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175 thousand people were at the 2011 Goodwood Festival of Speed over the weekend, enjoying the summer sunshine and hundreds of exotic cars and motorbikes – and I was there too!
As a self-confessed petrolhead, I have been going to the festival every year for about the last ten years and it just seems to get better every single year. For 2011, the event was celebrating all things Jaguar, and the annual spectacular sculpture was a giant E-type Jag formed out of huge pipes.
It never fails to be exciting every year as you walk up to the entrance gates and hear the scream of F1 engines, and even the weather was kind; warm but not too hot and the threatened showers didn’t materialise. For the first time, there was even a big wheel!
One thing I have always wanted to do is have a passenger ride up the hill in one of the supercars, and this year I had finally had my once-in-a-lifetime chance – in a stunning Ferrari California. The whole experience was exhilarating, including waiting at the bottom of the hill and seeing Formula One star Jenson Button wandering around feet away, signing autographs. He was also at the front of our supercar run, driving a McLaren MP4-12C.
It was almost surreal, being at the centre of around 40 supercars including the Ferrari 458, California and FF, a Maserati GranTurismo Stradale, a Hennessey Venom GT, the Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Supersport, a Lamborghini Aventador and the Covini C6W (a really weird-looking car with double front wheels).
The estimated worth was somewhere in the region of 30 million pounds!
The moment my Ferrari driver floored it in the California at the bottom of the hillclimb was one of the most exciting things I’ve ever experienced! We swung round the corner onto the straight which goes under the bridge and I was faced with the incredible sight of thousands of people lined up each side of the track.
We hurtled up the hill with the roar of a 4.3 litre V8 engine in my ears. The California can go from 0-62mph in under 4 seconds and I certainly felt it!
Sadly the ride was over too soon, but it was something I’ll never forget.
From the top of the hill I walked across to the forest rally stage, an area of the Festival of the Speed which every motorsport fan should see. It’s absolutely packed with legendary rally cars, and every year there’s a chance to watch them in action close up around the 1.67 mile track. This year was celebrating Group B rally cars, and there were plenty of them from marques including MG, Audi, Peugeot and Lancia.
The area is sponsored by Skoda, who invited me to experience a lap around the rally stage in their Fabia Super 2000 – driven by defending Intercontinental Rally Challenge champion Juho Hänninen. This was not a chance to pass up! I had to sign up for a special driving licence to be allowed in the car as a passenger, and of course needed a race suit and helmet.
It’s something else to see up close the skill of a professional rally driver. Despite the acceleration, sharp corners and bumps, I felt safe all the way round the course, and could only marvel at how he got the car sideways around pot-holed hairpin bends at hair-raising speeds. Juho is an absolutely fantastic driver, and it does make you realise what cars are actually capable of doing.
The Festival of Speed never ceases to be a wonderful experience, but for me this year surpassed them all.
Many thanks to both Ferrari and Skoda for an amazing day.