The Goodwood Festival of speed has become a must-attend event on any petrolhead's calendar and this year Yahoo! Cars got the rare opportunity to drive up its famous hill.
Take one long driveway, a motorsport loving Lord and some great contacts and you've got the beginnings of an idea. That's pretty much how the Goodwood Festival of Speed came about, with Lord March inviting motorsport's great and good to drive their racing cars and bikes up the tricky hillclimb at his West Sussex pile.
Variety is everything
Just about every car and driver has driven up Lord March's driveway and after years of watching other people do it we've had an invite. We'll be taking part in the Supercar Run, a twice-daily moving assembly of the world's finest exotica tearing up the hill for the 50,000+ spectators. I'm in a Vauxhall, which might seem a bit incongruous given the multi-million pound Bugatti Veyron, Lamborghini Reventón Roadster and wild one-off GTbyCitroen concept that are also waiting in the paddock, but this isn't any ordinary Vauxhall; indeed the badges say Holden, which makes it a bit more exotic...
Brute force, Aussie style
Who needs a Ferrari or Porsche anyway when you've got a 6.2-litre LS3 V8 with 430bhp driving the rear wheels? The Holden HSV GTS is arguably one of the rarest cars here too, making the Ferraris look common in comparison. It's big, it's red and it's fast, and with the traction control off I line it up at the start and hope to achieve a big smoky burnout.
I'll admit to being rather nervous; I've driven up the hill before but the tight, hay bale and flint wall lined course has caught out drivers with way more talent than I've got. My girlfriend's alongside for the ride, and has promised not to squeal if she thinks I'm going too fast. I'm not looking to set any records today (I haven't the talent or the power), so I just enjoy the big red saloon and its noisy V8 up the hill, taking in the view of all the spectators and praying I keep it in one piece.
Over as soon as it's started
It's all over pretty quickly. I'd selected manual mode on the way up the hill to make more noise, fluffing a shift as unfamiliarity has me pushing the lever for up rather than pulling it. Ah well, worse things could have definitely happened, and the sound of the V8 at high revs seemed to please the crowd.
At the top, waiting for the other cars to arrive I spot Derek Bell in a Bentley among many other famous drivers and am brought right back to the day I attended as a spectator in the first few years of the Festival of Speed's running. Then I strolled up to Derek and asked him to sign a Porsche brochure, which he did and chatted for a while. That underlined the sort of access that Goodwood gives to everyone, and even now it's possible to see and meet some of the stars of motorsport.
Having done so from either side of the fence I can say that Goodwood remains one of the best days out if you're into your cars. And long may that continue. Thanks to Simon at Vauxhall for arranging the run in the Holden HSV GTS - a car that will be reaching these shores sometime soon as the new Vauxhall VXR8 - and Lord March for letting a bunch of hooligans play races on his driveway.