Europe, Travel features

When you think of a perfect British summer’s day a few things may spring to mind. Strawberries and cream perhaps? A champagne picnic under a tree maybe. How about the Red Arrows air display? Walking around a country manor? There’s one place in West Sussex that has all of these things, glorious Goodwood. Better still, every July Goodwood has something even more appealing! The wonderful Goodwood Festival of Speed.

Now in it’s 19th year, the Goodwood Festival of Speed is a celebration of motorsport engineering from around the world. Britain is renowned for it’s motorsport excellence and every brand worth it’s salt is in attendance at this event. If you build a sports car, race a sports car or just plain love sports cars, then you need to be at Goodwood festival of speed.

Avoiding the traffic

Goodwood house is a manor estate owned by the Earl of March, It’s a fantastic venue for a festival with one minor problem, the roads around the estate really aren’t equipped for the massive levels of attendance. Traffic jams for hours have become part and parcel of the Goodwood FOS weekend. This can be easily avoided though by doing one simple thing. Set your alarm for 5am! Get to the site for around 6:30am when the gates open. We did this and had no trouble at all driving straight in to the car parks and joining the queue of early birds. The doors open at 7am and there’s lots of places to grab some breakfast and a coffee.

The other advantage to a very early start is there’s no throngs of people crowding round every car on display. You’ll have a chance to explore the site before the crowds arrive and even get up close to the super cars when it wont be possible later on in the day. Traffic leaving can be a nightmare too but if you arrive early you’ll be happy to leave after the last hill climb around 5pm, avoiding the huge queues on the way out!

Goodwood hill climb

The main spectacle of the weekend is always the famous Hill climb. A 1.86 km (1.16 mile) track that winds it’s way through the festival grounds. Most of the cars on display at the festival are raced up this hill at some point during the weekend giving the spectators a great view of some amazing machines. My favourite were the Formula 1 cars from the last 40 years, some beasts that won world championships, driven by¬† F1 drivers like Damon Hill, Nigel Mansell, Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button and even race engineers like Adrian Newey and Redbull team boss Christian Horner.

It’s not about speed of course, it’s about showing off! Most of the drivers were doing burn outs, donuts and revving he engine to delight the crowds. The big car manufacturers all have huge stands here showing off their latest sports cars. One of the real treats for me was in the stable-yard of the manor house. Famous drivers, engineers and car enthusiasts were being interviewed and meeting fans. It was a great chance to get up close with some sporting heros like Sir Stirling Moss, Jenson Button and Christian Horner, as well as the US chat show host Jay Leno who was here to drive a few classic sports cars up the hill.


A champagne picnic at Goodwood

While there’s a number of the typical burger vans you always find at festivals, no visit to Goodwood would be complete without a glass of Champagne, or maybe a whole bottle? I was lucky enough to have a surprise picnic waiting for me in the main exhibit enclosure. A beautiful hamper packed with everything you’d want in a picnic, including a nice bottle of Veuve Clicquot. We sat beneath a tree in the park, enjoying the atmosphere and listening to the sounds of screeching tires and revving engines.

A very British day out

What could be more British than a festival with an air display by the Red Arrows? World famous for their dare-devil antics in the sky, the display was as impressive as ever and hearing the pilot’s barking orders at each other through the tannoy was an entertaining bonus.

Watching so many machines that were built to win, not actually racing each other, is a new experience for me and one that is surprisingly enjoyable. All of the 25,000 people are there to enjoy the atmosphere, the spectacle of sporting achievement and the history too. It really is all about enjoying British past-times, be they strawberries and cream, country festivals or fast cars.

Check out our video montage from the day.


With thanks to the Goodwood Festival of Speed.