Festival of Speed 2019. Always something more.

From the Itala of the Peking to Paris to the Soapbox racers, from the uphill challenge towards Goodwood House to the magical show of beauty: for these and myriad other ideas our heartfelt thanks go to Charles March, and the 26thedition of his Festival.

His skill in engaging the amazing world of special cars owes much his ability in transforming all aspects of his passion into real events. In a feature published in The Key 2019, we get a picture of him as a boy in the box at Goodwood alongside World Champion Graham Hill. Don’t miss the in-depth interview, which is highly revealing. Here The Classic Car Trust provides an exclusive account of the excitement of piloting the 1907 Peking to Paris Itala up the drive leading to Goodwood House. It also describes how Charles Gordon-Lennox, the 11th Duke of Richmond (Charles to his friends) has organized magnificent Soap Box races and pedal-car challenges for children to show that also one of the most ancient passions has a great future.

Read on, to learn more about Goodwood and the events scheduled… occasions not to be missed!

Itala 35/45 HP, from the legendary 1907 Peking to Paris raid to one of the most famous hillclimbs in the world

The Itala 34/45 HP in exhibition at the Mauto Torino

“Hearing the engine running like it used to do more than one hundred years ago is a great emotion”, reveals the Museo Nazionale dell’Automobile curator Davide Lorenzone, who was at the wheel of the Itala 35/45 HP last weekend at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. “It’s amazing because it’s exactly like it was in 1907”, he goes on.

If you were among those lucky guys who attended the event last weekend, it’s certain that you have seen the car. Maybe you were even one of those enthusiasts in the public calling “Itala! Itala!” on its way back to the paddock. This unique historic legend that won the 1907 Peking to Paris raid in 60 days was one of the Festival’s attractions this year, in the same week when the 2019 edition of the Peking to Paris Motor Challenge came to a conclusion.

With a 4 cylinder engine developing 45 HP at 1.250 rpm (7.433 cc) and a weight of 1.370 kg, the Itala 35/45 HP took part in the beginning of the last century’s adventure with Prince Scipione Borghese, mechanic Ettore Guizzardi and journalist Luigi Barzini, even arriving at the finish line 20 days before the other participants. The challenge was launched by the newspaper Le Matin, that invited the car’s owners at that time to prove that with automobile manship one could achieve any mission. Itala’s creation was prepared to face the 16.000 km distance with some modifications such as the addition of two huge fuel tanks each 150 litres and the adoption of four bigger wheels all the same size to optimize the spare ones.

The Itala driven at the 2019 Goodwood Festival of Speed

Memories from the 1907 Peking to Paris: (first) pit-stop moment to check the tyres, (second) the Itala celebrated by the public.

This legendary car now left the permanent collection of the Museo Nazionale dell’Automobile in Turin (as well as the Cisitalia 202 Spider “Nuvolari”) to go “up the hill” as a guest star in the spectacular West Sussex event. First mechanical inspection and service was carried out in 1987 and now, after this occasion, Itala 35/45 HP will be checked on a regular basis keeping it ready to go.

A reality with deep and healthy roots

The magnificent Goodwood House in West Sussex, UK, where the Festival of Speed takes place

The origins of Goodwood

During the Second World War, the 4900-hectare Goodwood Estate, which is also home to a large and well-developed farm, served as a military airport. Thanks to its strategic position in West Sussex, within easy reach of both London and the Channel, the RAF Westhampnett airfield, built as an emergency landing site, was used as the base for two fighter squadrons (145 and 602), both heavily involved in the Battle of Britain. It was Lord March’s grandfather, the 9th Duke of Richmond, himself a racing car enthusiast and a racer during the pre-war years, who, after the war, created the 3.8-kilometer Goodwood racetrack, by linking existing roads with the airfield’s landing strips. The first race on the new track, on September 18th, 1948, was won by F.C. Pycroft, driving a Pycroft-Jaguar, while Sir Stirling Moss, whose illustrious racing career was to come to an end here in 1966 because of a serious crash with a Lotus, won the 500 cc race. Goodwood became one of the most important racetracks in England, widely regarded as the home of British racing in the post-war years. But, over time, the track began to be deemed too fast and dangerous. In the end, Stirling Moss’s accident in 1966 sealed its fate, and led to its closure. Thereafter, it was used only occasionally for private test drives.

