Epic moments at the Goodwood Festival of Speed as Porsche celebrates 75 years

Published Jul 19, 2023


For one week each year a 1.86km stretch of ascending asphalt on the Goodwood Estate in West Sussex becomes central to the most enthralling, and expensive, driveway party in the world.

Founded 30 years ago by the Duke of Richmond, the Goodwood Festival of Speed is quite rightfully described by its promoters as an intoxicating celebration of motorsport and car culture.

Originally the Duke wanted to bring motorsport back to the nearby historic Goodwood Circuit, but lacking the necessary permit at the time, he created a new event on the grounds of his own estate, using its main driveway for the now famed Hillclimb. And the rest is history..

Currently attracting over 200 000 guests over four days, and featuring hundreds of iconic cars, both historic and modern, climbing the Hill in anger and sprawling across the estate grounds, this makeshift plan was clearly a stroke of genius.

This year things felt particularly special in the English countryside, with Porsche celebrating its 75th anniversary and also being the honoured marque for the fourth time. One of the associated perks was a large metal structure erected in front of the main Goodwood house. Designed by British artist Gerry Judah, the 50-tonne work of art features six iconic cars suspended in the air.

After arriving at the festival on Friday as media guests of Porsche, we made a beeline for this impressive structure. Here the German carmaker staged a special ceremony twice each day, in which 20 museum cars congregated on the circle around the sculpture for a goosebump-inducing moment of fireworks, colourful smoke and Led Zeppelin. See a slice of the action in the video below.

Guests of honour included Porsche’s very first sports car, the 356 No.1, as well as a 959 coupe, 993-generation 911 Turbo, Cayenne Transsyberia and a selection of competition cars, including numerous Le Mans-winning machines.

That was quite fitting, given that Porsche has won the Le Mans 24 Hour race 19 times, making it the event’s most successful manufacturer.

After ambling back to the track side hospitality, distracted by some epic machinery including the latest Singer 911 and a BMW M1 revving its guts out, we watched some of the historic Porsches ascending the hill with great enthusiasm. The Hill also welcomed some legendary drivers, including 1970 Le Mans winner Richard Attwood in the 935/76 and Timo Bernhard piloting the modern 919 Hybrid.

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While it’s easy to get sidetracked by all the history on display here, Porsche provided an equally impressive feast of modern vehicles at the Hill this year. These included the 718 Spyder RS, which made its dynamic debut at the event, complete with its 9000rpm screaming flat-six from the GT3. Joining it on the Hill were other modern-day crusaders such as the latest 911 GT3 RS and the new 911 Dakar.

The Porsche 718 Spyder RS made its dynamic debut.

It’s safe to say that Friday at Goodwood was a sensory overload of the best kind, and after experiencing some genuine South African braaivleis at our weekend accommodation venue, the charming West Dean College of Arts, we woke up to the terrible news that the Saturday leg of the Festival of Speed had been cancelled due to strong wind predictions.

Thankfully our hosts were as quick on their feet as the Duke was three decades ago, and organised a ‘makeshift’ day of activities for the 70-strong international media contingent. This included the chance to drive a handful of current 911 models in the British countryside, which you’ll soon read about in a separate feature.

We also got to experience some of the museum cars on the College grounds, including a ride in the passenger seat of the 356 No.1. Built in a small workshop in Gmünd, Austria way back in 1948, it is of course a humble car by today’s standards. Power came from a 1.1-litre flat-four that produced just 26kW, but it was an undeniably charming experience to ride in the car that paved the way for the more thrilling cars that we know today.

We also spent some quality time with the modern classics, such as the 959 and 993 Turbo, and although this was all done at low speeds on the College grounds, for good reason of course, each was still enchanting in its own way. While not exactly easy to drive, they have a purism that’s missing from most modern performance cars, although it’s fair to say that Porsche is still keeping the idea of the traditional driver’s car alive as best it can with some of the modern 911s.

On Sunday we woke up relieved to hear that the last Goodwood day was going ahead as scheduled, where the sensory feast and bucket list ticks could continue.

Of course, there was a lot else going on here besides Porsche’s activities, with hordes of new models having made their global debuts at the event, including the Aston Martin Valour V12, Ineos Grenadier Quartermaster bakkie, Caterham Project V and Ferrari KC23.

There was also some ear-popping rally car action on the Goodwood Hill, and no shortage of old and modern F1 cars to delight fans of the sport.

Particularly riveting was Travis Pastrana performing donuts up the hill in his “Hoonigan Family Huckster”, a 1983 Subaru wagon kitted with a highly modified four-cylinder boxer engine that now produces 642kW.

In fact his was the second fastest car in Sunday’s Supercar Shootout, which was won by a McLaren Solus GT with Marvin Kirchöfer at the wheel, ascending the Hill in 45.34 seconds.

It was a welcome return to petrol prowess, after the battery-powered McMurthy Speirling won last year, but with that being said, there was no shortage of battery-powered performance machinery on the hill this year.

As much as they impress with their startling acceleration and handling prowess, watching them whizz by silently did leave me somewhat cold. And I do wish that festivals like these will at least give the petrol-powered classics an outlet for decades to come.

Because there was just so much to see around the Estate grounds, I pryed myself away from our trackside hospitality area to take a fast amble around the show.

When I say visual and sensory overload, I’m not kidding. From paddocks full of historic race and rally cars to new vehicle displays, including the aforementioned world debuts, and even rally and drifting circuits, I could go on and on about the abundance of machinery and famous drivers who graced the lawns.

Eventually I made my way to the Porsche Experience Centre at the edge of the Estate, where my hosts had put on something of a unique experience for members of the public.

This included an indoor cinematic experience in front of a real example of the new Mission X concept car, which is an all-electric vision of the hypercar of the future.

Behind glass on the edge of the stand was the new Porsche 367 Speedster, also an electric car but with a classic design heavily inspired by the original 356.

Which shows, the more things change the more they stay the same. Here’s to another exciting, or dare I say electrifying, 75 years..

IOL Motoring