Goodwood 2012: A car lover's paradise

Last updated 08:15 04/07/2012

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From formula one cars and stars to bikes, trucks and just about anything on four wheels, the Goodwood Festival of Speed is an eye opener.

What do Damon Hill, Rod Millen, Eddie Cheever, Derek Bell, Jim Richards, Wayne Gardner, Alain Prost, Rauno Aaltonen and Mark Webber have in common?

Other than the fact they've all been successful racing drivers – many of them world champions – they were all also at the 2012 Goodwood Festival of Speed.

Part motor show, part motor race and an enthusiast's paradise, the Goodwood Festival of Speed is like nothing else on four wheels and is an event that attracts a list of motorsport stars too long to list.

Arguably the most famous are the current F1 drivers, including dual world champion Sebastian Vettel and Jenson Button, not to mention Australian Mark Webber.

The annual convergence on the estate of Lord March in the south of England brings together car lovers from all over the world and for just about anything qualifying as a car.

So popular is the gathering that attendances are capped at 150,000 over the three days because the event was getting too big.

Having heard plenty about one of the world's most highly regarded motoring meccas I went in with big expectations. Fortunately I wasn't disappointed.

The most refreshing thing was how casual the whole thing is. Dual world champion Sebastian Vettel isn't worried about lap times, while Sir Jackie Stewart hasn't thought about them for decades.

The pair each arrived at the top of the 1.9km track – which is essentially the driveway to Lord March's majestic estate – with a huge grin on their faces.

"It's like a funfair for cars," said Vettel after his run that involved plenty of tyre smoke and just as much respect from the crowd. "I'll definitlely come back. It's so nice to see the cars … in real life."

The head of Toyota and the man charged with changing the culture of the company – and the cars it produces – Akio Toyoda, was also behind the wheel at Goodwood.

More impressive than the array of drivers is the machinery they're driving.

There's new cars, old cars, cars that aren't even on sale yet – and just about everything else in between.

Manufacturers are increasingly using the Goodwood event to showcase new cars. As well as activities for all ages, shapes and sizes there's a motorshow-like collection of marquees and temporary pavilions designed to showcase cars of some sort.

Jaguar ran its yet-to-be-revealed new F-Type roadster, which wore zebra-like disguises. Another to be partially hidden was the V8-powered AMG version of the just-unveiled new Mercedes-Benz CLS Shooting Brake (wagon).

Others are more overt with their treatment of rare new vehicles; Infiniti showed off a near-production-ready development version of its Emerge-e petrol-electric hybrid supercar.

Whether it's from Le Mans, Nascar, Formula One or the rally roads, you can guarantee there will be some at Goodwood. And they span decades, from the latest and greatest or from decades earlier.

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But the real beauty is how relaxed and accessible it all is. You can go to a grand prix and not get very close to the cars. Yet at Goodwood they're up close and personal. Wander out to the pits and you can even touch them, talk to the people who love them – and those who love to look after them.

- Sydney Morning Herald

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