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Goodwood – The Greatest Show on Earth

2023 was perhaps the biggest and best year ever.

Avon Middleton
October 3, 2023
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If there was ever a year to experience one’s first Goodwood Festival of Speed, 2023 was perhaps the biggest and best year ever. Bucket list item #118 – checked. 

It’s supposed to be peak UK summer weather and every colleague and friend resident in the UK has told me to prepare for long, hot summer days as I eagerly board the flight from a bitterly cold Johannesburg to England. Much to my dismay, we burst through the clouds into an unextraordinary grey and rainy Heathrow just a few hours later. Am I surprised? No not really – it is England after all. What else could I expect? 


Not too long later we find ourselves in South Sussex driving towards Goodwood Estate wondering what might greet us on the other side of the seeping forest beyond us. A left turn from the traffic-laden narrow B-roads into the Goodwood entrance sees us arrive at the drop-off point, adjacent to the Goodwood car park and right outside a posh Ferrari activation fronted by no less than 20 Ferrari SF90’s in all manner of spec you could imagine. We barely spend 20 seconds looking at them as we disembark – the carpark has taken all of our attention. 

The carpark at Goodwood is perhaps the best pre-cursor and metaphor for the event – there are more hypercars, special editions and rarities than I’ve ever seen…at that time. Quite a few Singer 911’s loiter in the car park…I’m gobsmacked. Zonda R, LaFerrari, McLaren F1, P1 – they’re all there. In the carpark. 

It's a great display of what is to come. Where Ferrari SF90’s are average, you have to realise the kind of company you’re in, both in terms of the cars at Goodwood but also the people. Goodwood is a storybook of automotive and motorsport lineage brought to real life. It is the meeting place of almost the entire automotive narrative bringing cars from the depths of the 1900’s right up to the most eclectic and modern interpretations of mobility. 


Founded by the Duke of Richmond, Charles Gordon-Lennox 30 years ago, the Festival of Speed takes place on Goodwood Estate in West Sussex. It is NOT simply a glorified display of cars. It’s a series of races too, from the off-road rally stage to the famous Hillclimb. Most of the cars here are unleashed in parade and hot lap form. You will witness and experience so many rare or historical icons at their peak, going as fast as they possibly dare – simply to enthral you. 

The famous Goodwood sculpture that towers in front of Goodwood House.


It isn’t simply for entertainment though. It is indeed a race to see what car is able to flash up the hill in the fastest lap time. I did get to witness the Goodwood lap record-holding McMurtry Automotive Spéirling Electric Fan car blitz the hill on a few demo runs, in the wet and in the dry and it is one of the most mind-blowing spectacles I’ve ever witnessed. It is almost too difficult to keep up with, as if the car is on fast-forward. It is a mega achievement of engineering. 

The Almighty McMurty Spéirling steals the show....again.


I couldn’t possibly give you a great ‘Guide to Goodwood’ here. There is just too much to see and hear and experience at the festival. Over 3 days, over 240 000 paying public entered the gates of Goodwood, but that is with 1 day being cancelled due to high winds. I spent 2.5 days trying to take in as much as I dared but realised that I would need at least another visit to the Goodwood Estate to feel slightly convinced that I have covered the whole event. That is how large it is. So, within a motoring smoggarsbord, I’ve put together my Top 10 highlights of highlights from Goodwood 2023 – in no particular order. 



The Koenigsegg Gemera Production Version


We were blown away by the Gemera concept in 2020 but its appearance at Goodwood 2023 was part of the announcement that the Gemera is going into production. Scheduled to be the largest production order for Koenigsegg of 300 units, first deliveries are expected at the end of next year. It is a stunning design made more incredible by genius engineering. It reads unlike anything you’ve ever heard. The most powerful version, the HV8 Gemera produces 1 692 kW and 2 750 Nm driving all 4 wheels. It takes the Jesko’s twin-turbo V8 that still produces over 1 100 kW and then attaches a new e-motor that produces 588 kW and produces this mega hybrid drivetrain. Now understand that within all of this complexity, one is able to fit 4 adults into the car with some space for luggage too. It is an incredibly complex bit of kit with an innovative Dark Matter e-motor, a 100-litre fuel tank, infotainment systems, heated/cooled cupholders – and more power than any other production car. It is certainly a ‘megacar’ as called by Christian Von Koenigsegg. 

Jaw-dropping design....and that's before you read the techy stuff.

