The Porsche 70th anniversary sculpture in front of Goodwood House. Picture: MARK SMYTH
The Porsche 70th anniversary sculpture in front of Goodwood House. Picture: MARK SMYTH

If you have ever been to Goodwood Festival of Speed then you will know that picking highlights is no easy thing.

The venue is the massive estate belonging to Lord March, Duke of Richmond in the south of England, a picturesque spot of quintessential rolling English hills replete with stately homes, postcard cottages and sprawling lawns. The estate also has a racetrack and a horseracing track but the focus for the festival is the 1.86km hillclimb route.

IT WAS PETROLHEAD HEAVEN BUT ELECTRIC CARS ALSO MADE THEIR PRESENCE FELT MORE THAN IN PREVIOUS YEARS.

The highlights begin the minute you walk through the gate. Actually, they begin before you even get to the gate because the car park is full of iconic automobiles. People drive their supercars and classics in from all over the UK and Europe. Once through the gate you are greeted by the performance car parking area with a line of Paganis, a line of McLarens and another of Lamborghinis and Porsches. A chap arrived in his Aston Martin DB5 Superleggera and we found him putting the child seats in the boot.

Then it’s past the paddocks where everything from the first ever Porsche to drift cars imported from the US and a host of Formula 1 cars through the ages are parked. It is a treasure trove of motoring history. We spotted the 1992 Audi S4 GTO that raced in SA and still has the original Wesbank, Engen and Southern Sun stickers on. South African Paolo Piazza-Musso was lined up to head for the hill in the Zakspeed Escort.

There were classic Mercedes models including a number of F1 cars, Niki Lauda’s Ferrari, a replica of the Bloodhound SSC that will attempt to break the world land speed record in SA in 2019 and then there was the Cartier Lawn, where such icons as a McLaren F1, a Citroen prototype, Aston Martin Vantage V8 and others were parked for the public to pore over without a velvet rope in sight. Goodwood lets you get closer to the legends of the automotive world than anywhere in the world and many of the owners are present to talk proudly of their cars and, in many cases, what else they have in their garage.

We found one such owner at our hotel in the village of Midhurst. We had to help him with the satellite navigation on the first Rolls-Royce Phantom 8 to be delivered, while he explained that normally the navigation is dealt with by his driver.

He owns multiple Rollers including a 1915 Silver Ghost, as well as numerous Bentleys. He told us how he goes to the Bugatti hillclimb, not in his Veyron but in his LaFerrari because he finds it amusing. He was an example of the many collectors who attend Goodwood with stories to tell.

Back to the estate though and the vehicles that actually took to the hill. There was a drag racing bike that could blow your eardrum, drifters from the US who smoked their tyres at every opportunity. Even Formula 1 drivers were doing donuts for the crowds. In celebration of Porsche’s anniversary, a line of iconic models took to the hill, as did a line of Land Rovers in celebration of that brand’s 75th anniversary this year.

Then there were the rare modern supercars such as the McLaren Senna, the McLaren 600LT which was launched at the event, a Ferrari FXX and the Lamborghini Centenario.

There were prototypes and dynamic debuts too. The new Toyota Supra was there in marketing camo, the Jaguar Project 8 and the Polestar 1.

It was petrolhead heaven but electric cars also made their presence felt more than in previous years. The Chinese Nio set a strong time, but it and many others was beaten conclusively by the Volkswagen ID R that just a week before took the overall win at the Pikes Peak hillclimb in the US.

It really is a must-visit event for anyone who appreciates great automobiles. Put it on your list for 2019 — you’ll be amazed.