toys for boys

British Motoring Summer

December 10, 2017

by Leila Russack

Goodwood Festival of Speed – Chichester

The girls are at it again, driving the miles into our F-types at speed along the A3 for the Goodwood Festival of Speed weekend in Chichester. Our just-in-case packing didn’t have quite enough chiffon, but no matter, we brought enough Champagne. I wore McLaren orange and my girlfriend wore her signature linen white. Both of us in reasonably sensible shoes, as we were warned, there is a lot of walking, and I was promised a chance for the Hill Climb.

Hay bales and burning rubber is the perfume of the British motoring season, and in this beautiful English Summer, it is welcomed and divine. My friend sneezes, “Where are those ear plugs?” We swap tissues and squishy latex and take a spot by the grid. The crowd watches Andrew Jordan tickle his right foot in a silver Eagle Speedster Low Drag GT, grabbing it into the first corner, smoke billowing into the trees. A Jaguar pouncing through the mist.

Add five or six decades of design and technology and we are at the Jaguar F-types which we know and love at the JLR pavilion. Geoff escorts us to the VIP section and gives us over to the ruthless Rosco. The former F1 driver swings me about the drift track, screaming and laughing, my hair flying everywhere. “We’ve got to learn how to do this!” Shredding tyres at a rate of 60 per day, we thank the designer for the holding bar on the passenger side console.

The Noble M600 on display at the Michelin stand had the sexiest roaring revs and the loudest crackle I’ve ever heard, we really needed the earplugs for the demonstration after all. “What I’d do to touch that peddle in there!” Noble are making one of the last manual transmissions in modern cars, which makes me love it more. Peter Dyson offers us a sit in the red metal wonder, and we dream a little dream. “Now this is a real car!” You can hear it a mile away and it really is the stand out of the modern cars at the festival.

That brings me to my main question-slash-gripe. How is it that McLaren don’t do a stick shift? They made a Lego 720S, but they retail automatics and I abhor paddle shifts. They get in the way of the steering wheel! My word, though, is the 1967 Can-Am a beauty on the Goodwood track? Bruce McLaren lost his life on the Goodwood track at Woodcote in 1970 testing the M8D. The 650S is modelled with the Can-Ams in mind. I just wish they’d put a stick shift in instead of those pesky paddles. Nevertheless, we adored the 570s and 720Ss on the hill-climb, and the new paint colours pretty much sealed the deal for my girlfriend.

Mercedes gave us a spark with the Turbo green GT machine. Andre d’Cruze, a charismatic stunt driver for films like adrenaline-filled Rush, tells us the reason he calls it, The Beast. “The AMG GTR certainly keeps you focussed past the flint wall. The gear changes are aggressive and the brakes pin you to the belts!” My friend congratulates Brazilian Emerson Fittipaldi with his new plastic playtoy Pininfarina V8 creation, the 600 brake horsepower EF7. On our way to get another coffee from the McLaren marquee, we meet Rene Arnoux at Gerry Judahs iconic FOS central feature. Rene raced the canary yellow 1977 Renault RS01 and what a vision he is in his racing overalls, my favourite you know.

We retire to what we thought would be dining heaven and bump into Tiff Needel, who is already sawing through a loosely abbreviated steak. “More wine!” He insists, I concur, “How dare they serve this to a legend!” The Goodwood Hotel has a novice on the crepes stand outside, which is intermittently on fire in a safety-hazard way, and it takes a good half an hour to squash and serve anything to us. “No one here had an interview!” We opt for the Crown Inn in Chiddingfold for our subsequent square meals as there is nothing worse than bad steak and malnutrition. Tiff MCs at the Sponsors ball at Goodwood House, and he sincerely advises us to party-crash. “We’re too sophisticated to do that, Tiff!” But it does remind us to get our outfits and tickets organised for the GP Ball.

Grand Prix Ball – Hurlingham Club

We are both fitted in floor-length Herve Leger and sparkling Alice McCall at the Hurlingham Club on the red carpet studded with a bold BAC Mono, the new company who won one of the Hillclimb time trials at Goodwood, an electric-blue McLaren and midnight berry Weismann. We take care with every step in Valentinos as we are invited to the grounds for the Formula One display. Clayton Kingman of Twitter to Track infamy drives through. He peels off the racing onesie like James Bond in black-tie and lace-up driving shoes. “Don’t let me fall on your Hesketh!” I jibe at Clayton, holding my waist. “Heels are not meant for the lawn.”

We find ourselves privy to the charms of two Scotsmen fit in kilts, recanting any lewd comments about their National Pride. They are sponsors of the event, and after a photo opportunity, they take us to meet their friend Pierre Gasly at the only glass doors that don’t have a pile of broken Champagne glasses, however, it’s precisely where we have the Diors knocked from our clutch by the host. A guest recognises our eye rolls and and shakes his head.

Tiff shushes the crowd with the guest mic, and comes forth for safety, “Are you two the only girls without an Instagram sponsor?” There is, my friend concurs, a remarkable lack of couture at this Ball. “Balls are hit and miss these days,” we overhear an aficionado. “We should have snuck in some real Champagne,” whispers another. Those half-bottles of Dauby would be perfect, we joke. We were outbid on the access-all-areas F1 International experience and the Beatles Swimming photograph. All proceeds of the auction went to the Wings for Life charity, which really reminded us that we shouldn’t be quibbling about the Prosecco, because some people in the world make no excuses to make the most of often dire situations. No one was discussing aerodynamics or brake horsepower by the end of the evening, we were dancing to The Gypsy Kings with the kilted set and other fun sponsors.

British Grand Prix – Silverstone

Our drive to Silverstone on Sunday at 7am pre-empted heavy traffic on the M40 and not enough parking, and with barely a BMW in sight, my friend said I was being a little Speedy Gonzales. I’m not the Latino of us, but I certainly enjoy the sixth gear in sports mode, who doesn’t? Especially on that amazing curve at High Wycombe. The first race of the day was the early starting Formula Two. We gathered with the team supporting Oliver Rowland at the Luffield stand. Unfortunately he was penalised three places for passing up into third place at the grid. “But how can you help yourself in a thing like that?!” His PR manager laughs. “True!”

Over 20 identical Porche 911 GT3 Cup cars compete in the Round 5 2017 Porsche Super Cup. We see them race around Brooklands, Luffield and Woodcote from the British Racing Drivers Club. In good company with nice Champagne, we lunch on oysters and smoked salmon before heading back up to the terrace for the Formula One. “What a view!” The roar of the engines is so loud. My friend reads the quote across the track. “Sebastian Vettel You Naughty Boy!”

We witnessed Lewis Hamilton’s fifth British Grand Prix win in the second last year of Silverstone hosting. Hamilton ticked the racing history checkbox with local legends like Jim Clarke and Alain Prost with his win. The energy bubbled from the track and into our Champagne flutes, we were excited as we were whipped up from the BRDC to the Paddock Podium for the Flying Scot Sir Jackie Stewart and his wife Helen’s presentation of the trophies for the ecstatic confetti-fledged UK win and the melodramatically sullen Finns placing second and third. Kimi Raikkonen tipped the magnum up, drinking straight from the bottle like a true Finn, and Valtteri Bottas fizzed it up, partying Hamilton-style shaking it at the media. However, the two Finns waited for the crowd-surfing Brit, who was back long after we ran through the pits, finding shelter from the rain in the Red Bull bar.