Goodwood Festival of Speed 2012 – A Festival of Stopped

I attended the Goodwood Festival of Speed on Saturday, sadly before I can talk about the sights and sounds of a good afternoon I have to first go into the reasons why it was just an afternoon, and why it was only ‘good’ and not the usual ‘amazing’. The morning was an unmitigated disaster and it needs to be addressed.


Never have I been stuck in a traffic jam as long-lasting as this one, at Goodwood or anywhere else. This was on a par with all those stories you used to hear from the British GP. Okay so there was that time on the M25, but I got off that pretty quickly..

I left the house at about 8.45am. Not especially early but not too late since Chichester is 1hr 45min from here, and the Festival is open until 7pm anyway. I had planned to get away between 8 and 8.15 but I’d stayed up way too late.. no matter, I’d be in the gate by 11am anyway and I’d still get a solid 8 hours on site. Right? Er, wrong.

Having attended every year since 2009 as well as two earlier events I knew the routine: Arrive at Chichester somewhere between 10.15 and 10.45am, sit in traffic for half an hour before parking up and hustling the long walk to the gate overtaking dawdlers ambling along. This is what I’d prepared for.

What I had not prepared for was a wait of two and a half hours before reaching the car park. An extra two hours above the norm. The event was a sellout that day – okay fine, I could’ve put up with maybe an hour for that. I just can’t understand why it took so much longer.

I realised at best I was covering a mile every ten minutes, sometimes it took much longer. I’m stubborn enough that for £55 I’m damned well going to try to get there but I was close to giving up – after all the race cars do two runs per day on the hill and I had already missed the entire first run. It was disappointing but not surprising to learn of others who did decide to turn back.

I have no idea if there were other problems on the local roads, perhaps there were accidents and road closures for which you couldn’t blame the Festival. However I only saw one minor closure and no accidents or blockages. It leads me to strongly believe it was down to the event management.

Perhaps there was a problem with the main car park, when I eventually got there  it was closed, so it was either full or something had happened there. I had to spend an extra 10-15 minutes being directed along some lanes to another car park – the saving grace being that the walk to the House was much shorter from this place – maybe if I drive again I’ll take some back roads and go to this car park!

Really though, the lesson is that their traffic management can’t be trusted, get one of the frequent trains to Chichester and make use of the free shuttle bus. Thankfully this is an option at this event, unlike Silverstone for the British GP which I have always avoided partly due to the widely reported horrendous traffic levels. Perhaps the other lesson is to go on the quiet Friday until that becomes as popular.

Calming Down

I eventually got in and met up with friends, saw some great cars and drivers – all the good stuff the Festival has to offer. Tomorrow I’ll follow up with a a post about the afternoon in which I’ll include some photos. It was a bit of a rush to get around the paddocks and still find time to see some cars on the hill. And as I said, it was a sellout – sadly there were so many people you could hardly find a space trackside and you had to elbow your way around to see the static cars.

The traffic and the volume of people spoiled the day for me. I ended up missing the entire first run of cars (including F1) which is stupid if you’re only going for one day. Then when we went trackside the only available place was a quiet little clearing where the bales obscured most of the cars.

Goodwood: please restrict the numbers and sort out your traffic management.

I consoled myself with a tiny little sausage in a soft bread roll which fell apart when you tried to eat it, which cost £5.70. Apparently the words ‘Goodwood’ and ‘Organic’ give you the right to charge an extra £1 each.


12 thoughts on “Goodwood Festival of Speed 2012 – A Festival of Stopped”

  1. Getting there earlier would not have helped. I reached Chichester at 7:45 am and didn’t get parked till 10:15. So still 2 and a half hours.

    On Sunday the same journey took 30 minutes although that did include a detour that took 4 minutes rather than the hour the same section took the day before.

    The local Police could do a lot more than ride around on motorbikes examining the queues. The FOS is a huge event locally so it should not be too much to expect them to manage the traffic flow.


  2. I noticed the Police riding around too, and at one stage a car came squeezing through. I wondered if something really had happened further ahead.. or whether he was cheating. 😉

    Many people said the Sunday was better. Very odd.

    Despite being in a different car park, getting out was the same as it ever is: lots of lines of cars converging on a single exit. I chose to wait 40 minutes for the lines to die down rather than use up my fuel and clutch. I’d brought a snack and had a little hilltop picnic. Once the lines reduced down to three I made a move, it still took over half an hour to get out. I should add, for the first time this year there were RAC ‘Fuel Patrols’ circling the car park.


