While the Goodwood Festival is primarily an event for the aesthetic and historical appreciation of the automobile, the fact of the matter is that everyone wants to know how quickly these cars can really go. The organizers know this too, and have put a collection of some of the finer racing cars – both modern and vintage – against the clock. What I found most interesting is how differently this eclectic collection of cars perform relative to one another.
You wouldn’t be accused of being a bit crazy for thinking that a Formula One car, regardless of the age, would be capable of beating a heavier, closed-top racing car on an asphalt surface. Since a thoroughbred racing car usually boasts a better power-to-weight ratio than most racing sedans, you’d have good reason to think the single-seaters would top the time sheets, but you’d be surprised.
With a collection of modern prototypes and time attack cars, eighties rally cars, seventies single-seaters and more, there’s no shortage of variety. With an imperfect, crowned surface, Goodwood puts some considerable demands on car and driver and that’s evident with some of the spectacular performances here. You also get the opportunity to see how hard drivers of yesteryear had to work to keep their cars on the black stuff, as chassis and tires were relatively undeveloped and a driver really had to wrestle with the car to get it through the corner.
There’s no question that modern cars have the advantage in terms of outright performance, but it’s fascinating to see how different approaches to racing cars over the decades provide very different performance “styles”. Whether it’s a slinky F1 car sliding sideways and glancing the haystacks, a rally-bred Celica dirt-dropping or a modern time attack car putting in a consummate, neat, and efficient lap, there’s an interesting blend of drama and science on display here.