First lessons in becoming a petrolhead?


I’ve just returned from a couple of days at the Goodwood Festival Of Speed. Readers will be aware that motorsport, cars and speed never appear in my tweeting or blogging normally. I’ll freely admit that in advance I didn’t really know what to expect of the event but it turned out to be rather good fun.

First impressions were a bit of a nightmare as we heard on the radio about long tailbacks getting in to the event and on the M1. Fortunately my satnav took us along some delightful Sussex leafy lanes which seemed to do the trick in just about the same time. The rest of the confusion was clearly down to the festival organisers. As we got near there were signs advising drivers to switch off their satnav and follow blue signs. One memorable junction had two blue signs which caused adequate confusion as one of them advised drivers NOT to follow it to the Festival.

We were stopping at the Snoozebox site at the Goodwood racecourse which really turned out to be fun. Basically the plan is to use freight containers and convert each into 4 rooms containing a double and single bed, a wet room, TV and wifi connection. All catering was in the racecourse bars and restaurants. I’ve stopped in capsules before but these were about a third less in footprint. It’s a great solution to the problem because they are easily configurable with the freight container carcass.

We went down to the festival and the overwhelming first sensation is the distant throaty roar of sports cars. It quickly became apparent that the focus is a hill climb through the heart of the festival. Cars are prepared in the paddock area and then driven up the hill in front of the stands and crowds kept apart by hay bales. They wait at the top and then come back down and through to the paddock again before returning to their display location and the next class takes their place. Now I’m no motorsport enthusiast and the sight of one car after another going along a straight track does nothing particularly for me but I can clearly see that the close proximity to the action before during and after is fascinating. More important is the chance to talk to owners, drivers and marshalls in a way that motor shows and race meetings just don’t allow for anyone else. and finally there is very little that is just an exhibit – all the cars move and get driven up the hill! This isn’t a museum.

The exhibition area has stands for some of the car manufacturers which are the size of dealerships and all are filled with car models but also video games, giveaways and competitions. Because of the scale of the place the activities can be a little better than at a motor show – the Mini stand had mini dodgem cars, another vendor had an abseiling wall, Land Rover had a mini jungle track for people to try. Car specifications leave me a little cold but the marketing guys have done a good job. The Harley Davidson stand was a treat for me because they had some custom painted fuel tanks and Gibson guitars plugged in and ready to play through headphones – fantastic.

In the evening the vast campsite comes alive with a range of Winnebagos and odd juxta positions of Maseratis accompanied by a two-man tent. The automotive real estate in car parks and campsites must have been phenomenal. Coupled with several cars worth more than £1m you soon forgot we are in the midst of a recession.

Personal highlights:

  • Playing the Gibson Les Pauls on the Harley stand
  • Seeing some of the racing cars hurtling up the hill
  • Occasional celebrity watching – the Mark Webber Q&A was interesting
  • Hearing Lord March and seeing the Le Mans pitstop challenge on the Nissan stand
  • Watching the GAS two-wheeled displays – especially the tricks motorcyclists up close.
  • The slight feeling of “anything could happen”

As they say, don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it. I surprise myself by saying I’d definitely love to go again.

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About justaukcook

/kʊk/ Not a chef, not an epicure, not a foodie. Just one who likes to prepare food – What really happens in the kitchen and on the high street is what I write about. Follow me on Twitter @Justaukcook and on https://www.facebook.com/justaukcook
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