Jeremy Clarkson

Jeremy Clarkson

Clarkson on: Goodwood

God it was a good Goodwood. The sun didn't just shine, it fried my eyes. Elle MacPherson smiled at me. I went up the hill in the passenger seat of a McLaren Mercedes and someone wrote ‘Jodi was faster' in the dust on the bonnet of Jay Kay's Ferrari Enzo,

Best of all though, at the Saturday night black tie party, with Chrissie Hynde on vocals and half a ton of fireworks on bass, a man invited me to step outside for a spot of pugilism.

He was the motoring historian from The Daily Telegraph who dragged Top Gear's name into the tabloids, saying we'd trashed a historic C-Type Jaguar and that we were hooligans, blah blah, louts, blah blah, no place on television, blah.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, I responded by saying, in The Sun, that we knew where he lived, and that if he wanted to see some real hooliganism, he should try complaining again.

Boy was he cross. So cross that he waded into the Goodwood showdown sporting what I can only presume was a protest beard. Or maybe he has got it into his head that beards grown under the face are somehow cool and interesting.

Whatever, he poked me a lot in the chest, said I was fat and over the hill and that he could take me any time. I would dearly love to report that at this point I shut him up by punching him in the middle of the face, but it would have been like hitting a goblin. So I'm afraid I just laughed at him and went off to get drunk.

By eleven I was really very sozzled indeed so very little of what happened subsequently has stuck. I remember Eddie Jordan saying he's got a new engine, and meeting Edsel Ford who was great. I also remember fancying the wife of the new boss of Ford in Europe but somehow, I ended up dancing with Dave Richards.

At one point, I distinctly remember discussing unnatural and illegal sexual acts with the hostess of the party, Janet March. But since Janet is one of the nicest people I know, this must be wrong. Maybe she'd got a new engine and I'd been talking bottoms with Eddie Jordan. Oh, and Jenson Button was there too, in a purple suit.

Then it was three in the morning and I was back at the hotel, clinging onto the bed for dear life because I knew it to be upside down. Why does room spin do that? Stop spinning when you're the wrong way up.

Unfortunately, on Sunday morning I was still drunk so when I found the SL had a puncture, I became convinced the historian had done it. "Bastard," I shouted, running around with a red face and sweat. It was my wife who pointed to the dust cap and said, "If someone had let your tyre down, they wouldn't have put that back."

Good point. Less good, however, was trying to find an SL tyre on a Sunday. Eventually, the local Merc dealer came - and then dropped the car off the jack. Happily for the man who came and told me, I'd already started rehairing the dog so I didn't really care less.

"By 11 I was really very sozzled indeed so very little of what happened subsequently has stuck"

To cushion the blow, he said I could take a passenger ride in the 612bhp McLaren Mercedes which had turned up at the event, unannounced. What can I say? Unlike some motoring journalists, I'm unable to tell you what a car is like from the right-hand side of a left-hooker, except that it makes a great noise and is a laugh pissed.

I sobered up enough to help judge the Cartier concours competition although I must say, it's jolly difficult to say which is the best Fifties stock car racer. They all looked the same: broken.

Furthermore, one of the other judges was David Linley who, just the week before had been giving me a lift across London when I saw a Bugatti Veyron parked outside the German Embassy.

"Ooh", I said, "that's the new Bugatti Veyron. Can you stop." I piled out and bumped into the German ambassador with whom I'd had breakfast back in April.

Anyway, he invited me inside leaving the Queen's nephew standing on the street outside. It was all hopelessly embarrassing.

But then I'm good at that. Another judge was the DJ Johnny Walker who, when I asked how he was, said, "Fine, apart from the cancer." It's difficult to know where you go with that so I asked where it had bitten him. "In the arsehole," he said and that really was the end of that.

Then, more trouble. Standing between me and my place at the lunch table was David Coulthard who, I have said many times, is like one of those aliens from Men in Black. He looks human on the surface but beneath those overalls, I'm sure he has eight flippers and webbed legs.

If anyone has a damn good reason for punching me in the stomach, it's him. But unlike the historian, he's a gentleman so things were cool.

Then I bumped into Jodi Kidd. Superstar, Supermodel, and the fastest person ever to have gone round the Top Gear test track.

Unfortunately, the day afterwards, she'd been rung by someone from The Guardian who'd said I was furious that a girl had beaten everyone. Absolutely not true, so we made up with a hug which was one of those life-changing moments. I am now completely in love with that girl.

Over lunch, Sir Terence Conran told me that he has an Audi. Sorry, Tel, but this was like saying you have ears. You are one of the country's most important design masterminds, and there was no way in hell you'd drive anything else.

I never had the chance to mention this, though, because from the other side of the tent, Elle had waved at me. This was amazing. We'd once had dinner, and here was proof that she'd remembered. I mean, crikey. When I got back from the lavatories, lunch was over so I sauntered over to the supercar arena, half-inched the keys to Merc's SL55 demonstrator and went home.

And that was my day and night at the Goodwood festival of speed. A fight. A drinkathon, the Pretenders, two supermodels, a McLaren Mercedes and five minutes discussing some Fifties stock cars with Her Majesty's carpenter. You don't get half of this at Henley or Wimbledon or the Chelsea Flower Show.

I loved it but it wasn't until I was half way up the A34 that I realised I'd forgotten something. I hadn't watched a single car go up the hill in a blaze of noise and tortured rubber.

It seems, then, that the festival has come of age. The point has become a side show.


Jeremy Clarkson, Column

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