Motoring Celebrities at the Festival of Speed

Goodwood has a reputation of lowered walls between the masses and the motoring glitterati. Let’s see who among the many famous wandered into view.

When you look at vintage photography of motor racing, you may be led to believe that back when racing wasn’t a global media spectacle, the stars constantly hobnobbed with their fans. This is probably not true. But what certainly is true is that modern motorsports events guard their principal actors behind security systems the Secret Service would approve of. At a Formula One race, or at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, you can barely see the pits, let alone the drivers, who speed by behind Armco and barbed wire at 200+ MPH in full-faced helmets.

The Festival of Speed is supposed to be different. For one thing, there are an incredible number of famous people present from all walks of motoring. Racing drivers past and present, rich petrolheads, carmakers: they are all there. Add to that the remarkable access you have to the cars themselves: Porsche 917’s and Silver Arrows race full throttle behind a 1950s-style hay barrier and you can walk up to multimillion-dollar racing cars, pat them on their Gurney flaps and no one will chide you.


Let’s see the few notables who have walked or driven in front of my camera.

Jay Leno

Weird news: Leno is no shorter and no taller than on screen. I ran into him at 10:02 AM as he was giving an interview to a TV crew in front of Goodwood House. He was very nice, posing with kids and giving them autographs. Later in the day, he drove a Harrods-liveried McLaren F1 GTR up the hill.


Emanuele Pirro

The great Italian Le Mans winner—his five titles at Le Sarthe are equalled or topped by only four men—was in the Audi area, driving an R15 back to the pits.


Sir Stirling Moss

Britain’s “all-around hero”–as the official program called the 80-year-old racing driver—was very active all day, not only for an octagenarian but for anyone out in the wind and the sun all day. He drove his 1955 Mercedes-Benz W196 and also the outgoing special edition of the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren, pictured here, which bears his name. I didn’t actually see him out of his many cars, but he came on the screens dotting the are several times during the day.


Sir Jackie Stewart

The hilarious Scot had many of his brilliant blue Matras and Tyrrells on display and on the track. He also spoke on a panel with Alan Jones about modern Formula One, which you’ll be able to read about shortly. He is seen here around noon, signing autographs.


Alan Jones

The Australian is the man who gave Sir Frank Williams the first of his seven Drivers’ Championships in 1980 with the ground effects FW07. He was on a panel with Sir Jackie and proceeded to sign autographs.


Al Unser

The four-time Indy 500 winner was one of many American racing heroes on the scene, seen here driving up the hill in the 1978 Lola T500 car which gave him his third win at the Brickyard.


David Piper

You may not know this pipe-smoking Englishman but he is one of the coolest privateers in the sports car community. He has driven his privately entered Ferrari 250 GTO’s and Porsche 917’s over decades, all painted in Piper’s trademark cornfield green. He was a stunt driver for the movie Le Mans and crashed badly during filming, losing one of his legs. This, of course, has not stopped him driving his 917.


Damon Hill

In spite of his F1 world title a 13-year-old memory now, Hill still has an incredible cult in Britain. Out of nowhere, he walked past me by the Formula One area, followed by a rooster tail of fans screaming DAMOOOOON at the tops of their lungs. Hill escaped into a VIP area and proceeded to sign a few more autographs before he escaped inside, followed by frustrated cries of more DAMOOOOOOOOON. He is seen here at the moment of escape.

Share This Story