Yesterday and tomorrow
JULY 6, 2011
The Goodwood Festival of Speed is not simply about the past. If you look hard enough you can find the future, tucked away in marquees and pavilions arranged around the manicured acres of Goodwood House.
Each year, Lord March and his incredibly enthusiastic team seem to exceed even their own high standards. One of the themes for 2011 was the 100th anniversary of the Indy 500. The paddock sheds, evident since the first Festival in 1993, were ideal for this, particularly when the organisers, showing their usual eye for detail, hung 'Gasoline Alley' signs - just like the originals - across the walkways.
The quality and quantity of Indy cars was something to behold. I may be biased here, given my hero worship of Jim Clark, but the Lotus 38 remains my favourite. Followed by the Penske PC23, surely one of the most graceful racing cars ever, never mind the truly heroic job by Ilmor Engineering and Mercedes when they built that phenomenal pushrod 1000bhp V8 - in secret - and blew everyone away.
Al Unser Junior, the winner that day in 1994, was present at Goodwood. That's the thing about this place. I'm paying quiet homage to Al Junior's Uncle Bobby, take a step back - and almost stand on Johnny Rutherford's toes! Legends everywhere you turn.
Dan Wheldon brought the Indy 500 story bang up to date. As for future winners; they could have been mingling in the crowd for all we know.
Technicians of tomorrow are easier to find thanks to F1 in Schools, an initiative that has the blessing of the F1 teams and encourages school kids to design and build miniature projectiles powered by an explosion of CO2.
This is a global concept with each participating country selecting a representative to take part in a world final. The significance of this was brought home at Goodwood as I watched two teams from the UAE competing on the 20-metre drag strip.
One team was drawn from Al Khubairat (a private school that finished second last year in the Singapore GP finals), while the other represented Al Hayer, a government school that had bravely - and uniquely for such establishments in the UAE - accepted a concept that is alien to their culture. Never mind getting involved in physics and aerodynamics, stepping on an aeroplane for the first time and travelling abroad marked a major step forward in every sense for these boys. You could see the sense of awe and wonder in their wide-eyed expressions.
The F1 in Schools competition took place in the Bloodhound SSC pavilion; an appropriate link given the World Land Speed Record team's slogan 'inspiring the next generation' as they research and build a car capable of reaching 1000mph.
So here we are, talking about rocket science and yet, in the bowels of this WLSR machine measuring 13.4 metres, is a Cosworth V8 F1 engine. To be perfectly honest, it looked bizarre at first sight. But then you discover that the Cossie is absolutely perfect in weight, shape and performance to do the job of pumping 42 litres of HTP (High-test Peroxide) per second into a catalyst.
All of this was beyond me, never mind the school kids. You can imagine their delight when the Cosworth F1 mobile workshop was put at their disposal for fettling their model cars, and then a Bloodhound engineer sat down with the boys to talk about the basics of physics. You could see tomorrow's F1 engineers being cultivated right there. This is precisely what F1 in Schools is all about.
Bloodhound and a hand-held miniature racer represent two massive extremes of scale that work to the same fundamental aero principles. Talking of comparisons, in the marquee next door I found the Infiniti Etherea Concept hybrid car which, elegant as it is, appeared to tower over a pair of Gordon Murray's City Cars.
Murray's design genius, evident particularly with his Brabham F1 cars, is there for all to see, albeit on a much smaller scale. And yet that limitation in size has nurtured the invention and production of such superb detail in miniature. As with all good things, the City Car is breathtaking in its simplicity and makes the Smart car look clumsy.
A couple of hundred metres away, the hill climb echoed to the rasping and roaring of the past. That is the essence of Goodwood. But the future has its place, albeit quietly but significantly in the wings.
Maurice Hamilton , a freelance motor sport writer and broadcaster since 1977, is the author of more than twenty books and contributes to websites and magazines worldwide.
His weekly column for Grandprix.com was Highly Commended in the 2011 Newspress New Media Awards.