwhelming response is that the quality, variety and depth of the cars on show is fantastic.
As a journalist, the event has always offered a number of very good reasons for me to attend, as apart from the juiciest race cars from across the decades to photograph, there are many racing greats to interview. Of course the drivers are constantly being called for their next ride up the hill, so interviews are short and to the point, but this is a valuable opportunity to get the inside story from the driver’s seat. And then just as you think, ‘Yes!’ I have got my long awaited interview with a certain driver, a Tornado fighter jet decides to do its fly-over and aerobatics and all you can hear on your tape recorder is noise!
But let’s face it, the FoS is all about entertaining the spectators, and so attention turns to the hill climb. The route is quite simple, start at point A at the bottom of the hill, and drive as quickly as you can to point B at the top of the hill, without hitting anything. Run to a tight schedule, the activities on the Saturday are roughly repeated again on the Sunday, but with some variation due to the odd hiccup in proceedings or the inevitable contretemps with some rather sturdy hay bales. Saturday’s events saw no less than five altercations with the hay bales, most of which occurred on the outside of Molecomb Corner where the camber dips away catching out many drivers who go straight on into the hay.
There is so much else to see at the Goodwood Festival of Speed 2015, but top of my agenda was to get to see the dazzling line-up of Porsches from a wide spectrum of eras. From the 1965 Porsche 904/8 Bergspyder (driven by Emanuele Pirro) which was built to compete in the European Hill Climb Championships, to the brand new 991 GT3 RS, there were no less than 23 Porsches in many different classes at Goodwood.
Possibly the highest number of Porsches were fielded in the Derek Bell Celebration class, which included cars that Derek had driven from the Stuttgart manufacturer. These included the 4.5-litre Gulf 917K, the 908/3 ‘Flunder’ which he competed in at the Nurburgring in 1971, the 936/81 in which he won the Le Mans 24-Hour with Jacky Ickx in 1981, the legendary #2 Rothmans 956 which gave Derek his third Le Mans title, and the Kremer-Porsche K8 Spyder in which he finished sixth at Le Mans in 1994.
In the Sports Racers’ class, for cars built between 1968-1981, we were treated to another 917K which was driven to victory by Helmut Marko and Gijs van Lennop in the 1971 Le Mans 24-Hours setting a distance record that stood for 39 years. The awesomely powerful Sunoco 917/30 with which Mark Donohue dominated the Can-Am series in America, and the evergreen 935 driven at the Goodwood Festival of Speed 2015 by the equally evergreen Brian Redman. In period this car finished second in the 1979 Le Mans in the hands of Paul Newman/Dick Barbour/Rolf Stommelen, and also scored wins at Daytona in ’81 and Sebring in ’83.
The Porsche 962 of Jochen Mass/Jacky Ickx has a significant race history, while the Porsche factory brought its victorious 919 Hybrid complete with all of its Le Mans-winning grime from two weeks back. Making a rare and memorable appearance was the 911 GT1 Evo from 1997, and the highly successful 997 GT3 RSR NR (driven by Olaf Manthey), the 2007 Nurburgring 24-Hour race winner. Participating in the Michelin Supercar parade, were the 2015 versions of the much-anticipated 911 GT3 RS, 918 Spyder, and the Cayman GT4.
Most of Saturday was spent photographing cars both on the track and in the paddock, and so at around 19h30 it was time to head back to my Snoozebox hotel room to rest my weary bones. The forecast for Sunday looked to be wet, but we were greeted with blue skies first thing, and so an early start was planned to shoot the delicious bodies in the Cartier Style et Luxe, before the crowds arrived. My first interview was set for 11h00 with Brian Redman, and so I made my way back to the media centre via the paddock where I bumped into the team manager from the Porsche GTE works team. What a win for me, as neither of us were under any immediate pressure, an unknown luxury when I have managed to interview him in the past at the WEC races at Silverstone or Le Mans. We had an interesting moment when one enthusiast pushed past us to ogle at the Porsche toolbox – well some guys do find that attractive obviously! Before we knew it, 45 minutes had flown by.
Later in the day I was able to briefly interview both Derek Bell and Olaf Manthey in the paddock, which was super, apart from the inevitable and rather noisy engine revving close by. As with all these major motoring and motor sport events, the time is over before you know it and inevitably you haven’t done everything you wanted to get done, but one just has to be satisfied with what’s in the bag. So with camera gear packed away, I made my way to the trusty wagon, loaded up and set a course for home…six hours away!
Written by: Glen Smale