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Goodwood Festival of Speed 3-5 July 2009

It’s the same recipe that they have used for the last 17 years but, by changing the ingredients, each year Lord March and his team manage to serve up a completely different dish. At first sight, the 2009 menu did not look too appetizing. ‘True Grit’ sounded a little indigestible but, enhanced with a sauce of warm summer sunshine and consumed in the ambiance that’s Goodwood, the feast proved irresistible.

Perhaps inspired by the current economic climate, ‘True Grit’ was a celebration of drivers and teams surviving hardship and going that extra mile in order to win; and Goodwood’s team managed to find plenty of examples to include on the menu. First up was Audi celebrating its centenary year of racing and rallying, followed by the 40th anniversary of the Porsche 917 and, with Mercedes (and Audi/Auto Union) marking 75 years since the arrival of the Silver Arrows, maybe there should have been a subtitle ‘Silver Grit’? Sir Frank Williams was honoured with 40 years as an F1 entrant, despite many setbacks both personal and in motorsport. And Sir Jackie Stewart was on hand to drive his 1968 German GP-winning Matra-Cosworth MS10. Back then he finished over four minutes ahead of the next car, in pouring rain, while driving with a broken wrist.

Goodwood Festival of Speed 3-5 July 2009 Goodwood Festival of Speed 3-5 July 2009

The concoction allowed head chef Lord March to invite legendary cars and drivers from around the world, filling the paddocks with a fabulous selection of historic machinery and the legends that drove them. Everywhere visitors rubbed shoulders with motorsport celebrities… for example, ‘little Art’ Merzario greeting long-lost friend Jacques Laffite in the middle of the Cathedral Paddock, after which they both jumped into Merzario’s 1975 Alfa T33 for an impromptu public photo-shoot. Ace American driver and constructor Dan Gurney wandered quite unmolested through a crowd of autograph hunters, while they were busy besieging 1980 F1 World Champion Alan Jones. There were more priceless Silver Arrows lined up together in the F1 Paddock than you could shake a stick at, while just a few yards away, a lone 2009 Brawn-Mercedes sat quietly awaiting the German GP this coming weekend. Not permitted to drive his Championship-leading Brawn at Goodwood (F1 rules ban running current cars outside a GP), Jenson Button was free to take a 1934 Mercedes-Benz W25 up the hill. This took Jenson’s full attention as the position of the throttle and brake pedal is reversed. Meanwhile, Lewis Hamilton was stirred into the mix, along with USA legends Johnny Rutherford and Al Unser Snr adding spice to proceedings.

Goodwood Festival of Speed 3-5 July 2009 Goodwood Festival of Speed 3-5 July 2009

If you’re a rally fan, then go for the ‘veggie’ option and spend the weekend up among the trees and greenery of the forest rally section. This area really does have the feel of a Scandinavian stage, surrounded as it is by trees and ferns. The authentic setting seems to intoxicate the drivers, too, causing them to spend most of their time drifting those historic rally machines around every corner. True Grit was the theme here, too, and not just the real stuff that the cars kicked up. A huge selection of Audi’s rally greats and the 40-year-old Mini ‘giant-killers’ were in action, plus rally champions past and present, from Rauno Aaltonen in his 1964 works Cooper through Hannu Mikkola and Stig Blomqvist (Audi Quattros), Russell Brookes (Sunbeam and Opel) to current champ Kris Meeke in his 2009 Peugeot.

Goodwood Festival of Speed 3-5 July 2009 Goodwood Festival of Speed 3-5 July 2009

A perfect side dish to all that came in the form of the Cartier Style et Luxe Concours d’Elégance, with real chef and petrolhead James Martin as one of the judges. And towering over the whole scene was Audi’s remarkable 50-metre high sculpture, taking pride of place in front of Goodwood House.

Goodwood Festival of Speed 3-5 July 2009 Goodwood Festival of Speed 3-5 July 2009

Driver of the weekend was defiantly F1 pilot Timo Glock, who burnt rubber all the way up the hill in his 2008 Toyota TF108 and then moved over to the rally section and proceeded to set faster and faster times with each lap in his Corolla.

Highlight of the weekend? Well, there were so many… but perhaps the timed shoot-out run on Sunday afternoon? Fastest timed run: Justin Law in his Jaguar XJR8/9. A staggering 44.4 seconds.

And finally, the best quotes for the weekend came from:

Sir Stirling Moss, on being asked why he thought the American visitors enjoyed Goodwood so much: “They don’t have Lords and Ladies and, more to the point, they don’t have Lord March.”

Jay Leno – “It’s the greatest event in the world.”

American Jesse James on being allowed to run riot, both on the hill and around the rally circuit, in his desert racing monster Trophy Truck: “I thought I was a freak till I came here and now I feel normal. It’s the only place I can drive like an idiot and everybody thinks I’m cool.”

Actor Peter Fonda, who drove his Easy Rider chopper bike up the hill as often as he could, each time sporting a grin from ear to ear, on being asked if he’d like to come back next year: “I’m not waiting till then; I hope to be invited to the racing one in the Fall.”

Okay Peter, we’ll see you at the Goodwood Revival in September.

Goodwood Festival of Speed 3-5 July 2009 Goodwood Festival of Speed 3-5 July 2009

Text & photos: Roger Dixon (

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