2016 marked my 4th visit to the Goodwood Festival of Speed, and after what has been an amazing weekend at the event, I thought I would share my experiences from this latest visit.
Previously I had only watched the event on TV, but seeing how much there was to see and do, I made my first visit to Goodwood in 2012 and was absolutely blown away by the scale. I skipped 2013, but have been back for all four days for the last 3 years in a row, with each year seeming to top the previous one.
I didn’t think my 2016 Festival of Speed would start out a good one after seeing the weather forecast for the weekend, but despite the rain and mud it was brilliant to be back at Goodwood to see such iconic machinery and be able to meet some iconic people within Motorsport who I’ve admired for many years.
With the scale of the Festival, I have always attended all four days on each of my visits and I always wish I had a few days more to see everything. This year was no exception, there were plenty of areas I missed out on, such as the Forest Rally Stage & the GAS Arena, and plenty of cars I wished I could have got a better look at around the paddocks.
Thursday started like any other at the Moving Motor Show. On previous Thursday mornings I usual like to spend my time around the manufacturer stands, looking at the latest models on offer, before heading over to the other side of the hill climb run for the afternoon and taking a look around the paddock areas while it is still quiet and cars are arriving for the weekend. This year was no different, although it did seem like there was slightly less on display with some of the manufacturer stands compared to previous years. Nevertheless, there were also plenty of other activities such as Ford’s Leap of Faith, or Nissan’s VR GT-R experience.
It was Friday where the real fun began…
As soon as I entered the F1 Paddock area on Friday morning, I encountered my first driver of the weekend. None other that Marino Franchitti. Marino was nice enough to have a chat as he was heading up to the Ford GT LM in the paddock and I always find it funny that in the 4 years I’ve been to Goodwood I’ve encountered one of the Franchitti brothers, Marino more so than Dario.
In 2012 Marino was due to be running the Deltawing up the hill but it’s crash at Le Mans in it’s debut year meant it wasn’t able to be at the Festival of Speed, but I managed a brief chat and photo with Marino that day. This was followed up with seeing Dario in 2014, who I’ve been a huge fan of for years so it was great to be able to meet him on that occasion.
2015 meant seeing Marino again, this time it was while he was talking about the fabulous looking Singer Porsche which he was driving up the hill that weekend (along with new Top Gear presenter Chris Harris). Marino was very good with his time and we had a good chat about his racing plans for 2016, which I did comment and say to him that he should be on the phone to Chip Ganassi to get himself a drive in one of Chip’s Ford GT’s at Le Mans for 2016. It did surprise me later in the year when it was announced Marino would be joining Chip’s team in 2016! Something I mentioned when I saw Marino again this year! It seems like it’s become a tradition for me to find a Franchitti brother at Goodwood & grab a photo, and I found it funny that the first driver I saw in 2016 was Marino.
Following this brief chat with Marino, I spent time walking around the F1 paddock area, seeing the likes of Alex Wurz in his father’s Lancia Stratos after completing a run on the hill, and then spotted Martin Brundle getting ready to drive the Brawn BGP001.
Managing to stop the likes of Martin for a quick autograph is one of my favourite things about Goodwood, a moment that was captured by one of Badger GP’s writers Sarah Merritt (@Sareyware)
— Sarah Merritt (@Sareyware) June 26, 2016
During Friday Morning I got the sense of what it felt like to do a Martin Brundle style grid walk. Everywhere I walked around the paddock I just kept seeing drivers going past, managing to grab a quick hello & autograph as they went on their way, drivers from all eras and form of racing like Karun Chandhok, Jochen Mass, David Brabham, Emanualle Pirro & Oliver Rowland.
That is one of the the things I find so great about the Festival of Speed, you can happily be walking around the paddock, looking at cars & bikes to have all sorts of drivers, and champions no less, walking past, stopping for a hello and a chat, maybe even an autograph and a photo as well. That is the relaxed nature of Goodwood. Of course seeing any of the current F1 drivers will always be near on impossible unless you are in the right place at the right time and not surrounded by the huge crowd of other fans, but during my weekend I did manage to catch the likes of Stoffel Vandoorne & Pierre Gasly (both of which were in team gear but walking through the paddock largely unrecognised).
My Friday continued with spending time around the paddock, and the Cartier lawn, which during Thursday’s rain I wasn’t able to fully spend time looking at. The afternoon lead to catching a few words with Ross Brawn while he was in the garage paddock overseeing the Brawn BGP001 before its afternoon run. I did ask Ross what his thoughts were on F1 2016, to which the response was a wry smile which I took to be a ‘no comment’. That was followed up with asking him if he might have had any phone calls from Maranello, which lead to another wry smile in my direction and Ross saying to the gathered crowd that the Brawn running at Goodwood is the closest he’ll get to F1 for the time being.
Friday also lead me to achieve something I hadn’t been able to do in 3 previous Goodwood visits, an autograph from Sir Jackie Stewart. I remember in 2012 while walking through the paddock seeing Sir Jackie walking straight towards me! As I said hello and tried to get an autograph, he apologised sincerely as he was running late to a prior engagement and couldn’t stop. This year I managed it while he walked through the red carpet area on the way to the drivers club, an area I’ve always enjoyed hanging around in the late afternoon as the action winds down for the day, it’s always the best place to catch drivers who usually stop to greet their fans. Other people of note I managed to grab during that afternoon were Bruno Senna, John Surtees, Stefano Domenicalli, James Calado & Colin Edwards. A nice mix of past and present from different areas of motorsport too.
