The day the Festival of Speed stood still | Axon's Automotive Anorak

04th August 2023
Gary Axon

In all of the 75 years since the very first motor sport event was held here on 18 September 1948, Goodwood has never been faced with having to take the painful decision to cancel an event, due to factors outside of its control. 


It is therefore all the more ironic that as Goodwood celebrated the first 30 years of the Festival of Speed presented by Mastercard, the weather gods intervened and decided to make the Saturday of the four-day event potentially dangerously windy. Goodwood's extensive network of expert advisors therefore recommended that the festival be closed down for what would be its third day.

The potential of high gusting winds was sensibly considered to be a real safety risk. As the Goodwood Estate site is ordinarily home to free-roaming livestock for at least eleven months of the year, surrounded by countless historic trees, there’s little permanent infrastructure, meaning that huge marquees, paddock shelters, exhibition stands, and so on, have to be put up especially for the event. 

Most of these temporary structures are designed to cope with winds and gusts up to around a not-inconsiderable 40mph, but not the 65mph that was forecast for the Saturday (and occasionally occurred with 60mph+ gusts actually measured on the day). Equally, the thousands of trees and vegetation around the entire festival site also presented the potential risk of dropping branches, despite Goodwood’s own in-house forestry team constantly inspecting and maintaining the considerable on-site greenery throughout the year.


Once the decision was taken, an enormous exercise began to move all of the 1,000+ vehicles off-site at the festival out of potential harm's way. The owners and custodians of the many vehicles were contacted by Goodwood’s Motorsport team to either move or come and collect their machinery to store them away safely in their covered transporter trucks, trailers and so on. Many of the more manoeuvrable competition motorcycles were moved and made secure within the changing rooms of the Driver’s Club facilities. 

All of the rare (and priceless in many cases) cars on the Cartier ‘Style et Luxe’ Lawn were corralled together in the wee small hours. As Sunday spectators will have observed, all of the canopy coverings from the roof of each of the vehicle paddock shelters were removed too to prevent the risk of them taking off in a high-speed gust.

By the time gates re-opened for 7 am on Sunday morning, all of the vehicles had been put out back in place, with each of the cars removed for safety late on the Friday/early Saturday, returned for the Sunday visitors, as if nothing had ever happened. For me personally, supervising the Cartier Lawn, this task was made easier by the longer and greener marks left in the grass where each of the cars had originally been positioned. That said, it’s not something I’d want to repeat too often.


I could use these exceptional (and hopefully one-off) gusty conditions as an excuse to rattle off a list of cars with names inspired by the wind, as there are plenty of them – Volkswagen Scirocco and Bora, Maserati Mistrale, Ghibli, Shamal, Bora, Lister Storm, Mercury Cyclone, GMC Syclone, Pontiac Tempest, Tornado Typhoon and Tempest, Renault Wind – but we’d possibly be here all day…

However, I will just mention one car that ironically was a personal highlight for me at this year’s festival that I’d waited for years to see in the flesh – the amazing 1969 Pronello-Ford Huayra 5.0 V8 – a wild Argentinian Ford Falcon-powered race car that came all the way specifically for the event from Buenos Aires. Named after a hot current of air that blows strongly above Argentina, the Pronello’s Huayra name inspired fellow Argentine Horacio Pagani to name his second hypercar model Huayra too, as the sensational follow-up to his first Pagani hypercar – the Zonda – also named after an Argentinian wind.

Photography by Dom James and Nick Wilkinson 

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