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The Return of the Trim White Duke

Updated: Sep 5, 2020

Originally published in February 2019, read all about the 2018 Goodwood Festival of Speed and how the Silver Jubilee celebration was one of the show's finest moments.

Nothing quite beats the feeling you have on a Thursday morning before the first day of the Goodwood Festival of Speed. Driving through the truly beautiful Sussex countryside, it is hard to believe the greatest Motorsport event in the world is just around the corner. Known as “Motorsport’s Mecca” by some, the Festival of Speed celebrated its silver jubilee last July, and it certainly did not disappoint.

The Festival of Speed debuted in 1993, as the then Earl of March wanted to bring Motorsport back to the Goodwood Estate, as his Grandfather, Freddie March, was a keen racer who first staged a hillclimb in 1936. The first event in 1993 saw 25,000 spectators attend the one day event on the 20th June.

In the 25 years since, the event has expanded to four days, with more fans attending the festival each year than Glastonbury. Like Glastonbury, Goodwood attracts people from all over the world of all types to revel in what they love.

It is this love and excitement of all things motoring that gives the festival its unique feel, and that ensures fans and drivers alike keep on returning year after year. The Festival of Speed is not what many perceive it to be. It is not a rich mans event or in anyway posh, it is an event where people come to meet and mingle who just love the smell of petrol and the sound of screaming engines, no matter their upbringing or financial background. I know this for a fact as I am one of those fans.

My first Festival of Speed was in 2001 with my Mum and Dad who bought me the ticket as my birthday present, knowing from the age of three that all I wanted to do was to be a racing driver. I immediately fell in love with what I was seeing and have returned every year since, watching the event change first hand over the years into what it is today.

In the early years of me going, all I wanted to see were the top F1 cars and meet some of the drivers, getting an autograph and maybe a picture. I have some great memories of meeting some great people however one person who stood out in my first year was Tom Kristensen who in 2001, arrived at the Festival fresh after winning his third Le Mans title. Weirdly despite his unrivalled success in a career spanning two decades, he is relatively unrecognised by the motorsport world and fans.

Fortunately for me, my Dad has always been one for recognising a face (never a name) and I loved Le Mans so we went to chat to him. When I say we, I mean my dad as I hid behind him, too nervous to talk or even be near him. This was because being a driver I looked to him, but more significantlyin my head he was a stranger. I was, and still am, a very shy person so talking to anyone I don’t know can be a struggle. Tom must have grasped this as he saw my “I am 7” badge that I was wearing that day and said to me “What do you say to people when it is there birthday?” I mumbled “Happy Birthday” behind my dad to which he responded “Well you better say that to me then because its my birthday too!” What a great feeling knowing I share a birthday with a Le Mans legend, and the first proper racing driver I ever met, it is a memory and a feeling that only Goodwood could have created.

I am sure that my memory is similar to many others during the twenty-five years of the Festival of Speed, from freak meetings in a field to waiting by a pit box waiting patiently for your hero to return from their run up the hill. There are always new memories to be made, new cars to see and new idols to meet that can always take you back to that feeling of being a seven year old again, that buzz and kick of pure unrivalled joy is why people keep on coming back for more.

It isn’t just the main paddock which gives you this feeling but literally everywhere you look. Up and down the hill there are separate events going on, all with a unique feel, which add to the spectacle of the show giving the place a true festival vibe.

2018 saw the Goodwood Action Sports Arena, or GAS, return once more, having made its debut at the show in 2011. Since then, like the Festival, it has expanded into a show full of some ofthe best FMX, BMX and Mountain Bike riders in the world showcasing what they can do with some of their best tricks accompanied by a brilliant knowledgable commentary duo and banging tunes, giving the crowd what they want in there own infectious style. For me, this year’s best trick was FMX’s Dan Whitby who has pulled out the “Captain Morgan” which is both incredibly difficult and hilarious at the same time.

2018 also saw the introduction of a BMX Flatland and number five rider in the world Lee Musselwhite who performed some incredible tricks on a ridiculously small platform. Some of the tricks he performed took Musselwhite 10 years to perfect and really did leave the crown in awe of him. The boomerang was incredible to watch and his introduction was a great one to the GAS Arena. It must have been hard for Musselwhite to perform at such a high level with so many watching him with such intense.

The FMX stars put on a superb show as always.

All this occurs before the start line of the hillclimb while at the other end at the top following a good walk, or a tractor ride if you have no respect for your spine, the bone shatterer is accompanied by some fantastic views, will get you to Goodwood Rally stage, which you enter through a the dense woods just before the finish of the hillclimb. The atmosphere at the top is completely different to the rest of the show, which is a compliment of the highest nature as it embraces what rallying is all about, simplistic and pure with complete access with very little in the way of obvious organisation or rules.

