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Opinion: is the Goodwood Festival of Speed's hillclimb now relevant?

Has McMurtry’s victory restored it as a competitive event?

Published: 28 Jun 2022

The fastest ever car up the Goodwood hillclimb. It’s never been much of a thing before has it? It’s always been a victory parade for cars that have already proved themselves in the heat of competition. But not this year. The McMurtry Spéirling won in the fastest time ever recorded.

And suddenly the Goodwood Hill feels like a relevant shop window. McMurtry is a tiny engineering firm, its car a project that doesn’t align with any other formula or race series. We still don’t know exactly what it’s for, but boy do we know that it works. If you haven’t watched the way the mini-Batmobile/wailing projectile moves, go and do so immediately. It’s so tiny, yet so loud. I’ve never seen anything go round a corner like that.

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It’s always been interesting to see what comes where in the 1.16-mile hill shootouts because the cars are so varied, but it’s tinged with scepticism about how hard people are trying and how well they know the course – the hill is mainly a demonstration arena, rather than a competitive race.

Still, it’s fascinating to see the comparative performance of myriad cars laid out. Look at the top six from this year: Porsche’s 1,000bhp Cayman GT4 ePerformance was second, followed by the March-BMW 782 (a 1978 F1 car), then perennial Goodwood hill favourite Justin Law in a Jaguar XJR12D. They were all covered by 0.3secs. A little further back in fifth place was Travis Pastrana in his wild 862bhp Subaru GL Huckster, then Ford’s latest Supervan, an all-electric 2,000bhp monster.

The McMurtry was over six seconds faster than all of them. Six seconds. It took the best part of a second out of the current record of 39.90secs set three years ago by Romain Dumas in the VW ID.R, which itself had toppled Nick Heidfeld’s 20-year record in a McLaren MP4/13.

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What’s new this year is that we had no early steer of the McMurtry’s 39.081s potential. This is the first full-blooded thing it’s done. It’s done things in an arse-about-face way: gone to Goodwood not for validation, but for competition.

Each has enhanced the other’s reputation. For McMurtry this is a jumping-off point. The performance and concept has been proved. It must now look for other stages on which to perform. But I don’t think this signals a reinvigoration of the Goodwood hillclimb. Too much risk for too little reward for most. Plus: who the hell wants to tackle the McMurtry?

Car: McMurtry Speirling
Driver: Max Chilton
Time: 39.081s
Speed across the finish line: 149.1mph
First 100m: 3.51s

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