Sitting down within the Drivers Club at the Goodwood Festival of Speed presented by Mastercard, we grab a quick chat with the confident and disarmingly charming Richard Westbrook over a couple of green teas. Talking all things fast EVs, Endurance racing and Goodwood SpeedWeek presented by Mastercard before he muscles the ridiculous Ford Mustang Mach-E 1400 up the hillclimb within Sunday’s climactic Timed Shootout.
Hustling the Mustang Mach‑E 1400
Incredibly, for such a fast and successful driver – with notable successes in Porsche Cup Series and international sportscar racing, including a class win at the Daytona 24 and three class podiums at Le Mans – this is Richard’s first ever Festival. He’s taking time out of his commitments racing within the hypercar class in the WEC which has replaced LMP1 to be here. The very car he’s scheduled to drive at Le Mans, the Glickenhaus Le Mans Hypercar, is parked nearby after making its successful debut in Portimao.
“It has blown my mind to be honest,” said Richard. People have told me how much I’d love it, but I had no idea so many people came here. And this isn’t at capacity. It’s absolutely incredible and a really special event. From an industry point of view, it’s exactly as a car show should be. Seeing the cars driven in anger. The Shootout that I’m involved in is just nuts. It’s really, really cool.”
Focusing on the hillclimb, Richard is quick to point out how unforgiving it is, and a real challenge for even the most seasoned of professional drivers like himself. Of course, he is piloting a bonkers machine in the form of a 1,400PS (1,029kW) Mustang Mach-E 1400. Created as a test and development platform for future performance and competition electric vehicles, it has seven electric motors propelling it forwards with instant torque.
“When you go on a normal track you’ll do a 15-lap run, here you’ll get one run per day. You just want more. It’s very addictive. You also have to extract as much as you can from yourself and the car as quickly as you can without overstepping the limit”.
The term limit comes up quite often talking to Shootout entrants, but observing Richard’s runs from a distance, he looks cool and in control, with the Mach-E 1400 gracefully wafting past, a slight whistle from those seven electric motors. Nothing to suggest he’s struggling. Yet a short clip of Richard within the cockpit shared on his Twitter account shows the man is very, very busy. With a handful of electrical energy trying to wrestle the wheel from his grip.
“It’s twitching everywhere and you really feel the horsepower under acceleration in an electric car like this. It’s very driveable, but the power is like a switch. No lag or anything. Off the start and out of any slow corner you feel it. Startline to turn one is phenomenal”.
It’s this very moment that sees Richard and his Mach-E launch to 100mph in what seems like a blink of an eye during his hillclimb efforts, with Richard stating he’s pushing 125mph before he reaches Molecomb corner. A huge amount of downforce and drag helping him to slow up and navigate the sections of heavy braking before the Ford’s four-wheel-drive and its confidence-inspiring traction pushes man and machine onwards once more.
Despite his quick showings, Richard has had a very limited amount of time to feel at one with the car. In fact, it was setup for circuit racing for the first time in Anglesey two weeks before last year’s SpeedWeek appearance. This weekend, the team are kept as busy as the drivers, swapping between this base ‘SpeedWeek’ race setting for Richard, and its Drift configuration for Paul Swift. It’s a workmanlike approach from Ford, and one that is being felt by Richard…
“Ford don’t want me to have fun” he smiles, “they want me to go out and win this thing. No pressure! Honestly, I would be so happy if we could get into the 49s. I did a 54 on my first ever run. On the second we had a slight issue so weren’t able to put in a meaningful time. I felt on that first run there was still quite a bit in the pocket”.
In terms of finding that time, Richard is confident relying on the Ford’s massive amount of torque, a nuance of the Mach-E 1400 that he compares to driving non-turbo V8s. “You don’t need to remain so focused on getting to power early, because you know when you need it, it’s immediately there. In a way, they are more forgiving. The torque can get you out of jail, if you mess up an entry or were too slow in. It’s a fun technique because you can chuck it in a bit more and really rely on the four-wheel-drive”.
Richard clearly cares, as any professional should, about his performance this weekend. He’s always eager to point out the performance potential of not only his Ford, but for EVs in general. It’s a technology that is winning him over. Run by run.
“People may criticise me for this, but I’m starting to like the whistling sound, especially when it is driven in anger. It’s a very distinctive sound. It has changed my view of it. There is absolutely performance there in this technology. For me, I’d love a combination of EV and combustion. People in cities using EV, and then when you have more space or a longer journey, use combustion. But as someone who lives in a city centre, the idea of eradicating pollution completely is an amazing prospect.”
And with that, Richard is away almost as quickly as he arrived, focused on making the most of his third and final run, the one that really matters.
Photography my James Lynch, Nick Dungan, James Lynch and Jordan Butters, additional image courtesy of Motorsport Images.
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