The car that has turned the world of Formula One on its head will be the star attraction at this year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed — complete with its driver, Jenson Button. Brawn GP’s BGP001 may not be emblazoned with sponsors’ logos, but its distinctive fluorescent paint-job will mark it out. But don’t expect it to be the car Button will power up the tarmac driveway that doubles as a racetrack for the weekend.
The event, which kicks off in just over a month’s time, has played host to many great cars in the past, but bagging the machine that is leading the F1 championship — especially one as revolutionary as the Brawn — is a bit of a coup for the organisers. And Button, who has had a dream start to the championship — winning five out of six races so far — will no doubt be afforded a hero’s welcome by the crowd that lines the 1.16-mile route.
For the uninitiated, the Festival of Speed takes place in the grounds of Goodwood estate, West Sussex, and is billed as the biggest celebration of motoring in Britain. It sees hundreds of exotic cars, from classic 1950s racers to modern-day monsters such as the Bugatti Veyron, take turns to race up Goodwood hill against the clock. The spectacle gives visitors the chance to catch a rare glimpse of some of the most famous machines in racing.
Since its inaugural year in 1993, the festival has run to a theme, and this year’s, True Grit — Epic Feats of Endurance, will speak especially clearly to the other F1 star who will be in action: Lewis Hamilton. Britain’s reigning F1 world champion has had a torrid start to the season, and perhaps pointedly, he won’t be driving his current F1 car, but will instead be at the wheel of Ayrton Senna’s 1988 McLaren MP4/4 turbo.
Hamilton maintains that Senna, whose brilliant F1 career was tragically cut short when he was killed in a crash at the San Marino Grand Prix in 1994, was his inspiration. “I’ve always felt I had a connection with him, that we’re somehow similar,” Hamilton said last year. “He was always looking for perfection and, yeah, he was a warrior — and that was what I loved about him.”
For a trip down F1’s memory lane, great names from years gone by will be driving classic machinery up the hill. Richard Attwood, winner of the 1970 Le Mans 24-hour endurance race, and factory driver for F1 teams such as BRM, Cooper and Lotus, is expected to drive a Porsche 917 — the fastest car ever to lap Le Mans. For motorcyclists, there will be appearances from Mick Doohan and Troy Corser, respectively five-time 500cc world champion and two-time superbike world champion.
Away from the hillclimb, rally stars will be putting some historic and current machines through their paces on a specially constructed “rally stage” in the woods around Goodwood estate. Sébastien Loeb, the reigning and five-time world rally champion is expected to be driving his Citroën C4 rally car; Hannu Mikkola, the 1983 champion, will be driving an Audi quattro; and Bjorn Waldegaard, the 1979 champion, will pilot a rare Lancia Stratos.
There will also be the chance to see Rauno Aaltonen, who won the RAC Rally in 1965 and Monte Carlo in 1967, driving a 1960s Mini Cooper S.
The festival’s global appeal isn’t exclusive to motor sport drivers and riders. Peter Fonda, the Hollywood actor, will be making a guest appearance. He plans to breeze up the hill on a replica of the chopper he rode in Easy Rider.
Watch out also for an ear-shattering display from the RAF’s Typhoon display team on the Sunday — a rare chance to see the much-maligned Eurofighter in action. The festival will also be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Mini — complete with Swinging Sixties-style models draped over the various incarnations of Britain’s much-loved car.
Most importantly, don’t forget the Sunday Times Supercar Paddock, where visitors can get up close to rare road-going supercars before they tackle the hill climb. And by close, we mean touch-and-feel close; car spotters can reach out and touch the machinery, shake hands with the drivers and leave feeling very satisfied.
Dates and tickets
When July 3-5
Prices Adults and teenagers, single day tickets from £33; children aged 12 and under go free; weekend tickets from £103
Booking Tickets only sold in advance. By phone: 01243 755 055 or www.goodwood.co.uk.