It's the most unlikely racetrack. In fact, it's not even a racetrack. It's a 1.16-mile driveway on the grounds of a stately home in the south of England, owned by the Earl of March.
But it's not just the setting for the annual Goodwood Festival of Speed that makes it unique. This quirky stretch of uphill tarmac, bordered by distinctly non-crash-friendly beech trees and, at one point, an 8-ft-high stone wall, has the ability to attract the biggest names in the history of motor racing year after year.
Bathed in glorious summer sunshine, visitors to the 2002 event were treated to driving displays from such enduring track heroes as Stirling Moss, Jackie Stewart, John Surtees, Derek Bell, Jackie Ickx, Jack Brabham, Phil Hill, Hannu Mikkola and Emerson Fittipaldi, as well as young pretenders Ralf Schumacher, Jenson Button and Alan McNish, taking time out between the French and British Grands Prix.
The featured attraction for 2002 was dragsters-not something usually associated with the English aristocracy! Lacking the prerequisite straight track with which to show off their stupendous acceleration, the GM-powered Chevys resorted instead to crowd-pleasing (and crowd-intoxicating) burnouts. Not to be upstaged, the young Formula One types opted for the same approach, stopping several times in one run up the hill to lay rubber on the track. Darren Turner, in last year's McLaren Mercedes, surely won the environmental activists' prize for the most extensive release of rubber-based compound into the atmosphere.
One of the most appealing things about Goodwood is its accessibility. The F1 circus has long since made it impossible for motor racing fans to get in among the hardware. But at Goodwood you can wander freely through the paddocks, watching the race teams prep their pride and joys.
As Class 4-75 years of the Mille Miglia-made their way from the Cathedral Paddock to the start line, I gawped at the fantastic array of '50s Ferraris as they growled past, a 166 Barchetta from 1950, a '51 340 America, a '53 375MM Berlinetta. The air filled with the most fantastic orchestra of classical internal combustion as well as the heady perfume of fuel and carbon monoxide. In the background Stirling Moss hovered around his Jaguar XK120 alloy-bodied roadster, while Audi engineers tinkered with the screaming powerplant of the Audi Quattro S1 Pikes Peak to be driven later by Harald Demuth.
Earlier in the day, we witnessed Demuth lending his helmet to Audi colleague and three-times Le Mans winner Frank Biela. With the 16 cylinders of the 1939 Auto Union Type C already running, the "late" Herr Biela had to change into his overalls, while standing on a towel, at the start line.
Most of the drivers aren't there to get fastest time of the day; they want to have fun and to please the crowds. Many, such as Jean Ragnotti in a 1973 Alpine Renault A110, tempt sideways slides at the first bend, before wheelspinning up the hill to rapturous applause from the stands.
More than 200 classic racers, and some 50 or so world-class racing drivers, not to mention 138,000 visitors. I've got to hand it to you Lord March, there's not many who could get that lot into their front garden.
Water wagens 2002The second annual Waterwagens show reminded me why, when you live in the Northwest, if you wait for it to stop raining, you'll never do anything. In spite of on-and-off torrential downpours, the show held August 4 on the campus of St. Martin's College in Olympia, Washington, was a great success, building on the enthusiasm it generated in 2001. The rain may have actually helped vendors, as their tents filled with captive audiences whenever the faucets turned on. Neuspeed's Greg Woo, who tracks show results by weather, told european car that catalogs disappeared at the same rate as a dry show. Enthusiasts who came for the cars weren't discouraged much, either. The first big pour chased away a few of the weaker constitutions, but from then on, every time the sun came out, so did the chamois.