Here’s the iconic Beast of Turin Fiat being fettled at this year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed. It should be swarmed by people with beards getting very excited that it exists. But now everything is different, and very strange.
This year, both the Goodwood Festival of Speed and the Revival have been smooshed into one mega-event called SpeedWeek. It’s a behind-closed-doors event that’ll be streamed from the Goodwood estate, so no one apart from a few journalists, drivers, owners and Goodwood staffers are allowed in. I was one of the lucky few invited to have a nose around and see what’s what.
(Full disclosure: Audi called and asked if I wanted to take part in its Quattro 40th-anniversary celebration and parade at Goodwood. They sent me a car and sorted my access. Audi UK provided some pictures; others were taken by me.)
The Goodwood Festival of Speed is usually a hive of activity. You can barely move for people taking photos and videos, and they are generally being excited about all the shiny cars. Goodwood House usually has a huge sculpture out front, but this year… where’s it gone? Why is there no mix of metal and car dangerously looming over us?
The view from the house is normally a mass of grandstands, manufacturer displays and people. Instead, it’s now empty fields and sheep. At least we now know where Goodwood’s lamb chops come from. I haven’t had to consider it before.
One of the highlights of the Festival of Speed is the hill runs. The latest and greatest supercars thunder up and down, much to the delight of onlookers. They’re fun, but the runs demand a time commitment from drivers. You need to get to your car an hour before you’re due to go, and you sit in a (very fancy) traffic jam while hoping no one currently on the hill falls off and causes a bigger jam. This year, would you believe traffic wasn’t an issue? Well.. some Audis.
It’s somberly quiet, save for the cars, as sadly no one is there cheering you on at the sidelines. It feels kind of… empty. The lack of hay bales is unnerving for someone who doesn’t know Goodwood without them, but this year at least you get a better view of the landscape.
As there’s no traffic, you can go up and down the Duke of Richmond’s driveway as many times as you like without incident. Unless you drive like a muppet, that is.
Following the world’s quickest hill runs, we went to the circuit for a couple of parade laps. The circuit is where the vast majority of SpeedWeek is broadcast from.
We were told to be sensible in our respective cars, though we were not.
After the on-track foolishness, I went for a snoop around the site, and it was, to be honest, mostly uncomfortable.
Any other year, the Goodwood Supercar Paddock would be full of people trying to stick their faces into everything with a lurid paint job and a flash badge. Instead… it was empty.
A few industry execs stood by their cars, but no crowds meant it all felt a bit showroom rapture-y.
There really should be children taking camera phone pics of this.
Or a bunch of wannabe influencers trying to record pieces around this spot.
A walk farther into the track revealed more people, all masked up for obvious reasons. Thing is, there weren’t enough of them to make the place feel special. It felt like the beginning of a party, when only a couple of guests have arrived and your place feels way too empty. The atmosphere was jolly, but also apprehensive.
The paddock was, as you’d expect, chock full of rare, exciting cars. But hardly anyone was there to see them, apart from owners and drivers.
As it’s October and England, the weather is a little grim. Thoughtfully, Goodwood has laid on fire pits to keep people warm. But it all looks a bit “guys around an oil drum,” doesn’t it? Albeit an oil drum next to an INCREDIBLE parking lot.
Over at the track, the pit lane was full of cars but few people. It meant there was less for the noise to bounce off, though. (Note that below, the Elva’s Roll Over Protection System is active because it’s a prototype, and it’s a thing McLaren has to adhere to. Silly regulations ruining pretty cars.)
The show Goodwood put on for SpeedWeek was undoubtedly excellent viewing — races, noisy supercars, interviews, the good stuff. But there was not much in the background. No screaming fans. None of the usual atmosphere. It’s a strange year full of strange things, and Goodwood without people is a reminder that cars and events like this can’t function the same without the energy of the enthusiasts sharing what they care about.