The McMurty Spéirling PURE


If I went to Goodwood and only experienced the mighty McMurty, I would have considered the days well spent. The McMurty Spéirling smashed the previous Goodwood lap record in 2022 by a whole 0.82-seconds, previously held by the hillclimb-smashing Volkswagen ID.R. The McMurty McMurty Spéirling uses a fan under the body of the car that creates the immense downforce, coupled with a 1hp per kg power to weight. 0 – 100 kph takes 1.5-seconds. Madness. 0 – 300 kph takes 9.0-seconds. Beyond madness. 


McMurtry Automotive used the Goodwood Festival of Speed to launch an even better version of the car, the Spéirling PURE. It’s a faster version of the record-holding car. Go figure...

The Subaru Family Huckster Wagon 


Whilst the Spéirling stole the show for its mind-altering speed, Travis Pastrana’s Subaru Huckster stole the show for its sheer theatrics….and speed. It is a custom-built, carbon fibre wagon that features the wildest active aero I’ve ever seen. An active rear wing is so boring these days – the Huckster features active body panels on nearly every surface raising their flaps at every body movement. It is the ultimate drift wagon, track weapon and showcar, pivoting on its axis in the most dizzying and dazzling donuts I’ve witnessed. Under the hood is a 630 kW Boxer engine. It wasn’t just the theatrical champion though, but the Huckster took the silver in the ultimate shootout, beaten only by a car that, quite frankly, should have beaten it. The McLaren Solus GT. 

It's just a Subaru wagon from the 80's. Uh, no it's all.

The McLaren Solus GT – From the screen to the Top Step


The McLaren Solus GT is a purpose-built, single seat thriller. As McLaren puts it, the Solus GT is what you find at the “intersection of fantasy and reality.” It was originated as a virtual racer that the Woking firm decided to bring to life with a naturally-aspirated, mid-engined 5.2-litre V10 mill that screams to 10 000 rpm. It weighs less than a ton and generates over 1.2-tons of downforce. It blitzed the hillclimb in winning form, taking the top step in 45.34-seconds. 

The Winning McLaren.


Singer DLS-T Track Car


The Singer Dynamics and Lightweight Study – Turbo (DLS-T) is just gorgeous. Undoubtedly the most beautiful and intensely satisfying pieces of automotive artistry at Goodwood (and there were many), this is Singer creating what it deems the absolute best 911 Turbo if money weren’t an object. The DLS-T study is a creation of either a Track version, pictured here and on stunning display at Goodwood – or a Road-going version. In the rear of the DLS-T sits a beautiful 521 kW 3.8-litre, twin-turbo flat six. The engine could sit in an art gallery such is its beauty. It comes with a 6-speed manual transmission with an exposed gear linkage so you can see the art in motion as you unleash all of those rear-wheel driven horses. What a stunner. About that money, the DLS-T is somewhere north of R50-Million. 


Bugatti Bolide 

The epitome of the hypercar re-imagined by Bugatti was on display at Goodwood but unlike every other car there, the Bolide was the only car displayed inside a glass viewing house. Goodwood is a place where you can get up close and personal with every car, unlike any other show in the world. But not the Bugatti Bolide. I’ve seen this car in images a number of times, but nothing can prepare you for the sheer presence. It’s like a mythical creature only ever really going to be experienced by very very few people. The 8.0-litre, W16 produces 1 325 kW and that’s mighty, but not as jaw-dropping as a few other bits. The car produces 3-tonnes of downforce menacing air through the front splitter and underneath the car and out through the rear diffuser. The suspension rods are made from titanium and weigh just 100g each. Think about that. Only 40 cars will ever be made, each at a price of over R90-Million. These are all spoken for of course. 

All that Drama


Mika Hakkinen’s F1 Championship-winning MP4’s

I’ve been watching F1 since I was 6 years old, but it was only in the mid to late 90’s that I really took my F1 seriously. I had been a McLaren fan since the 80’s fighting to catch a race at every weekend opportunity, cramming every newspaper and magazine I could find that would report on the subject. The world has changed since then, thankfully. In 1995, Mika Pauli Hakkinen had a near fatal accident in Australia that led to Sid Watkins performing an emergency tracheotomy on the Finn to save his life. Miraculously, he returned to racing in 1997 with a win during the Villeneuve era and then made history in 1998 and 1999 when he won 2 back-to-back driver’s championships. The Flying Finn became my hero. In the F1 Paddock at Goodwood, I got to see nearly every F1 McLaren through the generations, including the MP4/13 and MP4/14 winners. Great memories flooded in taking me all the way back to the 80’s, 90’s and right up to the current-gen cars. It’s incredible to see the transformation in the flesh, and better even, to hear and see the cars fired up one more time. 



