JAGUAR XE SV PROJECT 8: 592bhp and the most extreme performance Jaguar ever made
We reflect on the best of this year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed, including some of our favourite images from the event
This, above all, was Bernie Ecclestone’s do. In the months leading up to the 2017 edition of the world’s most remarkable motorsport festival, most of us presumed Ferrari‘s much-ballyhooed 70th anniversary would take precedence over everything else at Goodwood — and there was indeed plenty of Prancing Horse action on the most famous hill in East Sussex.
But for this year’s, the 25th, founder Lord Charles March decided months ago that his mission would be to celebrate the unique career of the man who built Formula 1 and in this he received extraordinary support from many directions. Sculptor Gerry Judah’s eye-popping installation on the front lawn of Goodwood House suspended five of Bernie’s own racing cars at impossible angles, high above the crowd, to mark the five phases of Ecclestone’s career — as driver, manager, team owner, impresario and legend.
Bernie’s friends and acolytes were there in depth (Goodwood’s celebrity count, always impressive, seemed practically to double) and many teams and individuals brought cars relevant to his reign — not least a wonderful array of Brabham F1 cars which combined the talents of Ecclestone and Gordon Murray between 1972 and 1987. The whole enterprise was admirably supported (to the tune of a rumoured £1 million for design and erection of that “five phases” sculpture) by CVC Capital Partners and Liberty Media, F1’s departing and arriving owners.
And at the critical moments, the event was graced by attendance the little man himself. In his pomp, Ecclestone knew that one way of underscoring his power was never to allow his arrival at events like this to be predictable. But this time he was prominent at the Saturday night Festival Ball and at a special ceremony on Sunday afternoon for which the faithful gathered in thousands below Goodwood House’s balcony while Bernie was interviewed, honoured and cheered to the echo.
Other stuff happened. The Bernie events chimed perfectly with the 50th anniversary of the winning debut of Ford‘s immortal DFV racing V8 (in the back of Jimmy Clark’s impossibly beautiful Lotus 49 at Zandvoort). The same engine powered nearly all of Ecclestone’s Brabhams, and was staple power for most teams while Ecclestone’s expansion of F1 was in its its steepest trajectory.
As a glorious and entirely different sidelight to F1, this Festival also featured the wedge-shaped sight — and most importantly, the unearthly sound — of the Lotus 56 turbine car that appeared at Indianapolis 50 years ago, and looked set to win the famous 500 the following year until a simple fuel pump failed with just nine laps to go. After that, the car was banned by race authorities concerned that it wasn’t noisy enough…
If noise was what you wanted, Ferrari had it. Red cars ran in droves to mark the 70th. All the famous sports/racers that Goodwood usually commands were there — LMs and GTOs and the rest of them — but even more outstanding was a glorious array of V12-engined F1 cars, which set pulses racing with their extraordinary shouting, wailing exhaust notes, so different from the rest, back in the day. Talking Ferrari, there was also time to celebrate the Prancing Horse’s 1964 world champion, John Surtees, who died this year and was the only man ever to win world motorcycle and car championships. His winning Ferrari 158 single-seater and a championship MV Agusta motorcycle were both there, along with several successful single-seaters he built under his own name.
Road car manufacturers have long supported Goodwood, and there was an almost bewildering array of recent arrivals on display in the (intermittent) Sussex sunshine, some moving under their own steam for the first time. The new Alpine A110 coupe was driven with special verve as was Ford’s road-going GT. Italdesign’s Zerouno was there, Jaguar surprised many by showing a 592bhp version of its XE compact saloon called Project 8, McLaren unveiled its latest 570S Spider, and there was even space in the field for London Taxi to run its new, all-auminium cab, complete with range-extender powertrain and a battery-only range rumoured to be around 80 miles.
That was not all. There were desert racers and rally cars and fashion cars and aircraft displays. This year’s fields included and some and most powerful cars on the planet (my own favourite was the extraordinary 28.5-litre, 300hp 1911 Fiat called “The Beast of Turin”) and there was even a full-size Lego McLaren consisting of 280,000 pieces and weighing two tonnes. Variety, colour, noise and the non-stop excitement of cars were all there as ever — to show that Goodwood was in the rudest of health.