Besides just sitting and looking pretty, here’s a practical reason for legendary race cars and sports cars alike to show up at the Goodwood Festival of Speed: there are a number of events and attractions to participate in. For anyone who is critical of the cars being locked away—un-driven, in a museum—this is the place where they can come out to stretch their legs.
(Full disclosure: I attended the 2017 Goodwood Festival of Speed as a guest of Subaru, who paid for my flight, put me up in a very nice hotel and fed me continuously. And also helicoptered me to and from the Festival.)
Snaking through the Festival is the Goodwood hill, which is basically property owner Lord March’s driveway. It’s 1.16 miles long and has nine turns. Up and down this hill the cars and motorcycles run during the entirety of the Festival: this constitutes the famed Goodwood Hillclimb.
Spectators can stand where they please: they are only separated from the track by a few feet of grassy runoff and reinforced hay bales. It becomes a game of finding the best spot and camping out there.
There are grandstands, too, which you have to pay use. But the free ones carry signs that make sure people let the children stand in front so they can see. This is how you create a new generation of young car enthusiasts.
To get to the Forest Rally Stage, located at the top of the hill, you can either wait in a very long line for a trolley to take you up. Or you can walk.
Once you’re up there, the crowd and the noise of the main attractions thin. There are far fewer people up here so it feels easier to breathe. If it’s a clear day, you can make out the English Channel in the hazy distance.
Follow the footpath leading into the cool and welcoming woods and suddenly you find yourself at the Rally Stage, where rally-spec Porsches, Aston Martins, Ferraris, Audis and Citroëns hurtle around corners while spectators stand just feet away, kept back by a flimsy wooden fence.
The rally cars scream through the foliage before they fly into view. Some of the watching children wear brightly colored headsets. They smile hugely and point at the cars, shouting excitedly. A little beyond the rally stage runs the straightaway just before the finish line for the hillclimb. It’s not uncommon to hear WRC snaps mix with Formula One shrieks.