  3. I have been listening in with interest about the traffic jams and I must admit, I was also wondering why everyone didn’t set off earlier (being the UK and all). However it sounds like from Steven’s experience that this didn’t seem to matter…


  4. It depends what time you set off. My journey started in Yorkshire, 240ish miles away. I set off at 3:20 in the morning, got parked up before 7:40. Experienced a small amount of traffic parking up, but it probably lasted about 5 or 10 mins. Looks like you need to arrive on the Saturday around 7ish if you don’t want the traffic. Which is a long day, but was worth it for me.
    I avoided. the sausage in a bun. It didn’t look that appetising. The chips I had were ok, but not great.
    They have sent me an email asking for feedback on FOS. Hopefully they ask about the traffic.


  5. I was also wondering why everyone didn’t set off earlier

    how early do you need to get up, to stand in a field looking at a bunch of cars?

    I set off at 3:20 in the morning



  6. I must admit, I was also wondering why everyone didn’t set off earlier (being the UK and all).

    As I said above and I think also in the Sidepodcast thread, I’ve been to the Festival in 5 other years for a total of 6 days, and on 5 of those 6 days it has taken no longer than 40 minutes to get in, the last time it took longer was 10 years ago! If the event had a long history of being a nightmare to get into I’d understand it, but it doesn’t.
    The only reason I’d leave the house at 5am is if I had to catch a plane. I guarantee I wouldn’t enjoy the day in that state.


  7. Something came up and I was unable to attend on Saturday as planned. Initially, I was disappointed but it appears A lot of frustration was avoided.

    It does seem to have become a victim of it’s own success. F1 & Motorsport are high in the British public’s mind and Goodwood,seemingly, are milking it for all it’s worth. I’ll seriously need some assurances that things will be different for next year, if I’m to consider my first attendance.


  8. I took the train/bus option on Friday and Saturday, and it really is a breeze.
    I THINK the problem on Saturday was related to the overnight rain in the area……..that some carparks were just too muddy to be fully used. They even had to cancel the shuttle tractors to the rally stage because they’d dug 2 foot deep furrows. The rally stage (from what I heard over the commentary and later watched on youtube) was apparently the slippiest surface in world history after the rain, with people used to racing on snow, commenting on how scary it was.
    If you want a good look round the paddocks…..the only solution is to get there at the crack of dawn and get a good look before the scrum begins.

    I caught the fever REALLY badly. My great plan in life was Goodwood last year and Le Mans this year…….after last year, all I want to do is go back to Goodwood. I’ve been saving every penny, and am going for the “plush” option this year……..still train and bus……but going Fri, Sat AND Sun, and have forked out for grandstand access (I’m not too well, last year standing on the banking left me tired and sore).
    I really, REALLY can’t wait. It’s a long way from standing about Kirkistown watching Formula Vee 😉

    Good luck in 2013…….I expect to see you on the bus at Stupid O’Clock!


  9. It does make sense if the car parks were waterlogged or too muddy. I bet the water table was very high. Still I’m surprised about the rally stage and tractors, though!
    I’m sure it’ll all be back to normal for the next one but I’m still likely to get the train I think. I might even be less tired when I get home if I only have to drive from the station at this end.
    You’re right, the Festival is infectious. Every year I wonder whether to go, now I’ve been 6 or 7 times so I’ve seen many of the cars before, yet every time I go I come away saying it is the best event of the year!
    I’m sure I’ll be there at least one of the days if not two. I can’t make all three.


  10. I was rather miffed about the tractors. I hit the Cathedral paddock at about 830am on Sat and worked my way past the house up through the F1 paddock, with the plan of getting to the rally stage, watching for a while, then making my way down the hill…… could see the trenches the tractors had already dug and there was a sign saying they’d been stopped……I noticed from the banking above Molecombe that they were running again around 2pm.

    I was staying in Petersfield, and the rain was only showers through the night there, but apparently it was really bad round Goodwood and it was absolutely tipping down while I was on the train at 7am-ish..
    As for the rally stage, there are a couple of videos on youtube of really embarrassingly slow (though very entertaining) cars on Saturday…….the issue appeared to be that because of the chalky soil, there was a kind of chalk slurry on top of pretty solid earth and it may as well have been oil.


  11. PS: For those that don’t know………..the buses take a no-public-access route and only meet the traffic queues to cross them.


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