Like everything to do with Goodwood, a mini world is created for fans to immerse themselves into rallying and get up close and personal with some of the biggest names in the WRC as well as their carsofdrivers both past and present.

If you head back down the hill after enjoying the sights in the woods, 2018 included a dust tan at no extra cost, on the left is the Goodwood Off-Road Arena, which has been developing for a number of years into the area it is today. For some time it has just been an area to introduce fans to off road driving however this year, with a circuit in place, it was the first occurrence timed runs were implemented.

It is great to see this progression and to watch this area of the festival into what it is today.

However this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what is on offer at the festival. Aspects the camera often overlook include the huge array of stalls and aircraft which can be found opposite the house and on the other side of the start line respectively. Each year manufacturers from around the world show off their latest models on their stands and think of unique ways to draw crowds to view them. A prime example would be Ford, who for the past two years, have had gymnasts jump off their tower two to three times a dayonto an inflatable crash mat, which isusually used by the public. The winner for the best stand this Festival however was Red Box Tools.

Red Box Tools are a developing company based in Southampton and they really captured the spirit of the show, filling their stand with passionate happy to help men and women who all work for the company. The aspect which made them stand out was that throughout the show they had a free bar that anyone could use handing out anything from orange juice to red wine, stressing they did not want to be exclusive and encouraged anyone to come and visit them.

This drew hundreds to the stand from all over and ensured they made a lot of great sales, something which is great to see for a company that put so much effort in to make sure the show was a success for them, and left a lot of people going away happy.

The longer I have been going to the Festival of Speed the more I have realised there is far more to it than just watching the cars go up the hill, although this is still a huge part of the enjoyment of the weekend. I love how there are so many interesting cars and fascinating people with amazing stories to tell. An example would be Ernie, a retired dentist from Los Angeles who bought over his 1959 Balchowsky-Buick “Ol’ Yeller II” which was previously driven by Dan Gurney.

Ernie attended the Festival of Speed in 2000 with this being his first time over since and he loved every second, typifying what the event is all about. He was letting kids (and me) sit in his car, handing out information cards to anyone interested and letting them wear his replica Dan Gurney helmet, which went with the car wonderfully. I am sure there are countless people out there with the same love and affection for their cars however no one showed it off quite like him. I hope he, his wife Elaineand his lovely Ol’ Yeller car return next year.

This was one of three cars I considered my favourite of the show with the others being the Mercedes-Benz CLK LM from 1998 and the Citroen 2CV Van in the Cartier Style et Luxe. The reason I love both these cars is not just their beautiful looks but the history of them, two cars that belong in museums however they are close enough to touch.

The Mercedes-Benz CLK LM from 1998. One of my favourite cars of all time

The Citroen in particular was a real stand out for me, a car that was going up against Porsche’s and Ferrari’s for the most stylish car entered and for me it just had that extra edge, the story behind it was wonderful. The description quoted how this car ensured more eggs could be transported from the French fields over rough terrain to their location without any being broken, due to the suspension and size. That just let my imagination run wild, and in the blazing UK sunshine it was easy to imagine eating some beautiful French food in a small square with your mates after driving that car there with a good baguette and a couple of eggs in it ready for breakfast.

Another aspect of the show I have not touched on is the central sculpture outside Goodwood house each year which is used to commemorate a particular event. 2017saw the sculpture recognise Bernie Ecclestone’s amazing five decades in motorsport, the first time it has been used to pay tribute to an individual rather than a manufacture of event.

2018 sawthe sculpture celebrated Porsche’s 70th birthday with an incredible piece of engineering which saw a central column sprout branches off it at the top, displaying six classic Porsches from the seven decades. It was so large you were able to see it the moment you entered the car park. It was so large in fact that it is taller than Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square.

I could carry on and on talking about Goodwood for days, there really is so much to say about the place, and there so many stories I would love to share with you all about my experiences however that must wait for another time.

Prior to 2018’s show, some were beginning to feel that the show was veering from its original intentions. Aspects of the show meant it was losing its routes, almost a shift in momentum towards a different kind of event which left some loyalists concerned for what the future may hold.

However with a click of his fingers that has all been blown away and the show is back to its stunning best, and despite running around non stop for four days solid which also included a ball and various runs up the hill in cars he had handpicked to drive, the Duke of Richmond still looks as cool and calm as ever, floating all over the Festival with an ever present smile and fine white suit.

Although the way he received his title is one of sadness and my condolences to him and his family, the regeneration of the festival combined the silver jubilee celebrations really saw the event sparkle as much as it has ever done in the past. It was well and truly the return of the trim white Duke.

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