This year’s Festival of Speed will feature an all-new class: Edwardian Leviathans, a celebration of the huge-engined racers of motor racing’s formative years. And to ensure that Festival-goers receive a suitably loud alarm call, the class is due to kick off proceedings as the first run up the hill. There are 19 of these incredible machines confirmed to attend, and each sums up this year’s theme: ‘Flat-out and Fearless: Racing on the edge.’
In period, grands prix and city-to-city races regularly ran to more than six hours and covered distances of over 400 miles on dust-covered and cobbled roads and land-speed records often took place on beaches. There’s no doubting that the pioneers behind the wheel were well and truly racing on the edge.
With safety measures non-existent and avoiding death an achievement in itself, the success of pre-World War I icons like Camille Jenatzy, Felice Nazzaro and Georges Boillot – the latter killed in a dogfight during the hostilities – remains something to think about with your jaw on the floor even now.
The oldest car taking to the Goodwood Hillclimb is set to be a 1902 Mors Type Z that competed in the 1902 Gordon Bennett Trophy, while a 21-litre Metallurgique-Maybach from 1907, as featured in the film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, is also entered.
The ever-enthusiastic Duncan Pittaway’s ‘Beast of Turin’ Fiat S76 – the fastest car in the world over a flying mile in 1911 – has also been confirmed, following its 28.5-litre engine’s successful firing-up for the first time in over a century recently.
British success will be represented with machinery from Napier and Sunbeam, plus the legendary Highham Special ‘Babs’ land speed record car, while Hall-Scott, Itala and Bugatti cars will also be on show.
While the speed and power figures of these incredible cars may not raise eyebrows today, the sheer noise and spectacle certainly does.