A classic equestrian statue—albeit with neither Archduke Charles of Austria nor Tamerlane riding it—was the first massive automotive installation at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, created in 1997 to celebrate the fiftieth birthday of Ferrari. The practice has since become a major visual hallmark of the festival along with the endless bales of hay and the scores of racing drivers in attendance.
I had already heard of this year’s colossal outcrop of Aluminum und Shteel before emerging from behind a copse to arrive at the entrance of Goodwood House but that did not diminish at all its power to awe. A 40-ton loop of steel played heavenly tarmac to two pinnacles of Vorsprung durch Technik. On one end was parked Audi’s latest and greatest, the V10-powered Audi R8. Opposite the R8 was a seventy-year-old race car with 1.6× the cylinders.
Quite a car, that. A contemporary of Art Deco marvels like the Chrysler Airflow and the Cadillac Sixteen, it is a streamlined version of the V16 monster that Bernd Rosemeyer drove to win the 1936 European Grand Prix Championship with. During the Rekordwoche—Record Week—of October 1937, Rosemeyer drove this car to 406 km/h (252 MPH) on the public road. That’s within rounding error of the Bugatti Veyron’s top speed and is officially the second fastest anyone has ever gone on a public highway. The record was set three months later on a cold January morning, when Rosemeyer’s nemesis Rudolf Caracciola drove his Mercedes-Benz W125 Streamliner at 268 MPH. Rosemeyer followed ninety minutes later in the Auto Union’s successor, which accidentally developed ground effects that broke the car apart at a speed very close to Caracciola’s, killing the ethereal German.