Columns - The Man in the Pub

Festival of Noise!


As has been the way for the last 16 years, the highlight of this particular petrolhead's summer is not the British Grand Prix, but the annual pilgrimage from the pub to the Goodwood estate in Chichester for the superb Festival of Speed.

Every year, the Festival gets a different theme, this year it was 'True Grit “ Epic Feats of Endurance' making it sound a bit like a John Wayne film, but essentially it is always the same. Take a huge selection of past and present F1 cars, World Rally Cars, Motorbikes, NASCAR machines and Le Mans racers and get them to bomb up the driveway of Lord March's house for three days. Simple, yet very effective.

There simply were too many incredible cars appearing on the hill to list here, but the ones that made sure I wasn't in the beer tent were beauty's such as Ayrton Sennas dominant McLaren Honda MP4/4 (sadly suffering gearbox failure during Bruno Sennas second Saturday run), the 1985 Lotus 97T, pedalled by an enthusiastic Martin Donelly, who refused to let a brief shower hold him back “ despite being on slicks and a dozen Williams including Damon Hills 1996 title winning FW18 and this years current racer with Kazuki Nakajima on hand.

There must easily have been 40 Grand Prix racers to watch and they probably only represent about a fifth of the cars to go up the hill.

One or two of them did not get very far. The 'World First' racing car, made out of organic products, rather ironically conked out directly outside the 'Eat Fat Pig' food stall before starting it's run up the drive. Apparently the steering wheel is made from carrots and other root vegetables, the wing mirrors are made from potatoes, it uses plant oil based lubricants and has an engine that will run on vegetable oil and waste chocolate. The driveshaft, the only piece of the car not from an organic source, was the only bit that broke. Sadly, it was probably the most important bit.

The only thing worse than the carrot-mobile was the truly abysmal Life 190 F1 car, which in its day never got past pre-qualifying. The 190, bizarrely entered in the 'High Tech F1 cars' group, managed to come down the hill well enough but its two attempts to go back up failed to last more than a few metres. At least it was consistent in its awfulness.

The machine of the weekend was not, oddly enough a car, but the monstrous RAF Typhoon (Eurofighter) which makes a sound like continents colliding. The display was breathtaking as every person without exception stopped to watch. However, this was all happening at the same time as World Rally Champion, Sebastien Loeb, started his ascent of the hill in his Citroen C4 WRC, performing wild doughnuts without seeming to stop going forwards. It was something of an achievement to be able to watch what was going on in the air and on the ground at the same time but boy was it worth the effort.

For reasons that were never really made clear, much fuss was made of Hollywood actor, Peter Fonda, riding a vintage motorbike up the hill (celebrating the anniversary of one of his few films apparently) but at least it did give commentator, Marcus Pye, the chance to use the 'here comes Peter Fonda with his big chopper' line, much to the amusement of all teenage boys present.

F1 teams were a little thinner on the ground this year, but this was more than made up by the antics of Red Bull's Mark Webber and Toyota's Timo Glock, both seemingly intent on getting through as many sets of tyres as possible with huge burnouts off the line and doughnuts aplenty.  Even the normally placid Pedro de la Rosa, made a plea to the organisers for more space for such antics next year.

Let's hope that he gets his wish...

Rob Sinfield also writes for