TopGear.com02 July 2012

Goodwood FoS review

Why the Festival of Speed will make the weekend's F1 race look a bit... ordinary

Goodwood Festival of Speed 2012

If there is a better spot anywhere in the world than the Goodwood Festival of Speed in which to bathe in the sheer visual and aural magic that is a fast, beautiful motorcar, then we'd like to hear your thoughts.

New cars mean more when you see them with their forbears; old cars come alive when you see where they've come from. All cars just seem better when they are warm and smelly and making some noise. They just do.

The Earl of March and Kinrara hit on something very special 19 years ago: a forum where carmakers are happy to drop millions nurturing their brands and a place where all of us who'll never get a behind the purple rope at an F1 race or a smart concours can re-affirm our deeply held belief that on the scale of all things good, cars will always come in the top three.

There is so much to say (and it's over to you at the bottom of this) but here are some of the thoughts that struck TopGear.com on its annual visit to Sussex.

You go to the FoS for ‘I was there' moments. If you are too young to know why Emerson Fittipaldi in his Lotus 72 is one such moment then you need to read up. Long before Seb' Vettel was a twinkle in his grandfather's eye, Emmo and the JPS 72 defined ‘cool', ‘young' ‘fast' and ‘sexy'. This year's FoS ‘theme' (they've rarely made a lot of sense) was ‘Young Guns Born to Win'. There you go.

Talking of Lotus, the company had a stand and custody of the plinth outside The House for its mega-sculpture. We can only assume this was all part of the now-ousted CEO Dany Bahar's masterplan as it all looked a little disconnected to a company which once, again, is facing big questions about its direction and future.

And on that one, Lancia anyone? You can buy a Lancia in the UK again now, but only with a Chrysler badge. Whatever happened to the company that gave us the LC1 and LC2 Le Mans cars and the Stratos and 037 rally cars, all in action this weekend?

Long Gone Eras We Miss Part 2: Can Am anyone? Less of the massive-displacement, unfeasibly wide 1972 racers this year, but the rare Ferrari 712 - with the biggest racing engine Ferrari has ever made in the back - made the point. Gloriously excessive racing.

The all-electric Lola-Drayson, fast-looking and extremely pretty, could not, on the surface, be further philosophically from the Can-Am cars, but of course it's not and that's one of the joys of the Festival of Speed; it remains utterly agnostic on the subject of old vs new, bikes vs cars, tarmac vs mud.

Long Gone Eras We Miss Part 3: Group C. Hard to imagine, with only two proper works teams at Le Mans this year, that once, Mercedes, Lancia, Porsche, Jaguar, Nissan, Toyota, Aston Martin and Peugeot once all raced.

Talking of those Group C Jaguars (a V12 XJR9, and V6 Turbo XJR 11 and 12 were all present) and the US racing E-Type ‘speedster' (thrashed by Top Gear Editor Charlie Turner) and a racing XJ-S, you can't help but admire Jaguar's balls in showing up with the F-Type prototype. It's certainly got a lot to live up to.

The F-Type was still hiding all its surface details and graphics, not so the Mercedes-Benz CLS Shooting Brake. We get the impression you lot aren't so keen on it's looks. Did anyone out there go and see it in the metal? We reckon the pictures don't come close to doing it justice. Wish we could say the same about the new Aston Martin Vanquish.

Car of the weekend? Impossible to say, but to go back to the ‘I was there' moments, we reckon no-one's life is complete until you've seen a Audi R18 E-tron, lights ablaze in action. It's just from another world.

Frankly, with cars like that one show and many of the others we haven't mentioned the Formula One cars this year looked kind of ordinary. That fact and that fact alone, probably says more about the Festival of Speed than anything else. Still, it's British Grand Prix this weekend so we reserve the right to change our minds again by this time next week.

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