Within 5 minutes of walking in the gate I’d seen two McLaren F1’s. TWO!! The F1 is my unicorn car, halo car, best thing since sliced bread, just take a kidney, give my first born child, who do you want me to kill, car I’d do anything, ANYTHING to own. I’d only ever seen one in New Zealand; chassis #018. I’d dragged my wife on a 8 hour drive, 641 kilometre drive (basically one for every F1 horsepower) from Wellington to Auckland to see it on display for a Supercar show years back. In my opinion it’s the greatest car ever built. So seeing two in the space of five minutes sent my brain into automotive meltdown. And I could just walk up and touch it at Goodwood; no barriers, no security, it just sat out in the pit lane.
That’s what makes Goodwood so unique; the access. Usually at race meetings, most notably Formula One, fans are kept well at arms length away from the cars and the hustle and bustle that is pit lane. However given the laid back nature of Goodwood, that it’s just bragging rights rather than prize money they’re racing for, and the fact it isn’t held on a purpose facility means fans get a great chance to get up and personal. That goes for man and machinery too.
Strolling the paddock I came across Sir Sterling Moss, Jackie Stewart, Jenson Button, Kenny Brack, Hollywood actor Keanu Reeves, American comedian and serial Paul Newman car collector Adam Carolla, Top Gear’s Rory Reid plus Kiwi drift legend Mad Mike Whiddett. They were all happy talk cars or pose with fans for selfies.
The pits are all open and spread over the property. Generally divided into race groups such as the Titans, pre-war, post-war, post-turbo, contemporary Formula One, classic endurance. So whether it’s rallying, the drift boys, vintage racers or Formula One you’re into you can walk by, and sometimes through, where mechanics are working on the cars.
One of the most eye watering spots was ‘The Michelin Supercar Paddock’. Here all the manufacturers had their newest road cars and track only specials. Ferrari had brought their FXX programme cars so a 599XX, Enzo FXX and LaFerrari FXXK all drove up the hill in anger. Along with a special mention to a few customer cars- the Speciale MM and an F12 TDF were there.
McLaren had a full arsenal on hand- 675LT, 650S CanAm, 540S, P1 GTR in full James Hunt livery and they unveiled the 540 Sprint.
Porsche lined lined up a 918, 991 Turbo S, 911R and beside them sat a Singer modified 964.
It was a big event for Aston Marton as they unveiled the GT12 Roadster and the DB9 replacement- the DB11. Plus they brought the magnificent Vulcan; a 7 litre V12 good for 800bhp as a pure track only toy for the 24 lucky owners.
The effort from Lamborghini was a little bit lack lustred as they only had a Huracan on display.
Tucked away in the corner was the old and new Honda NSX which failed to draw a crowd.
The shape looks pretty uninspiring and dull when you have a Koenigsegg One:1 parked across from you though.
When it’s the groups turn to go out they’ll fire up and make their way down to a staging area to make their way to the hill climb. The track is Lord Marchs driveway so their is no return road. Cars drive the wrong way down the track past the start line then do a U-turn to stage at the bottom of the hill (a great place to see pre-run burnouts).
After their run they make their way back through the crowds to their pit garage. Marshall’s whistle to warn people of the approaching cars and push the crowd back. They line the path to let the multi-million dollar cars rumble by within reaching distance of the fans. You’re right up close to the smell, the noise and the heat so you can feel the vibration through your body. It’s just the business.
Watch my YouTube clip to get an idea how close you can get to the action……
About 30 minutes after the cars do a run is a great time to see the cars up close. Any immediate work has been done to the car and most of the crowd will have moved off to see the next round of cars start up. A top tip for Goodwood is that moving against the crowd is best if you want to get right up close.
At the top of the hill you’ll find both the rally stage (yes, there’s a rally circuit too!) with it’s open pits and the turn around area where cars sit after the hill run.
They then procession down the hill back to the pits. It’s well worth the walk up as it’s far less crowded that at the bottom and you get a unique view of the cars.
As the event closes the tents are locked up so to get a good look at the cars arriving first thing in the morning it best. It’s so impressive that again, conceivably, you could just walk around the pits and just enjoy the cars. But the trump card for Goodwood is seeing all these cars fly up the hill, rain or shine. And that I’ll cover off in the final chapter.
Oh and walking around I found another two F1’s in the paddock. So that took the count up to four!