I spent two days at this year’s Festival of Speed and it was fantastic, this was my 5th visit but the first time I’d attended two days of the meeting (Friday and Saturday). The extra driving, the red arms and face, and the still-aching feet from two days of almost non-stop walking, they were all very much worth it.
It is strange how perceptions change over time. I was always more into the cars and even at Goodwood always thought the drivers were far-off and hidden away. Not this year. I don’t know if it is because the drivers now emerge in the paddock from a new entrance, or if it was because I’ve seen some of the cars a few times now, or if it was because I was with people who have always been more driver-focussed. This year the personalities seemed a lot more interesting to me.
It was of course excellent to hear Formula 1 engines once more, both modern and historic. McLaren, Ferrari, Red Bull, Renault, Lotus, Mercedes brought recent machinery to the event and ran them on the hill, whilst Williams had a static car. There were also classic cars from Ferrari, McLaren, Williams, Lotus and many more.
It was Vitaly Petrov’s first time at the Festival and he seemed to really get into the spirit of it, doing burnouts on the hill and being friendly with fans as he walked through the paddock. Mark Webber was doing a good job too on Friday, happily posing for photos and signing away.
I also love seeing the big smiles writ large across the faces of the legends of the sport.
Réne Arnoux in the Renault RS01 of 1977
I was pleased to see the Audi R18 sweeping silently by, driven by 2011 Le Mans winner Andre Lotterer. There was also an R15 making runs on the hill with Marco Werner at the wheel. Peugeot sent their 905 but not a 908 in the paddocks, though there was a hybrid in the manufacturer strutures in the ‘infield’. Several classic sportscars were also present including Alfa Romeos – with Arturo Merzario – Jaguars, even a couple of Chaparrals.
There was also representation from WRC, IRC, BTCC and a variety of motorcycles. Ken Block was fantastic on the hill! Kris Meeke and Guy Wilks put on a show with sideways action, Block took it even further with lurid slides and donuts!
A big attraction for me this year was the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Indy 500. I’m as much a fan of Indy racing as I am of F1, so to see so many drivers and cars make the effort to come over was very special. What people don’t appreciate is that most of these people don’t ever make public appearances in the UK, even the British drivers, and only a handful of cars only usually make the trip. Johnny Rutherford being the notable exception, he’s been attending Festivals since 1999.
I believe this was the first time a contemporary IndyCar of any flavour (CART, IRL, current) has run at the Festival since it began – and maybe even the first in the country since the CART/ChampCar visits of 2001-2003 – so for me this was very exciting. But not half as exciting as seeing actual current IZOD IndyCar Series drivers come over here to drive them!
“I love it here. Invite me back!”
– Johnny Rutherford, 3-time Indy 500 winner
Goodwood regular Johnny Rutherford was joined by fellow legends Bobby Unser, Al Unser Jr, Parnelli Jones, Dan Sullivan, Bobby Rahal, Kenny Brack and Gil de Ferran, as well as current drivers Dario Franchitti, Scott Dixon, Helio Castroneves and Dan Wheldon – no current drivers are usually present as Goodwood frequently falls on a race weekend, but not this year (with due apologies to Watkins Glen). F1 and Indy legend Emerson Fittipaldi was present in his Indycar capacity to drive a Penske.
Dario Franchitti was a legend with the fans, as he is famous for being. My friend Kai isa big fan and after missing him Friday, made a vow to track him down on Saturday. We made a plan to watch the IndyCars return to the main paddock (though we didn’t think he was driving one), and right on cue a Lotus pulled up.. we tried to identify the driver.. and it was Dario! He’d stalled it waiting for marshals to signal him to move on, then got out and pushed the car. Here is the moment Kai runs off to chase him (she’s the one saying “I’m going”).
And.. here’s the result:
Not only that but when asked for a photo he said ‘one minute’ and turned away to consult his aide, who was trying to tell him where he had to be next. He went and had a photo with someone else and we thought he was gone.. next thing there’s a tap on Kai’s shoulder and it is Dario asking “did you want a photo?”. Well.. duh! Didn’t have to do it but still made our day.
On Friday I spotted Helio Castroneves in the crowd and he stopped for a photo with Kai. On Saturday she returned the favour, spotting Helio a mile away and running after him, I gave chase and I got my own photo with an Indy 500 winner!
How cool is that?!
So that was that, I thoroughly recommend attending the Festival of Speed especially with like-minded souls, the more pairs of eyes the better for spotting people or splitting into groups to track them down! It is all about being sure to be in the right place at the right time.
Do check out my photo galleries for more, there are some interesting nuggets in there even if I’m not a great photographer and I only have a budget point-and-shoot camera. There are videos in the galleries but as they aren’t easy to distinguish you may prefer to look at them on YouTube.
I’ll leave you with these videos. A lot of TV coverage of the Festival is professionally made and as a result is very well-polished, so much so that I always feel it doesn’t get across what it is ACTUALLY LIKE to walk around in the paddock. Well.. it is like this. Enjoy.
You just don’t know where to turn next. Famous person there, famous car there, engine suddenly bursts into life in front of you.. Why yes.. that is Adrian Newey about to get into a March Indycar he designed in the 80s… And Bobby Rahal about to get into a 1931 diesel car.. And Dan Wheldon hanging around the Target Chip Ganassi car which genuinely is the one scheduled to be raced by Scott Dixon at Edmonton in a few weeks.
Any complaints? Too many people on Saturday, it felt uncomfortably overcapacity in places. Track commentary needed to stop talking about cars waiting at the start and tell us what was in front of us. It was very hot at times, I didn’t drink enough fluids and didn’t realise how much it took it out of me until Sunday when I was at home resting! And my feet are killing me still despite wearing walking shoes!
Was it worth it? Oh yes. Absolutely. If you’ve never been, you need to go. Add it to your bucket list. Kai is from the US and had never been to an F1 race or an IndyCar race I think, yet here there were stars and cars from both.