Running The HillA Pinch Of Goodwood GloryThe Goodwood Festival of Speed has become one of the favorite events on the motorsport calendar. Everything from modern Formula One cars to Le Mans winners from decades past, World Rally machines, and Grand Prix cars going back to the turn of the last century attack the 1.16-mile hillclimb course in the hands of the world's best drivers. And me.
You see, alongside Stirling Moss, Jenson Button, Niki Lauda, Jochen Mass, Jean Ragnotti, Peter Brock, Fernando Alonso and John Surtees, I'd sneaked in to the supercar class behind the wheel of the Ascari KZ1. I even got to sign an autograph on my way into the swanky drivers' enclosure, a moment that will live far longer in my memory than that of the poor, defrauded young boy.
Most of the runs up the hill are untimed and merely an opportunity for the world's best to let it all hang out in the most famous racing and rally cars of all time. These included the Porsche 917 Le Mans winner, a selection of the current F1 grid, Audi's legendary Quattro rally and Pike's Peak winners, 1930s Bugatti Grand Prix cars, and stars on the American racing scene, too. The whole approach is to show the cars off in spectacular on-track action then let the crowds get close enough to see up close, touch and smell these spectacular machines.
Goodwood's huge crowds have drawn the manufacturers like moths to a flame, and the supercar class is now a huge marketing machine. Maserati bought its new Pininfarina Birdcage, which incidentally bump-started its way up the hill in a near embarrassing display on the first day; Mercedes bought the F1 Safety Car, the CLK DTM AMG and SLR; and Ferrari's Super America and F430 Spider also took the hill.
At the time, my car was the only one in existence. It's Ascari company boss Klaas Zwart's personal transport and demonstrator, so it's fair to say I was told to treat it with the love and respect I would afford my firstborn. With the responsibility for this unique, carbon-bodied vehicle in my hands and 500 bhp under my right foot, it was bound to be intense.
Sitting on the line under the gantry, though, watching the delicious Alfa Brera disappear into the first right-hander, the red mist that goes with any major track drive descended and my grip on the wheel tightened. I heaped on the revs, waited for the signal from the track marshal, sidestepped the clutch and squirmed down the road through a cloud of burning Pirelli P Zero.
The car was already heading past the 100 mph mark as I lifted for the first bend. A stab on the brake and I dived round the bend lined with those famous straw bales-and crowds of people. The hill opens up on the straightest part of the course, an uphill blast past Goodwood House that only required third gear on the KZ1, but it was deep into triple figures on a narrow piece of road that swung to the left and towards Molecomb-a treacherous, haybale-lined corner that claimed several victims that same day.
And it was finished as a real run. The Ascari was so devastatingly quick that I easily caught the Brera. Overtaking is forbidden and I could only kick back and soak up the atmosphere of Flint Wall, the quintessential Goodwood photo-op as cars pass at outrageous speeds through a tight chicane right next to the tall dry-stone wall.
The run was over in slightly more than one minute-for which I'd travelled hundreds of miles-but it will remain right up there with the best minutes of my career. I've done demo runs and even raced before, but never in front of a crowd like this, and never in the wheeltracks of legends.-Nick Hall