Car Paraphernalia For Sale

I was warned to attend Goodwood with a strict budget or with a lot off loot to blow. Apart from the cars on display and the numerous car reveals, the allure of Goodwood is also experienced in what is on offer for you to take home. From near endless racks of fanwear for every manner of motorsport to rare trinkets and trophies and signed memorabilia, you won’t leave the place empty handed. I couldn’t afford a replica Mika Hakkinen helmet and that hurt – but I was able to purchase quite a few F1 Apparel items for each of my family members at a hugely reduced price. If you have recently made a purchase of official F1 team merchandise then you’ll understand. Goodwood is your place. You’ll save thousands. 


Celebrating 75 Years with Porsche


Porsche took the opportunity to be the main honoured marque at Goodwood in celebration of its 75th birthday. It would be the fourth time Porsche has done this at Goodwood, the most of any other brand. As an honoured guest of Porsche South Africa, I attended Goodwood to be part of the celebration fanfare. 


The Goodwood feature in the front of Goodwood house is the iconic post-card or headline image. This year the feature held six of Porsches most iconic nameplates including the very first car, the 356 right up to the latest 963 LMDh race car. In front of the iconic display, Porsche popped the champagne in a glittering display of colour and lights with the exploding fireworks and epic live music as the opening soundtrack. 

75 Years of Porsche celebrated in living colour.


Below the lights and performers Porsche ushered in a parade of over 30 cars that lined up around the famous feature led by the very first 356. Every milestone Porsche was there and some. Here are just some of the most memorable: The 917, 550 Spyder, the original 718, the 935 Moby Dick, the 919 Hybrid, the 911 GT1, the 956, the 959 and even the 1-Millionth 911 was in attendance. It was the most extraordinary coming together of Porsche cars that I have ever witnessed with most of them coming straight from the Porsche museum. 


Initial comms from the Porsche team was that we would be able to drive some of these cars up the hill as part of a Porsche parade lap the following day. The excitement was palpable. The next morning however, we awoke to the news that the Goodwood Saturday would be cancelled due to some high winds in the area. The organisers just couldn’t take the risk with all of the structures at the event and so we had to sit the day out – and in turn our hopes of driving one of the icons were dashed. So we thought.  

In true Porsche spirit, the team decided that if we couldn’t attend Goodwood and enjoy the cars, then Goodwood would be brought to us. Just a few hours later, we began to see all of the cars we had seen the day before arrive at our station, some in trucks, some being towed and some driving in. The day unfolded as perhaps the most memorable day of what is the most spectacular motoring weekend in the world. As Porsche guests, we were afforded the opportunity to choose some cars that we wanted to drive over the course of the day, from modern 911s to the most precious, money-can’t-buy legends. We couldn’t drive all of them – what would you choose?



The Porsche 959 


For me, it just had to be the 959, a car that was prestiked to my wall many years before. Approaching one’s hero is never an easy thing. My expectations were high on one hand, but I was also reaching for the door handle of a car that was built when I was just 3 years old. Originally penned as a Group B Rally car, the actual production 959 was realised in 1986 as a homologation special. Based on the 911, the tailed 959 was powered by a 2.9-litre, sequential twin-turbo, flat six that developed 380 kW. And if you thought hardcore accelerative launches are a new Porsche trick, the 959 may just make you rethink that. In 1986, this car was rocketing from 0 – 100 kph in 3.7-seconds and then hurtling on to a 317 kph top speed making this the fastest car of its time. 


I knew all of this as a approached the legend aptly branded with ‘Porsche Museum’ stickers on the bottom of the fenders. With some trepidation but great curiosity I stepped into a cabin that took my breathe away. It was pristine. For a car almost as old as me, I realised how much investment was in this car. With cruise control, air-conditioning, central locking, electric seats, I was sitting in one of the most game changing Porsches ever made. 


As soon as I turned the key and that engine barked to life, all of the anxiety faded away. There’s a familiarity to that flat-six sound that I immediately recognise even from modern day interpretations. From my very short drive, I realise the immensity of why the sequential turbos were fitted. The first one gets the rev needle to around 4 500 rpm in relative comfort. The second turbo unleashes with a bang of power. You very quickly have to snap to the next gear and when you do the power stays constant keeping things above that 4 500 rpm mark. It’s a huge surge of power and the speed piles on much quicker than your mind imagines. The steering is quite direct too, and the front, ever typical of anything birthed from a 911 is as sharp as ever. 


I don’t have the opportunity to drive the car for too long but it’s enough to understand this car’s legend. It’s enough to realise why it remains one of the most sought after Porsches in the world, with just 292 ever built and even less remaining scattered around the planet. Owners include Bill Gates, Nick Heidfeld and Martina Navratilova. I get it. What an honour. 



