Blue collar heroes stand out at Goodwood Festival of Speed

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Blue Collar Heroes Stand Out At Goodwood Festival Of Speed Blue Collar Heroes Stand Out At Goodwood Festival Of Speed
As ever at Goodwood, the sheer mass of things to see and marvel at is close to mind-boggling.
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Neil Briscoe

How do you get ahead in business? Well, maybe try adding a 2,000hp electric van to your fleet. It won’t work for everyone, but it certainly seems to be working for Ford. The Blue Oval brought its latest ‘Supervan’ — a successor to a long line of ultra-fast one-off Transits dating back to the 1960s — to the Goodwood Festival of Speed.

The massive motoring garden party, held and hosted annually on the grounds of Goodwood House by its owner, the Earl of March, would hardly be the right spot for a tarted-up Transit to take a starring role you might think. Surely Goodwood is supposed to be more about blue-blood aristocrat brands?

Not this year. The first full and open Goodwood post-Covid saw the Ford Supervan take an undoubted starring role. The crowds gathered around the bay bales to watch multiple Le Mans winner Romain Dumas take the ‘van up the 1.7km hillclimb (essentially the driveway of stately Goodwood House) had a curious response. Although silent, the Supervan accelerates with such venom that it seems to such the air from the crowd’s lungs as it launches. There’s a collective exhalation as it passes, followed by an equally collective giggle — something that shape just a oughtn’t be able to move that fast…

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Ford reckons the 2,000hp battery Transit will hit 100km/h from rest in just under two seconds.

Blue collar heroes

It does, though. Ford reckons the 2,000hp battery Transit will hit 100km/h from rest in just under two seconds. Dumas was not holding back either. The Supervan looked almost sickeningly rapid at times, ascending the hill in a fraction over 45 seconds. It wasn’t the fastest, though…

It also wasn’t alone in bringing a touch of blue-collar heroism to Goodwood. Nigel Mansell was there too, celebrating 30 years since he won the F1 world title in 1992 with Williams. With his famed moustache back atop his lip, he was back in both the Williams-Renault FW-14B that took him to championship victory, with its 3.5 V10 engine’s echoing off the leaves of Goodwood’s trees. Mansell — still hugely popular with the crowds, in spite of an oft-chippy personality — also drove one of his old Ferrari F1 cars, to scenes of no little emotion.

Nigel Mansell was there too, celebrating 30 years since he won the F1 world title in 1992 with Williams

While Paul McCartney was — at 80 — wowing the crowds three counties over in Glastonbury, Goodwood too was drawing performances from elder statesmen. Derek Bell, also 80, was reunited with one of his 1980s Le Mans winning Porsches, on the day when Porsche was revealing its new contender for Le Mans 2023. Veteran motorcycle racer Giacomo Agostini — again, 80 — appeared as youthful and lively as ever once back in the saddle, while another veteran ‘bike racer, Wayne Rainey, was reunited with the Yamaha that he once raced. Now wheelchair bound, the result of a dreadful racing accident, Rainey brought smiles, cheers, and tears from the crowd by popping a wheelie on his specially-converted ‘bike off the line, flanked on his run by colleagues and rivals such as Kevin Schwantz, Mick Doohan, and Kenny Roberts.

BMW shines

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As ever at Goodwood, the sheer mass of things to see and marvel at is close to mind-boggling. BMW was the star marque, celebrating 50 years of its M-Division with a firework display in front of the house, as an actual opera singer and a live orchestra belted out Carmina Burana. Next door, at the Cartier Style Et Luxe concours, there were so many €40-million+ McLaren F1s that they started to feel quite common, while sharing display space with those mighty 400km/h hypercars was a troop of diminutive pre-war Austin 7s, none with more than 750cc to call upon.

Just a short walk away, Bentley was announcing that just as it has made a dozen perfectly recreated 1930s supercharged ‘Blower’ Bentley 4.5-litre racing cars, so too it will now embark on a project to remake a batch of ‘Speed Six’ 6.5-litre vintage cars. All of which will cost no less than €1.8-million each and none of which will strictly speaking be road-worthy.

Want something more down to Earth? Kia was showing off its 580hp GT version of the electric EV6

Want something more down to Earth? Kia was showing off its 580hp GT version of the electric EV6, which can hit 100km/h in just 3.5 seconds. Or how about Polestar’s new 5 electric saloon, showing off an experimental 880hp electric powertrain. OK, maybe not so down to Earth, but more attainable than a Bentley…

Startups

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Startup supercar brand Czinger (the C is silent) was showing off the production ready version of its tandem-seat 1,250hp C21 hypercar. However, Czinger’s car is not it’s star — it’s a rolling demonstrator for the company’s AI 3D printing techniques, which it claims can take design and development processes that currently take week, if not months, and squash them into one single day.

It was easy to lose track of more ‘normal’ new cars from Ferrari (which brought along the stunning Daytona SP3) and Maserati (showing off the ‘Cielo’ convertible version of its MC20 supercar). Lexus was getting in on the electric game, too — showing off a delicious concept version of a battery successor to the LF-A supercar which is pencilled in for production in 2030. Personally, we preferred the pugnaciously cute all-electric Renault 5, also at the Festival, which will go on sale in 2024.

Hillclimb

In spite of big crowds and big names — Mansell, Ford, BMW, Porsche, Ferrari, the list goes on — it was noticeable that the depth of quality of entries for the hillclimb wasn’t quite what it has been in the past. Brexit is making it more difficult to ship priceless racing cars to the event, while the tighter budgets of the big F1 teams meant a smaller presence of the latest machines and current drivers, although Mercedes’ star George Russell did turn up to spin some smoky donuts in the 2019 Merc F1 car.

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The actual fastest car of the weekend was the bizarre McMurtry Speirling electric car.

The actual fastest car of the weekend was the bizarre McMurtry Speirling electric car. The car, named after the Irish for thunderstorm, is the brainchild of Clontarf-born billionaire David McMurtry. Looking like a ten-year old child’s idea of what the next Batmobile should look like, the McMurtry uses an electric fan to suck air from under itself, generating 2,000kg of instant downforce. Driven by racer Max Chilton, the McMurtry broke the record of 39.8secs set by the Volkswagen IDR electric car. That IDR broke the long-standing record of 41.6secs from the bottom of the hill to the top, set by Nick Heidfeld in a McLaren-Mercedes F1 car back in 1999. The McMurtry did it in 39.8secs.

With the sun shining and the engines roaring (or whistling, in the cases of the electric motors), it was as hard as ever not to be beguiled by Goodwood. Brexit or no Brexit it’s still one of the great motor sports experiences (albeit something of a victim of its own success judging by the traffic jams and the queues for the track crossing points ). Can we have one more Ford Supervan run, please? We’re quite enjoying the way it drains the air from our lungs…

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