Jackie Stewart at the start, together with his sons Paul (right) and Mark (left)

The Festival of Speed

By the end of the 1980s, the estate was in the hands of Lord March, also a passionate car guy. He was determined to bring racing events back to Goodwood, one of the very few racetracks in the world that, never altered, had not been spoiled by chicanes and fast corners, and could really put drivers to the test. His idea was to stage a classic car event that might attract the very same cars that had raced there in period. Because of the difficulty in obtaining the necessary authorization, he decided to start with the Goodwood House hill-climb, which subsequently became known as the Festival of Speed, or “FOS”. Ever since the first “FOS”, held in 1993, this event, open to every kind of car, classic or modern, racing or special, has seen hundreds of cars, some of them driven by top racing car drivers, putting themselves to the test on the 1.8 kilometer-long hill-climb road heading to the main house. The Goodwood “FOS” attracts around 150,000 people every year (no more, as tickets are limited), and it always features a special sculpture commemorating some anniversary in the car world (linked to a model, manufacturer, or race). Next weekend’s event (July 4th to 7th) will be the 26th “FOS”, and it will mark and celebrate the 70th anniversary of Aston Martin’s first race at Goodwood and the 60th anniversary of the firm’s World Sportscar Championship victory. This year’s sculpture is designed by Gerry Judah. In addition to the hill-climb, several satellite events are planned, including (continuing a tradition started in 1995) the Cartier Style and Luxe Concours d’Elegance, open to the most exclusive classics.

By deciding to organise the Festival in his own “garden”, Lord March was able to give the modern car world something that, back in 1993, was a real novelty: an event where, thanks to the absence of the usual barriers, wire fences, vast run-off areas, and compulsory passes (for absolutely everything!), car enthusiasts could get up really close to the cars (as close as good manners dictate that is!).

Almost ready to go: cars at the starting line of the Goodwood Revival

The Goodwood Revival

The Goodwood Revival, held on the Goodwood racetrack, perfectly epitomizes Lord March’s taste and vision. Held in September, it provides visitors with a weekend packed with classic racing at its finest, featuring amazing cars piloted by top drivers giving their best. What is more, if the sight of a Ferrari 250 GTO fighting it out with Jaguar E-Type Lightweight is not enough for you, the Revival, open to cars built from 1948 to 1966, also brings to life another of Lord March’s fantastic ideas. Indeed, the participants and the visitors, in their thousands, dress as in period. As a result, attending the Goodwood Revival is like going back in time and the experience has a dreamlike quality: the racing cars, the mechanics, the service cars, even the pace car and the sponsors’ logos, are all just as they were back in the day, and, as the perfect finishing touch, numerous Supermarine Spitfires fly overhead. The Revival is an annual event and every year it celebrates a particular racing driver or car manufacturer. The event’s most popular race is the Settrington Cup race (named after the title held by Lord March’s eldest son) for Austin J40 pedal cars driven by children. It was created in 2012, and since then has become one of the most magical classic car experiences, for fathers, sons and onlookers.

The Members’ Meeting

This event is the “youngest” of the three, created because the Revival was starting to get “a little too crowded”. Formally, though, it originated in 1948, the year that saw the very first meeting for members of the British Automobile Racing Club (of which Lord March is currently president). Stopped in 1966, after 71 meetings, it was resurrected in 2014, and in 2019 was held for the 77th time. The Members’ Meeting, which takes place in April each year, is all about racing, with participating vehicles ranging from motorcycles to open wheeled cars and, more important still, even cars built after 1966. Essentially, anything beautiful, cool and equipped with a (possibly powerful) engine is welcome. The event is a perfect way to enjoy, be it as a driver or a spectator, the experience of Touring racing cars of the 1970s and 1980s, or Sports cars of the 1970s, grappling with the always slippery and challenging Goodwood racetrack. Simply unique.

The Mercedes-Benz W125 driven (fast) by Jochen Maas at the Goodwood Festival of Speed 2019

Photos by Courtesy of The Goodwood Estate Company Limited

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