JUL 01st 2015

Henry Hope‑Frost – 10 Festival favourites

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‘Like trying to choose between your children,’ said a colleague on the commentary team when asked for a favourite moment from the 23rd Festival of Speed.

Motorsport’s annual history lesson, again delivered in the stunning West Sussex parkland setting in almost perfect weather, is like that.

From my privileged position in the commentary box, which this year included a trip out to wield the startline microphone, I witnessed an incredible array of two-, four- and six-wheeled machines, as well as a line-up of smiling, autograph-signing, selfie-posing and relaxed heroes that rivalled any of the previous 22 Festivals. 

I couldn’t possibly choose my stand-out moment, so I’ve narrowed it down to 10 – and even then I struggled.

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10 Fearless but flat-broke
This homage to those brave but cash-strapped F1 minnows who survived on a wing and prayer, ducking and diving their way around the grand prix circus, featured an eclectic horde of loveable underachievers, including an Amon, a Kojima, a pair of LECs, an Osella and a Tecno. They provided extra clout to the F1 story always so well retold on the Goodwood stage.

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9 Hoonicorn high jinks
Take one spaceframe chassis loosely based on a 1965 Ford Mustang, squeeze in an 845bhp, 410cu in Ford V8 built by NASCAR kings Roush Yates then wrap in six-speed, four-wheel-drive transmission. Next add global internet sensation and stunt-driving guru Ken Block (check his Gymkhana videos on YouTube for corroboration) and serve hot. Bad for your health, but delicious.

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8 Daredevil Darracq
Perched high up on his rickety steed, 25.4 litres of V8 grunt slung out front, Mark Walker got his elbows out and powerslid the 110-year-old French leviathan – that clocked 122mph in 1906 – up the hill in under 70 seconds. The expressions on the faces in the crowd as he effortlessly opposite-locked the incredible Darracq 200HP were priceless.

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7 Forest rally fever
The Hannu Mikkola-inspired Forest Rally Stage again reverberated to the antics of scores of iconic rally weapons from the past 50 years, but this time we were treated to the newest member of the exclusive British WRC winners’ Club: Kris Meeke. The Irishman, who joined Roger Clark, Colin McRae and Richard Burns on the list when he won in Argentina, flung his pukka Citroen DS 3 WRC around, broke Sebastien Loeb’s course record and then came and had a go at the hillclimb.

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6 Rotary club classics
Almost a quarter of a century after the howling quad-rotor Mazda 787B Group C prototype triumphed at Le Mans, Festival feature marque Mazda paraded it – and a gaggle of its endurance-racing cousins – with aplomb. Its soundtrack, garish livery and historical significance made it a popular visitor. And when Valentino Rossi had a go, its cool rating when even higher.

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5 Flame-spitting Fiat
The sight, sound and smell of Duncan Pittaway’s thunderous World Flying Mile Land Speed Record-breaking Fiat S76, painstakingly restored over 12 years, was intoxicating. The 104-year-old Beast of Turin belched flames and smoke from its 28.5-litre motor as it charged up the hill in the hands of its intrepid owner.

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4 Arise Sir Richard
Stetson-toting NASCAR hero Richard Petty wowed crowds with an appearance in his immaculate Plymouth Superbird, the bewinged 7.0-litre V8 coming over from the Petty Museum with the seven-time champion and winner of 200 top-class races between 1960 and 1984. The car, immortalised in the Disney Cars movie, grumbled up the hill out of its high-speed-oval comfort zone to much applause of approval.

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3 Bells and whistles
Local ace Derek Bell, who started his career at Goodwood in 1964, was honoured. And in some style. Many of the single-seaters, sportscars and tin-tops in which he enjoyed such a long and successful career were on show and the great man got behind the wheel of a few favourites – a Ferrari 512M, Surtees TS7, Brabham BT30 and the 936/81 and Kremer K8 Porsches – during the twice-daily demos in his honour. 

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2 SLR superstars
Festival pinch-me moments don’t come bigger than Sir Stirling Moss and the Mercedes 300 SLR sports-racer. In a priceless parade, Mr Motor Racing was reunited with 722, his 1955 Mille Miglia-winning beast, while team-mate Hans Herrmann saddled 704, his car from that epic road race 60 years ago. Jochen Mass gave chase in Juan Manuel Fangio’s second-placed sister car, 658, while Klaus Ludwig aired one the beautiful Uhlenhaut coupés. Three-pointed perfection!

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1 Doctor in the house
The nine-time world motorcycle champ’s Festival debut was pure theatre. ‘The Doctor’, fresh from MotoGP victory at Assen, rode up the hill on a retro-liveried Yamaha YZR-M1 to help celebrate the firm’s 60th anniversary, then blasted up in a Lancia Delta S4, a Mazda 787B and a Porsche 956 – just because he wanted to. And his appearance on the balcony of the house, overlooking a sea of yellow 46 flags, was spellbinding. 

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