The Goodwood Festival of Speed
The FoS was a real eye-opener for Goldin, who described it as the most spectacular automotive racing event he had ever seen. Indeed, it's difficult to draw a parallel between the FoS and any event in North America, simply because of the number of people who attend and the level of manufacturer support. It makes one realize how much more interest and momentum the racing industry has in Europe than on this side of the Atlantic. Fan support is much more robust, too.
Since its inception in 1993, the event has grown to its present daunting dimensions, drawing more than 200,000 people to Goodwood House in West Sussex over the course of the weekend. The central event is a hill climb featuring historic racing vehicles and a huge range of related activities.
Attending vehicles comprise an incredible display of vintage production-based race cars, Formula 1 vehicles (and drivers), past and present racing motorcycles, and even modern supercars. Additionally, most major auto manufacturers set up their own three-story mobile auto dealerships that are fully self contained, air conditioned, and lighted. In typical British fashion, inclement weather is simply ignored, or at least endured.
Thanks to the event's location, its classification as a hill climb, and its organizers' promotional efforts, the FoS is on the bucket list of virtually every serious enthusiast. Spectators have nearly full access to the cars and drivers, and are separated from the track by only several feet of reinforced straw bales. Also, considering the power of the cars involved, the 1½-mile road running uphill around the estate is quite narrow. There are the occasional "offs," frequently resulting in spectacular damage to some spectacularly expensive race machinery.
While some owners offer up their vehicles to the race drivers who piloted them in their heyday, Goldin chose to drive his own. All entrants normally get one run in the morning and one in the afternoon on each of the three days. There was a lot of rain in the mornings, so Goldin elected to skip the early sessions, reasoning that the 1,000hp Vette might prove overly challenging on a slippery track.
During the Friday-afternoon practice runs, the car's throttle stuck open, requiring Goldin to pit and make adjustments to the fuel-injection system. One of the interesting things about the Goodwood event is the wide variety of people you meet there. In this case, Goldin hooked up with fabricator/TV personality Jesse James, who was at the FoS filming an episode of a new reality show. As it turns out, James was experienced with the Kinsler FI system on the Spirit of Le Mans. He, Goldin, and team-mechanic Matt McSwain set about dialing in the linkages while the cameras rolled.
The next day, Goldin was among the 25 entrants who were invited to participate in a live shootout on Sky Sports Television, the British equivalent of the Speed Channel. He performed well, but never found out what his final time was—it was just a bit too crowded to figure out exactly what was going on. Then, on Sunday, the car was one of the fastest entries in the Americana class. All in all, Goldin was pleased with his performance at FoS.
There's a lot of action off the track at the FoS as well. On Saturday night the drivers were invited to the Lord's Ball, a black-tie function held in Goodwood House. The year's event included plenty of drinks and a lavish dinner, plus a concert starring Mark Knopfler from Dire Straits and Nick Mason of Pink Floyd. The names of past Formula 1 driving champions were even beamed onto a rain-like curtain of water that surrounded the stage. The night concluded with a major fireworks show.
Goldin summed up the first leg of his European adventure thus: "I've been racing for 20-plus years, and thought I knew about Goodwood. What I found out is that I knew nothing about Goodwood. It is truly an experience that everyone has to see for themselves."