The 1984 Porsche 911 Carrera 3.2 Dakar

Built to contend and withstand the gruelling Paris-Dakar rally, the Carrera 3.2 must command that legend status from its battle scars of yesteryear. Standing side by side with the modern 2023 911 Dakar is something to behold. I don’t have much time in this car once again, such is its popularity on this incredibly privileged day. Strapped into the racing seat, there’s a lot of road car bits and bobs that are instantly recognisable – yet the startup and sound track emanating from the exhausts leaves you in no uncertain terms that this is pure racecar. 


Porsche has quickly set up a route into the mountainous terrain surrounding the grounds and the Dakar really comes into its own. Loud and obnoxious in everything it does, I’m bowled over by how quickly it slides and dances at every turn even at low speeds. It is an all or nothing drive, without room for any dawdling. It’s just not happy dawdling, being very jittery in anything but the right gear at high revs. Everybody can hear it, even from a few miles away and the cacophony of sound is even more manic from the cabin. 


Compared to the 959 that I’ve just driven, the 911 Carrera 3.2 Dakar is a huge contrast. But once again, there’s a feel to the drive that is synonymous with what I already know of Porsche – driver engagement of the highest order. 


I did get to experience the brand new 911 Dakar too and yes, it is the modern and refined output from a time almost 4 decades on. It too, is fantastically playful and intoxicating to drive but its brilliance wouldn’t be as appreciated as much if I hadn’t got to sample the very race-winning Paris-Dakar version from which it was born.  


 The 2023 Porsche 911 Sport Classic 

This car is one of the Porsche Heritage models which means it’s been designed as a celebration model, this one in particular paying homage to 60-years of 911 and taking the recipe and cues from previous Classic editions. The design sees Porsche modelling some retro pieces onto the new 992 911 Turbo body. On the exterior all of the badging is finished in gold, the Heritage badge adorns the rear hood including some bespoke Porsche Exclusiv Manufaktur badges on the flanks. Then you’ll notice the ducktail spoiler, an ode to the original 1972 911 Carrera 2.7 RS and then the bulging hips that are different to that of a normal Turbo void of the side intakes that are on the Turbo. Even the roof is different with an indent bubble effect taken from the original Classic. It is a magnificently finished car and the beauty continues inside. 


Step aboard and you’re greeted by a 911 Classic interior finished in houndstooth seat centres with tan leather finishes. This continues throughout the cabin with a gold, numbered plaque on the passenger inlay which is finished in an open pore wood. Green-backed driver’s clocks and central clock also cast your memory back to the original car. You’ll notice a 7-speed manual lever in the centre too. 

That is a signature 911 Sport Classic feature. This car is a rear-wheel driven 7-speed manual that delivers 410 kW of grunt. From the helm of this car you may expect it to be quite twitchy and tail-wondering. It is. But only if you’re driving in the pouring UK rain over some not-so-perfect B-roads of the Sussex countryside. Despite this, it is pure joy. It is engaging and fast and playful. The gear shift is solid and pronounced with third gear being the mainstay for twisty mountain passes. The steering is 992 911 Turbo, in other words just perfectly weighted and in direct communication with your directives. 


And then, to be experiencing sportscar joy in one of the best laid out cabins of the modern day sportscar. There’s a sense of occasion to the drive in the 911 Sport Classic. 


At R5 521 000, the Sport Classic commands a huge premium over a 911 Turbo. Should it? It is a Heritage Porsche of which only 1 250 will be built so it will hold its value and appeal as long as it remains locked in a garage bubble and not driven. That’s one opinion. My opinion – drive it as much as you possibly can. It is a beautifully crafted car that speaks to and sums up Porsche’s illustrious, decorated and sometimes crazy 75-years. 

Back to the Goodwood Festival of Speed

Dates for the 2024 iteration of the Festival of Speed have been announced as 11 – 14 July 2024. Tickets are not open as yet but you can sign up to be notified when they do. Do what you need to do and get yourself to the south of England for this flagship, world-renowned event.


Goodwood will stun you and titillate that emotion that got you liking cars when you were a toddler. Its biggest coup is that whilst the machinery commands huge money, the entire crowd is classed as the same – we were all just 240 000 motorsport and automotive enthusiasts. F1 drivers, MotoGP legends, Le Mans winners, OEM Executives, Designers and everyone in between are just as important as the everyday person that walks the hallowed grounds of the estate. And that is something that I can’t say about any other place on earth. 

Just Mark Webber having a laugh with Olaf Manthey. A normal Goodwood thing.

Just Mick Schumacher signing a few things, as he does at Goodwood.

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