Giles Babbidge
July 5, 2016

Each summer since 1993, the country grounds of Goodwood in the UK have played host to the Festival of Speed. Billed as the world’s largest automotive garden party, this four-day extravaganza pulls in thousands of car enthusiasts and motorsport fans from around the world, time after time.

The theme for this year’s event was Full Throttle: The Endless Pursuit of Power, and while many eyes were trained on the likes of Bugatti’s Chiron (its UK premiere) and Lamborghini’s Huracan LP 610-4 Spyder, Ford was pulling out a few stops of their own.

As you’d expect from the manufacturer, their stand at the show was designed for maximum impact—standing high and wide, it featured multiple levels offering panoramic views across the show ground. Visitors were encouraged to take “The Leap,” landing on a crash mat some distance below the first-floor gantry. This was also the launch point for Parkour athletes, who put on displays for enthusiastic onlookers.

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Motoring-wise, there was plenty of eye candy on display, including the new Ford GT (striking in pure white and displayed on a tilt to accentuate its sleek, air-penetrating lines), the three-door 2.3 Ecoboost automatic Mustang convertible, 5.0 V8 Mustang fastback, and even a feisty little Focus RS five-door.

For those more interested in racing, the trophy from this year’s Le Mans GTE Pro Class was proudly on display, alongside the No. 67 car. The Marino Franchitti-driven No. 66 car, a 3.5-liter turbocharged V6, GT LM GTE, could also be found elsewhere at the Festival, either sat in the Class 5: Ford GT Celebration paddock for fans to see up-close, or taking on the world-famous 1.16-mile Hill Climb at regular times throughout the weekend.

Class 5 was for all fans of the GT series of cars, a sight for sore eyes and packed full of history. Take, for example, the distinctive No. 34 car, a 1968 GT40 emblazoned in the famous light blue and orange Gulf livery. “This was originally a 1965 car for a MKI,” Ted Higgins told me as he stood alongside the vehicle which was sister to the car that won Le Mans in 1968, driven by Rodriguez and Bianchi. “It was delivered to Rob Walker and it ran in the navy blue with the white band round the nose in Le Mans in 1965 and, I believe, ’66. It then went on the road as a press car round America for Ford, in dealerships and at shows… It got brought back to England and in 1968, John Wyer Automotive… prepared [it] in the Gulf colors. This did Spa and another race in ’68; it went to Le Mans as a spare car and it stayed in the truck for ’68 and ’69. There were only ever four Gulf GT40s for the John Wyer team—chassis 1074, -75, -76 and 1084. This is 1084.” These days, the car is privately owned and forms part of a collection that also includes a 1967 Mirage GT40, chassis number 1002.

Ken Block, now one of the established regulars each year, was of course on hand to wow the crowds, alongside his fellow Ford drifting buddy, Vaughn Gittin Jr. The two gladly signed autographs and posed for photographs on the Ford stand. Gittin’s choice of vehicle for this, his first visit to FoS, was a mean-looking 7.1-liter V8 2016 Mustang RTR, which delivered 900bhp as it laid rubber down on the Goodwood track.

“This was basically our development car for what is our competition car now in Formula Drift,” Gittin said. “The entire body is composite. We’re running the Ford Performance Aluminator with a Vortech supercharger. It’s got two settings: one is about 600hp and the other is about 800hp at the wheels.”

This is all great, but of course Goodwood’s is not the sort of track he’s used to taking on. So were there any special considerations to keep in mind? “It’s interesting, you know, because most tracks where we drift have a lot of big, sweeping, connecting turns. [Goodwood] is just a couple turns with very long connecting straightaways, so you get very high speed before you get into these turns and it’s quite tight!”

Much aside from dedicated drifting vehicles, Gittin admits to being a fan of rally cars and, with plenty of these on show, such as Block’s Focus RX, Pat Doran’s RS200 “Pikes Peak” and of course other classics such as the Audi Sport Quattro S1 E2—there’s always plenty for enthusiasts to sink their teeth into up at the Forest Rally Stage. Ford fans can always expect some notable vehicles, and this year saw many returning once again, including the Ford Lotus Cortina, Escort MKI Twin Cam, and Escort MKI RS1600 (winner of the 1972 Safari Rally).

The great thing about the Festival of Speed is that there’s always something for everyone and, as you might expect many visitors are taken by cars of racing’s past. Look around many of the paddocks and you will soon come across a good story. Michael and Jo Arnold (of Arnold Restorations Ltd) were showing off their 1969 Lotus-Ford 59. Featuring a 1-liter, three-bearing 105E Cosworth MAE (Modified Anglia Engine), it is capable of delivering 110 to120 hp. The car has an interesting past and was the vehicle driven by James Hunt in 1970’s Formula 3 championship. It also appeared in the film Rush. But what makes it stand out for Michael?

“This is a very special car for me,” he said, “because it’s the last car that Dad and I restored together. [He] passed away a year ago and my wife and I re-restored it, and that’s the first car we’ve done together.”

Wherever there’s a celebration to mark, Goodwood gladly steps up to the plate. This year’s FoS saw a number of milestones. Of course there was BMW’s Centenary (the company took pride of place as the Central Feature display in front of Goodwood House), but attention was also drawn towards the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 and the inaugural Can-Am Series 50 years ago.

Americana always holds a fascination and spectators weren’t disappointed on this front, either. There was a fine example of the Ford F-150 Raptor; notable for its 3.5-liter, turbocharged V6 delivering 450 hp among other things, it was driven round the track by former Top Gear ‘tame racing driver, The Stig,’ Ben Collins.

Jason Phelps easily owned the claim to “most powerful machine of the weekend” thanks to his 2008 Mustang Fuel Funny Car and its 8,000hp-packing 500ci (8.2-liter) nitro-burning Chrysler Hemi V8. Who wouldn’t be impressed by a 0-100mph time of 0.8 seconds and maximum speed of 310mph? To put things in perspective, your typical Funny Car has more power than you’d find on the first five rows of an F1 grid.

Phelps’ family had cause for celebration, too. This year is their firm’s 60th birthday and also sees the 50th anniversary of world-famous Santa Pod Raceway in the UK. To mark these occasions, they decided to breathe new life into an iconic Funny Car name of the past—Gladiator was the car Phelps’ father raced back in the 1970s with his then-driver, Allan Herridge.

Some things never change at the FoS. The Michelin Supercar Paddock always draws a large crowd, as does the Moving Motor Show, where manufacturers show off their latest automotive developments with the future of driving in mind. The Goodwood Action Sports arenas are popular with younger visitors especially, and the Cartier Style et Luxe lawn offers a relatively tranquil area in which to appreciate some of the machinery of motoring’s earliest days. There’s plenty to enthrall motorcycle enthusiasts too.

Add to this the large shopping areas, eateries and places to enjoy a beer on a hot summer’s day and it’s no wonder that the Festival of Speed is now considered one of the key not-to-be-missed motoring events on the global calendar.

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