• Goodwood Festival of Speed preview

Gearing up for Goodwood

Chris Medland
June 28, 2011
Lewis Hamilton drove the McLaren MP4/2C at Goodwood last year © Getty Images

There may not be a grand prix this weekend, but the Formula One paddock and seemingly the rest of the motorsport world will still be busy from Thursday through to Sunday as it descends on West Sussex for the Goodwood Festival of Speed.

Run since 1993, the Festival of Speed has established itself as the leading celebration of car culture in the world, and continues to attract the great and the good of motorsport both past and present. And this year is no different, as many of the current crop of Formula One drivers mix with their predecessors in the grounds of Goodwood House.

As a first time attendee myself (shameful, I know), I've been studying the 'Who's Driving What' sheet like a kid studies a Christmas list. And it's not just the drivers that make the eyes light up; it's the cars that they will be displaying on the 1.18 mile hill climb that really add to the spectacle. It's all about big names and even bigger machines.

Friday's action will see Mark Webber displaying the Red Bull, while Martin Brundle will also be climbing the hill in his 1990 Le Mans winning Jaguar XJR12. Emerson Fittipaldi will be in the Penske PC-23 which dominated IndyCar in 1994 and took him to seventh place in the championship, while John Surtees will be showing off his skills on two wheels and four on a BMW 500 Type 255 Kompressor that won the 1939 Isle of Man TT - a bike he used to own and restored - and also in the pre-war Mercedes W165.

The theme will look at revolutions past and present © Getty Images

Each year the festival has a theme, and this year it is 'Racing Revolutions - Quantum leaps that shaped motor sport', as the Goodwood organisers explain:

'This year marks 75 Years since Auto Union won the European Championship with a ground-breaking rear-engined car; 30 years since the Audi Quattro heralded rallying's four-wheel-drive age and the McLaren MP4/1 introduced the carbon fibre chassis to F1; 25 years since turbocharged engines ruled the roost in F1; and 20 years since a rotary-engined Mazda took the chequered flag at Le Mans. It is therefore especially fitting to celebrate the innovations - both giant strides and iterative evolutions; masterstrokes and blind alleys - that have seen the racing automobile develop from crude behemoth to spaceage projectile.'

The festival gives some of the current drivers the opportunity to take control of cars they would never otherwise get to drive. The aforementioned McLaren MP4/1 - which saw McLaren finish 2nd in the 1982 constructors' championship - will be in the hands of Jenson Button on Saturday, and then Lewis Hamilton on Sunday. Both of Britain's most recent world champions will also drive Hamilton's 2008 title-winning MP4-23, and the new McLaren MP4-12C supercar.

Of the other current teams present, Marc Gene will be at the wheel of the Ferrari, Vitaly Petrov and Bruno Senna will be displaying the Renault, Heikki Kovalainen and Karun Chandhok take control of the Lotus and Timo Glock is in attendance for Virgin. Stars of the future are also part of the action, as current GP2 contender Sam Bird is in the car for Mercedes. What makes Goodwood special is that the Formula One paddock is open to fans, allowing them to get close to today's machinery as well as the classics.

Damon Hill will drive the FW15C in which he won the Hungarian Grand Prix © Sutton Images

With Button and Hamilton making appearances, 1996 world champion Damon Hill and 1992's title winner Nigel Mansell will also be present, with Hill driving the Williams FW15C that took him to third in the 93 championship and saw Alain Prost claim his final world title. Hill's son Josh will be driving one of Graham Hill's previous cars, with Richard Attwood also at the wheel of the BRM P261 which gave Graham four F1 victories in 1964 and 1965.

Sir Stirling Moss is reunited with the Ferguson Project 99 that he guided to victory in the 1961 International Gold Cup; a race run to Formula One standards, with four-wheel drive being subsequently banned from the sport after the Ferguson's dominance in the wet. Moss has only driven the car once since that day, but will be in action throughout the weekend.

It's not just the drivers that get reacquainted with their old cars; as Red Bull technical director Adrian Newey gets to drive the MP4-19 that he designed in 2004, and Bobby Rahal's 1986 Indy 500 winning March 86C, which he also penned. Another Indy 500 winner on show will be Jim Clark's legendary Lotus 38. It became the first mid-engined car to win the iconic race in 1965 and will be in action on the hill with reigning IndyCar champion Dario Franchitti at the wheel.

On top of all that is a further array of rally cars, motorcycles and supercars from all eras being displayed as they were in their glory days. As the Formula One fraternity worries about the banning of one innovation, Goodwood gets ready to celebrate all of those that have gone before, shaping motorsport as it is today.

For more on the Goodwood Festival of Speed click here