You love the smell of exhaust fumes almost as much as your favourite cologne. The deafening roar of an engine is music to your ears. It’s not blood that runs through your veins, it’s fuel.
You, my friend, are a bona fide auto enthusiast and your mecca is the Goodwood Festival of Speed.
The annual English gathering has become one of the most important racing happenings in the world, attracting historic and modern cars, drivers past and present, and fans from all walks of life. One part high-speed hillclimb, one part upmarket motor show, one part classic car event, and one part summer garden party, the four-day fete on the Goodwood estate is not to be missed.
History Of Speed
The Goodwood Festival of Speed is more than just a motoring event. It’s a passion project, born of one man’s obsession with all things automotive and thousands of worshipping faithful yearning for a place to congregate.
It all came about in 1993 when Lord March took over the 12,000-acre Goodwood Estate in West Sussex. Earlier in the decade, he’d attempted to bring motor racing to the area’s Goodwood Circuit, but lacked the necessary permits. Undeterred, he decided to host an event on his own grounds instead.
The inaugural festivities took place on Sunday 13 June with a small selection of historic vehicles and a crowd of 25,000 spectators. The festival expanded to include Saturday a year later, followed by the addition of Friday in 1996. By 2010, the Moving Motor Show had joined the lineup on Thursday. Today the Goodwood Festival of Speed attracts 100,000 dyed-in-the-wool car fans on each day of its run.
What You’ll Need
The first thing you’ll need before making a pilgrimmage to Goodwood is a ticket. Entry is by advance ticket only, and they will sell out. You may purchase passes for individual days or a ticket for the full weekend. A range of hospitality options are also available for groups to add further luxury and convenience to your FoS experience.
Pack for unpredictable conditions. The festival has been subject to both scorching sun and torrential rain, so come prepared with a versatile wardrobe. Comfortable shoes and casual clothing are best, as it’s an open-air event held primarily in parkland. If you plan to use the corporate hospitality pavilions, a smart casual dress code is enforced.
Take special care to protect your ears from aural assault during FoS. It’s a naturally noisy event, and ear plugs will allow you to get closer to the action without feeling uncomfortable. Basic supplies like medicine, toiletries, sunglasses and the protective ear gear are available from an on-site pharmacy should you forget them.
Where To Stay
If you plan to visit Goodwood for more than one day, it’s essential to secure accommodations along with your tickets. Many hotels, B&Bs and campsites in the vicinity book up months before the event.
The surrounding area is filled with four-walls-and-a-roof lodgings ready to take you in, while more adventurous attendees can camp on the estate itself. Over 600 plots are available to accommodate camping vehicles, caravans and tents. “Glampers” can also opt for pre-pitched camping accommodations at the official Goodwood campsites. Perks include toilets, showers, shuttles and 24-hour security provided by Goodwood, plus parking next to your tent.
Looking to level up your FoS experience? Buy a 3-day weekend pass for the Goodwood Health Club, which includes use of a pool, gym, sauna and steam room, and the Waterbeach Spa, which offers a range of relaxing treatments.
How To Get There & Explore
Complimentary parking is available for all vehicles attending the Festival of Speed, but prepare to wait for it. Traffic is notoriously congested on the way in and out of the event. Paid parking can be obtained for the Prestige Car Park if your car is deemed “of significant interest.” Selected performance cars are eligible for reserved places just above the F1 paddock.
Depending on where you park, your walk in to the event could be hot, hilly and dusty. Shuttle buses ferry attendees from the bottom of the hill to the top, as well as from the main site to the top of the hillclimb track.
Where To Drink & Dine
Drinking and dining options range from the simple to the sensational. Much of the food on offer is expected outdoor event fare, but the selection is wide and the quality is high. If you’re looking to skip the queues or lower costs, pack a picnic. There are plenty of tables as well as ample space to spread a blanket. Prepacked Goodwood Hampers can be ordered through Britishfinefoods.
Visitors looking for a more upscale culinary experience can dine at the Goodwood Bar & Grill or the Richmond Arms. The former is a relaxed brasserie-style restaurant, while the latter requires advanced booking for a three-course meal.
What To Do
Automotive overload is inevitable, but you’ll love every minute of it. The challenge is to make the most of the festival’s classic cars, legendary Formula One racers and groundbreaking supercars without succumbing to FOMO.
Day one is all about the Moving Motor Show, where the world’s largest manufacturers show off their latest machinery. This is your chance to get behind the wheel and test drive the merchandise on the famous Goodwood hill.
The three-day weekend kicks-off with a free practice day. Drivers and riders take the opportunity to familiarise themselves with the twists and turns of the famously demanding hillclimb, which functions as the driveway to Goodwood House for the other 51 weeks of the year.
Saturday sees world champion drivers start to take on the event’s main attraction. All are vying to score the fastest hillclimb time of the day and perhaps break the all-time record, set in 1999, of 41.6 seconds. Rally fans can also enjoy the Rally Stage, where World Rally Championship teams speed around a circuit through the estate’s forest.
The final day of the festival hosts one of its most popular features: the Michelin Supercar Run. The event pits machines from over 20 manufacturers against the clock, and each other, in a blazing display of speed and agility.
As the weekend comes to a close, its fastest cars go head-to-head on the hill in the Sunday Shoot-Out in hopes of setting the best time of the year. The FoS culminates in the Prize Giving ceremony where Lord March bestows his much-coveted awards as the sun sets behind Goodwood House.
Can’t get enough Goodwood goodness? Don’t miss the Revival, an action-packed weekend of historic motor racing, period theatre, music, vintage fashions and more held at the Goodwood motor circuit in September.