Formula One star Nico Rosberg was surrounded by autograph-hunters as he joined a long list of famous motorsport names in action at the Goodwood Festival of Speed yesterday.
He needed security personnel to help him move anywhere as hordes of excited fans surrounded him to try to get a signature or photograph. But the Monaco-based Mercedes driver, a GP winner this year, revealed how he had come to the event incognito a day earlier and blended in with the huge crowds so he could take a good look around.
Rosberg, whose father Keke was a world champion, said: ‘I wanted to see what this event is all about, not just get in the car, drive and then go home. So I ate an ice-cream and just took it easy.’
He added: ‘I’m very interested in the history of the sport and enjoy speaking to drivers such as Sir Stirling Moss and Sir Jackie Stewart and seeing what they think of racing then and now.’
Fellow F1 stars Mark Webber and Heikki Kovaleinen were among those who got behind the wheel of contemporary state-of-the art racing machines on the final day of the 20th festival, a week before the British Grand Prix.
Spectators lined the 1.16-mile hillclimb course at Lord March’s estate near Chichester to see an amazing array of historic and modern cars and bikes do demonstration and timed runs. Then there was a shootout featuring the 20 fastest cars, won by Anthony Reid in a Chevron in 46.64 seconds.
The action had to be halted when Rod Millen crashed heavily in his Pikes Peak Toyota. But although the car was badly damaged, he escaped unhurt.
On Saturday F1 world champions Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button all put in an appearance. Other big names sampling the unique atmosphere this weekend included fellow world champions Emerson Fittipaldi, Alain Prost, John Surtees, Sir Jackie Stewart and Damon Hill. Meanwhile Sir Stirling Moss drove a Lotus-Climax he raced in 1961.
Vettel, making his festival debut, said: ‘There are so many cars here. Events like this make you realise how big F1 and the world of motorsport is. The history of our sport is very special and we have to keep it alive. This event does that perfectly.’
But the festival is about much more than what happens on track. Some of the world’s top BMX and trials bike riders performed some incredible high-flying stunts in the Goodwood Action Sports arena, rally stars slithered skilfully around the tricky forest stage and the supercar paddock and daily run up the hill gave people the chance to drool over roadgoing exotica from the likes of Lamborghini and Ferrari.
During Saturday’s supercar section one car left the track and a passenger had to be taken to St Richard’s Hospital in Chichester. They were discharged after treatment.
In the Cartier ‘Style et Luxe’ area, a unique collection of vehicles used by the Queen and other royals had been brought together to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee. Judges including Olympic athletics legend Ed Moses, AC/DC rock star Brian Johnson and actor Philip Glenister picked The Prince of Wales’s immaculate blue Aston Martin DB6 (seen by millions on TV when it was used by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to drive away after their wedding) as the overall winner.
There was also an aviation exhibition, a Junior Festival of Speed featuring the Wacky Racers, a FoS-TECH pavilion showcasing vehicles of the future and a series of aerial displays – yesterday saw a ground-shaking flypast by a Typhoon Eurofighter jet.
This year’s festival, which had the theme of Young Guns Born to Win, was a sellout with crowds of up to 180,000.
n A 1929 racing Bentley Blower became the most expensive British car ever sold at auction, fetching £5m, at the Bonhams auction at the Festival of Speed on Friday. The previous record was £3.5m for a 1904 Rolls-Royce.