Giles Babbidge
August 10, 2015

Each year, thousands of petrol heads, car enthusiasts and motorsport fans descend on the grounds of Goodwood House in the UK. The 17th century country home of the Duke of Richmond, ordinarily the site is every bit the picture of peace and tranquility—but all this soon changes when some of the finest vehicles from around the world roll up in the summer for a long weekend of high-octane action.

The show offers members of the public unrivalled access to the world’s most prestigious marques, as well as the chance to rub shoulders with heroes from stage and screen who freely walk amongst them. On the now-legendary 1.16-mile Hill Climb, drivers battle it out against the clock, much to the delight of thousands of onlookers, with showmanship often attracting as much interest as the vehicles themselves. The record for the fastest time, incidentally, stands at 41.6 seconds—set by Nick Heidfeld in the McLaren MP4-13 in 1999.

Nestled in amongst a bewildering selection of European supercars from the likes of Ferrari, Bentley, Porsche, and Lamborghini, you will always find strong representation from across the pond, too. As popularity amongst visitors from the US has grown, the Festival of Speed has widened its scope to include even more Stateside attraction. This year was no different, with a whole category dedicated to Americana, and of course there were impressive stands from those trusty boys, Chevrolet and Ford.

Over on the three-story, 10-meter high Ford exhibition stand, visitors were treated to a range of classic and new vehicles representing the theme of “Ford Performance.” At ground level, a rare 1969 GT40 sat surrounded by a clear glass screen, tantalizingly out of reach, whilst a 2005 GT, impressively suspended from the roof, bowed down at an angle making it look somewhat animated, much to the delight of the visitors. The latest Mustang was well positioned, its punchy yellow body standing out against Ford’s signature blue display. Parents peered through its shiny windows to get a glimpse of its clean-finish interior, whilst kids posed for photographs in front of its imposing front end.

The ensemble was completed by a couple of more modest cars in the shape of the award-winning Fiesta ST and the 320ps Focus RS (similar to the one which Ken Block drifted around their factory in Cologne, Germany). And speaking of the man: ever the entertainer, he put in daily appearances on the stand, more than willing to sign autographs and have his picture taken with his adoring fans.

Elsewhere on site, a striking red pre-production GT350R was wrestled around the track, its power skilfully controlled on what is normally the serene driveway that meanders through the front garden of the estate.

Ken Block’s duties were clearly never going to be confined to the Ford stand, either. Throughout the weekend, based from the Monster Energy stand, he could be seen charging his unique 1965 Mustang Hoonicorn up the Hill, drifting around corners and setting up donuts for photographers in front of Goodwood House.

For those visitors more interested in the classics, and perhaps the history of racing Fords, there were some great examples on display. In amongst the Classic Endurance Racers category were two particularly interesting examples of Cobras: a 4.7-litre 289, built in 1963; and a 1965 Shelby 427 Competition Roadster (not to be confused with a 427SC, this one was a pure competition car), which itself was successfully raced at Goodwood Motor Circuit in the past. Original GT40s are always crowd-pleasers and this year, one was featured in the same category. Now in its 50th year, the 4.4-litre V8 GT40 #1017 was raced at Le Mans by Jochen Rindt (during which the engine blew up). Its second owner, Ron Fry, took it to 30 victories in 1967-1968, bagging six lap records at UK circuits in the process.

Elsewhere in the paddock there were other highlights from racing’s past, too. In the Americana category, examples such as the one-of-a-kind Lola-Ford T153 Sunoco Special turned heads, while the likes of the Matra-Ford MS5 were a talking point in the Cosworth Years category. Fans of Ford touring cars were also well catered for, with the 600bhp Falcon V8 Supercar finishing 18th overall, top of the list of all touring cars.

Each year, Bill Shepherd Mustang (the UK’s specialist, based in Surrey) take a pitch, to show off a range of the vehicles they deal in, which comprises mid-’64-’75 classics, as well as new cars from 2005 onwards. At the heart of their display is always a replica P51 Mustang plane (made by a guy who has previously built some for George Lucas, but that’s another story!). Not to disappoint, this year saw an array of cars on their stand, including what they call the NewClassic—a Bullitt replica centered around a re-engineered ’60s Mustang but featuring modern running gear. The one on display, a development car going by the name of BSM1, boasted such features as a 5-liter 4-cam Coyote motor, electronic instrumentation, limited slip differential, independent multi-link suspension, and an electronic management system.

The ongoing development of their offerings doesn’t stop there either. As Bill explained, “We’ve recently expanded our horizons by taking in the range from Shelby American; we’re now the Shelby American Mod Shop for Europe.” The full launch will be at Goodwood Revival later in the year, another must-see event for vintage Ford enthusiasts. Incidentally, other fine examples of their Mustangs included a 1966 Fastback 327 V8, a 1966 289 V8 Convertible and a 2015 S550 V8.

The attraction of the Goodwood Festival of Speed is widespread and everyone takes away something different. This could be the chance to ask questions face-to-face with your favorite manufacturers or get hands-on with a dream car. Maybe it’s the noise or smell of exotic performance engines that excites, or simply the spectacle as a whole that brings people back time and time again. Aside from the on-track action and big exhibitor stands, there’s so much to see that visitors often return multiple days and some even stay over at dedicated camping and motorhome fields. An extreme sport area sits amongst food trailers, whilst there are plenty of places to splash your cash, if the mood takes you.

From NASCAR to supercars, stadium super trucks to world-class superbikes, the Festival has something to offer every visitor. For more information, you can check out Goodwood’s website, www.goodwood.co.uk.

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