Twenty Fever Moments From The Festival of Speed
The 22nd edition of motorsport’s fantasy fete lived up to the annual billing. And some. From my elevated position in the commentary box all weekend, I was privileged to witness – and eulogise about – a breathtaking array of two- and four-wheeled machines ripping up and down the hillclimb course, many with riders astride and drivers inside for whom period reputations were reappraised. Here, then, is a selection of my favourite memories from the 2014 retrofest.
Pictures thanks to Jayson Fong – Form & Function.
Moss Marvels in Mercedes W196
Sir Stirling Moss, resplendent in period Herbert Johnson helmet and goggles, recreated that famous British Grand Prix win at Aintree in 1955 with several demos in the magnificent straight-eight Three-Pointed Star. Mr Motor Racing, now 84, was smiling all the way up the hill, joined on occasion by event host Lord March in the W196’s streamlined sister.
Ferrari champions go head-to-head
Festival debutant Kimi Raikkonen was reunited with his 2007 world-title-winning Ferrari F2007 and followed fellow Prancing Horse champion John Surtees (aboard ’64 158) in a glorious generation-dividing parade as part of the 50-year Surtees celebrations. The Finn was blown away by the event, forcing all who saw him to admit that they’d never seen him smile so much.
The ‘Mario and Ronnie’ show
It didn’t get more surreal than a brace of JPS Lotus 79s running in one-two formation, like many a scene from 1978. It was made more special by historic racers Dan Collins and Andrew Beaumont wearing replica Mario Andretti and Ronnie Peterson helmets respectively to recreate that Colin Chapman-run dream team.
NASCAR royalty visits West Sussex
Still festooned in stetson and shades, NASCAR legend Richard Petty grumbled up the narrow course in the 1967 Plymouth Belvedere in which he won 27 of that year’s 48 races. The King magnanimously let Emerson Fittipaldi and Kenny Brack try the V8 brute. Goodwood’s like that.
Motocross hero makes my day
A lingering-since-childhood ambition was fulfilled for me when bike-racing commentator Barry Nutley promised a surprise in the ’box on Sunday morning. On cue, Barry appeared with three-time 500cc world motocross champion Dave Thorpe for me to interview. The big man, a hero to me in the mid-80s, reminisced about his glory days with Honda. Huge tick.
Hundred-year-old heroes’ welcome
The sight of the three surviving – of five built – Mercedes Grand Prix cars that cleaned up in the 1914 French GP left everyone who saw them open-mouthed. The sophisticated machines ran in formation, with the race-winning example of pre-WW1 ace Christian Lautenschlager (28) being aired by American Festival devotee George Wingard.
Three-Pointed head turner
Sculpter Gerry Judah’s inspiration for this year’s tribute in front of Goodwood House came from Mercedes-Benz’s celebration of 120 years of motorsport success. The colossal structure arched over the top of the 17th century pile and featured a 1934 W25 and the 2013 F1 W04 racer on opposing lanes. Cue thousands of open-mouthed fans.
Mad Mike’s Mazda masterclass
With car control to throw away, Kiwi pro-drifting champion ‘Mad Mike’ Whiddet hurled his 538bhp, quad-rotor Mazda RX7 at the course – mostly at right-angles – with its tortured rear rubber filling the park with smoke. He thrilled the huge crowds with his balletic routine twice each day, leaving us all feeling impressed and inadequate.
Just what The Doctor ordered for Honda hero
The sight of 1987 500cc world champion Wayne Gardner astride Chris Wilson’s ex-Valentino Rossi Ducati GP11 MotoGP bike, popping wheelies along the way, was incongruous but infectious. The gritty Australian, a multiple Revival ’bike-race winner, had clearly lost none of his touch and relished the power of the 800cc big-banger.
British bulldog back at his best
British racing hero Damon Hill was reunited with his 1996 world-title-winning Williams FW18, the sound of the V10 Renault-powered car with Damon once again donning the London Rowing Club-liveried helmet taking mid-1990s F1 fans on a special journey back to Williams glory days. And he can still fit in the original overalls.
Loeb at the Pikes Peak of his powers
Anticipation and expectation was high: nine-time world rally champion Sebastien Loeb was taking the 875bhp, turbo V6 Peugeot 208 T16 Pikes Peak monster up the hill. Would he have a go at the 41.6s record that’s stood for 15 years? He tried hard, but stopped the clock exactly three seconds adrift. It was still mighty to watch.
Quattro v Delta: Group B for Bonkers
Two icons of Group B rallying graced the hillclimb course, the Audi Sport Quattro S1 E2 and Lancia Delta S4. The bewinged Audi was manhandled by 1983 world champion and Quattro king Hannu Mikkola, while Delta owner Henry Pearman whistled and wooshed his way up in the Martini-liveried, dual-blown beast. Retro rallying at its very finest.
Bentley Boys’ Le Mans re-run
Three of the massive pre-war Le Mans 24 Hour endurance racers running in formation evoked memories of the British firm’s twice-round-the-clock dominance at La Sarthe in the late-1920s. Nicknamed ‘Old Numbers One, Two, and Three’, the trio of genuine steeds wreaked of provenance as they thundered past.
Lotterer’s 90 smiles per hour
Fresh from a third Le Mans win in four years with Audi, German ace Andre Lotterer tamed his paymaster’s fearsome 90 Quattro IMSA special. The tubular-chassis, plastic-bodied machine was a star of the US series in 1989, its 700-plus bhp carrying Hans Stuck to seven wins. Lotterer’s grin was as wide as the Audi’s swollen wheelarches.
Max power, NASCAR-style
Max Papis, a veteran F1, IndyCar and sportscar racer and arch enthusiast hustled the Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Impala stocker to indecent times on the hill. The six-litre V8 had been tweaked specially to set as quick a time as possible. And it showed, not least when fans moved a step back from the track edge.
Emmo turns back the McLaren clock
Forty years evaporated in an instant when Emerson Fittipaldi appeared in period blue-and-red helmet and overalls and climbed back into the McLaren M23 in which he captured the British team’s maiden constructors’ title in ’74. A surreal, time-warp moment that the Brazilian hero relished as much as the fans who witnessed it.
Senna McLaren stars once more
Resplendent in full Marlboro livery, the low-line, Honda V6 turbo-powered McLaren MP4/4 in which Ayrton Senna secured the first of his three F1 titles was aired by Japanese GP2 racer Takuya Izawa. And the car in which Senna won eight races in 1988 still sounds heaps better than the current small-capacity, turbo F1 racers.
US ace Checks out an old girlfriend
American racing icon Al Unser Sr, one of only three men to triumph in the Indy 500 four times, came out to play in the First National City Checks Lola T500 in which he took his third win in 1978. Unser, now 75, is a FoS convert and smiled, posed for pics and signed autographs all day long. Which only makes him a bigger legend.
No agro for Ago
The world’s most successful motorcycle racer of all time, Giacomo Agostini, appeared on one of the sensational MV Agustas on which he was dominant in the late-1960s and early-1970s. The silver-haired, tanned and charming Italian, who won 15 – fifteen! – world titles, drew a crowd wherever he went. Must be exhausting being that cool.
Fast Freddie back at home on a Honda
American 500cc champion Freddie Spencer rode the actual bike on which he lifted his second top-class title in 1985, the factory Honda NSR500. The three-cylinder, two-stroke rocket screamed up the hill, with Spencer, in period leathers and lid, leaning it over with gusto. I was 14 and in total awe all over again.
Pictures thanks to Jayson Fong – Form & Function.