“Peaks of Performance – Motorsport’s Game-Changers” was the overarching theme of the 25th Goodwood Festival of Speed. The 2017 edition of the event celebrated the icons whose revolutionary technical advances have left all-comers trailing in their wake. Among the Earl of March’s visitors from 29 June was BMW Group Classic’s Historic Motorsport team, who presented a handful of fascinating models more than worthy of the event’s billing – and soaked up every moment of this incomparable four-day celebration.
Over the years, the Goodwood Festival of Speed has built up a cult following. Nowhere else will visitors find a high-calibre array of racing and sports car to compare with those gracing the Earl of March’s historic lawns in southern England. And nowhere else do so many race winners and world champions (past and present), star designers and engineering gurus – made famous by vehicles on two wheels and four – hobnob with the great unwashed. Every year you question how the Festival of Speed can get any better, and every year you’re left with egg on your face. 2017 was no exception.
Technology that changes everything.
It’s difficult to think of a better showcase for technical progress than motor sport. In this most rarefied of worlds, speed – i.e. the time it takes to hurtle from start line to finish line – is all that matters. Every once in a while, a new car or motorcycle powers into view whose designers have exploded every rule in the book, and in the process raised the bar to a level none of its rivals can top: a “game-changer, in other words. The BMW Group Classic delegation arrived in Goodwood this year fronted by a spread of vehicles boasting some impressive victories on the big occasion.
Winners among winners.
The 1939 BMW Mille Miglia Touring Coupé – a one-off in every sense of the word – was honed to keep weight low in all areas and fitted with an aerodynamically refined body. Having won at Le Mans in 1939, it sped to victory at the legendary Mille Miglia the following year in a new record time. At Goodwood it was driven by car collector and passionate racing driver Eckhard Schimpf.
The powerful BMW WR 500 Kompressor based on the R57 from 1929 is a classic motorcycle sprinkled with stardust. Claus Clausen (the bike’s enthusiastic owner, who also restored it) guided it through the park and past the thrilled spectators in an unmistakable blur.
A winning formula.
A mountain climber at the summit of a high peak will be struggling for air. But the Brabham BMW BT52 had no such issues as it scaled the heights of motor sport in the hands of Nelson Piquet. The BT52 won the 1983 Formula One World Championship, a turbocharger breathing extra potency into its majestic engine. Indeed, it made history as the first turbocharged car to claim the F1 title. But the sudden boost of thrust provided by the turbo meant it was a bit of an animal to drive – as Pierluigi Martini can testify. The Italian, who competed in F1 from 1981 to 1995 and gained his first experience of the BT52 as a test driver, got back behind the wheel at Goodwood.
The original BMW M3 was the model in which Roberto Ravaglia became the first ever touring car world champion, and the old favourite also etched a smile onto the faces of countless other racing drivers – professional and amateur. The founder member of the M3 dynasty racked up more prizes and accolades than any touring car before or since.
24 hours at the ragged edge, three drivers in rotation, day and night without a break: welcome to Le Mans. The mother of all 24-hour races retains an almost mythical appeal, producing myriad tales of magnificent victories and crushing disappointment. In 1999 the BMW V12 LMR left its rivals trailing in its wake at the French track and was piloted by British driver Steve Soper in the American Le Mans Series. At Goodwood, Soper treated the spectators to a spine-tingling exhibition of tyre-burning glee – for rather less than 24 hours, on this occasion.
Winning an event once is pretty special. But four times in a row? In the Dakar Rally? The MINI All4 Racing has done exactly that; from 2012 to 2015 it reigned supreme. At Goodwood it wrestled with the smooth sensation of asphalt and English grass under its boots, but its driver Mikko Hirvonen rose to the challenge. Plus, there was also a rally stage where the MINI could indulge itself just a little.
Making (recent) history.
In 2014 the BMW S 1000 RR Senior TT won the breathtaking Tourist Trophy road race on the Isle of Man with Michael Dunlop on board. At Goodwood the superbike was ridden by Troy Corser, himself a two-times word champion and a BMW brand ambassador.
And then there were Pekka Päivärinta and Kirsi Kainulainen – a couple off the track, a partnership on it and Sidecar World Championship winners in the F1 class (up to 1,000cc) with their BMW LCR. The affable Finns were so fast they prompted a change in the rules: only 600cc machines are now permitted.
Good show! Again!
And so the Festival of Speed once again served up an occasion for which no description seems too gushing. Goodwood’s blend of the relaxed and the professional is unique to his lordship’s event. Surely the FoS can’t get any better. Can it?