John Surtees is another person I’ve met at Goodwood on every visit I’ve made to the Festival of Speed, but even during all four visits, John Surtees is still the only person I’ve been completely star struck by and become speechless around because I can never think of what to say to the only person who has won titles on 2-wheels and 4-wheels. This is even after last year when he personalised and signed a copy of his book for me. I hold “Il Grande John” in that high regard for his achievements in motorsport, especially as I am also a Ferrari fan too, that I can never think of what to say.
Moving on to the Saturday, blue skies in the morning meant arming myself with my camera to actually snap away at the cars and bikes in the paddock, which I was not able to do on the Friday. While in the paddock, I waited around for the contemporary F1 cars to return for a run as Adrian Newey was driving the Toro Rosso STR3 from 2008. I waited for the car to return and for Adrian so I could say hello.
Adrian Newey is someone who I’ve been wanting to say hello for many years, as it was he and Ross Brawn who inspired me to take up engineering. I actually saw Ross Brawn again leaving the drivers club area earlier that morning and managed to tell him this, which he was surprised at hearing, and Adrian Newey had a similar reaction when I caught up with him after he climbed out of the Toro Rosso STR3.
That all came about from watching Formula 1 throughout the 1990’s, and how instrumental Adrian Newey was to Williams & McLaren titles, and Ross Brawn to the success of Benetton and then Ferrari, and seeing their rivalry continue into Red Bull & Brawn in more recent years. It was reading about them which inspired me towards engineering as a degree and career, one day harbouring hopes that I could be like them, so to be able to tell them both at Goodwood how much of an influence they had in my studies and career is one of my highlights from that weekend.
As the rain came down on Saturday afternoon, I didn’t get the opportunity to stand trackside or head up to the Forest Rally Stage. I did seek refuge in the Shell stand, which lead to THE highlight of the weekend. Shell were conducting an interview with Alex Zanardi, so I just had to wait to hear him speak.
For those who haven’t heard of Alex Zanardi… Former Formula 1 driver, who ended up in CART in America racing for Chip Ganassi, winning the championship twice. Alex suffered a horrific crash at the Lausitzring in Germany in 2001, almost costing him his life and leaving him requiring both his legs to be amputated just to be able to survive. Since then, he returned to motor racing in the World Touring Car Championship in 2005, racing in the Blancpain Series in 2014, and taking up hand cycling and winning 2 Gold Medals for Italy at London 2012 (at Brands Hatch no less!). With everything that Alex has been through, he truly is an inspiration to everyone, and someone I have admired for over 20 years when I used to watch him racing in CART.
Alex’s Q&A in the Shell stand shows what a person he is, here is his interview for all to enjoy:
As he was leaving to prepare for his afternoon run up the hill, I managed to get an autograph and said to him how I still can’t believe how he made that overtake at the Corkscrew at Laguna Seca in 1996. He turned and laughed, and said to me that Bryan Herta probably still can’t believe it either.
For those who may not know what I’m talking about, Alex Zanardi at his best:
I think I’d be hard pressed to find any day at Goodwood, or any other motorsport event, that will top that Saturday at the Festival of Speed.
I ended my weekend on the Sunday in my traditional way, standing trackside in front of Goodwood House, to watch as many runs up the hill as possible and catch the shootout in the afternoon. That spot is always my favourite area to stand and watch the runs and I find it a good place to take photos from. It’s been my favourite (& typical) Sunday spot at every Festival of Speed I’ve attended. I did have time to take one more photo on the way down to the hill as I walked in through the paddock that morning. None other than Keanu Reeves who was taking time to speak to fans and sign autographs and take photos while he was in the Arch garage area.
It ended up being a truly brilliant weekend at the Festival of Speed, and I can’t recommend the event highly enough. It’s got something for everyone to enjoy; road cars, super cars, historic sports cars, Formula 1 cars, NASCAR, superbikes, 2-stroke bikes, rally cars… the list goes on!
Even in the four days I was there, I wish I could be there for another four more just to be able to properly see and take in everything that was on display.
One final note. I’d like to thank everyone who stopped to chat over the weekend. It’s always nice to bump into and catch a brief hello with the likes of Toby Moody & Jennie Gow, who were on presenting duties all weekend, & it’s always an honour to be remembered and recognised too.
I seemed to find myself in the right place at the right time over the weekend as I got to finally meet the one member of the BBC F1 team I hadn’t prior to the Festival of Speed when I spotted Tom Clarkson heading trackside. I did have that moment of when you look at someone and you’re not quite sure it’s them, but I went for it and introduced myself, so finally Tom can finally put a face to the name. While trying to escape the rain on Saturday afternoon I found myself in McLaren House, and somehow happened to be stood alongside Jack Nicholls too who was only at the Festival for that day. So thanks to both of them for taking the time to chat.
So that’s my 2016 Festival of Speed story.
2017 will have a hard time trying to top that one!
Full photo gallery available on https://www.flickr.com/photos/amit_mandalia/