Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button thrill crowds at Goodwood Festival of Speed

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Home-grown Formula One world champions Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button were besieged by autograph-hunters when they got behind the wheel at the Goodwood Festival of Speed today.

Button drove a McLaren-Chevrolet M8D Can Am car from 1970 - the same model in which Bruce McLaren sadly lost his life in a testing accident at Goodwood motor circuit.

Lewis Hamilton. Picture: David Davies/PA Wire

Lewis Hamilton. Picture: David Davies/PA Wire

He said: ‘It’s a great experience and a real privilege to drive this car. It is such a handful and not very comfortable, but it’s been great fun.

‘I couldn’t go too fast becasue there was a fuel pick-up problem, but this is one of those cars where if you blip the throttle the whole body rocks.’

Hamilton went up the famous Goodwood hillclimb course in a 2011 Mercedes F1 car and thrilled the huge crowds with a spectacular display of doughnuts and tyre-burning acceleration.

He said: ‘We’ve got great weather and this is a great event. I’m really happy to be here to drive the car and see all the fans.’

Other famous faces making an appearance today and tomorrow include Nico Rosberg, Sergio Perez, Allan McNish and Romain Grosjean, plus past masters Sir Jackie Stewart, Alain Prost, John Surtees and Emerson Fittipaldi.

This is the 20th anniversary of the festival and a special parade of vehicles took to the track - complete with horse-drawn Roman chariots and Nick Heidfeld in the McLaren that he drove to a Goodwood hill record of 41.6 seconds back in 1999.

Eyes also turned skyward for a memorable flypast by the only surviving Vulcan bomber, last used in active service during the Falklands war in 1982.

Earlier, a touch of Hollywood came to Goodwood when film icon Peter Fonda took to the track.

He waved to the big crowds soaking up the sunshine as he went up the hillclimb course on a Harley Davidson chopper similar to the one he rode in the classic film Easy Rider.

There were long tailbacks on the A27 as tens of thousands of fans flocked to the event near Chichester on sold-out Saturday.

But when they finally reached the car parks, they were rewarded with an amazing array of racing cars and bikes roaring past Goodwood House. While some were only doing demonstration runs, others were competing against the clock.

Formula One teams including Ferrari, Red Bull, Mercedes and McLaren have brought cars and fans surrounded their garages in the paddock as they took the chance to get up close to machines they normally only see on TV.

One of the most popular sights for motorsport fans is F1 world champion Nelson Piquet, who has flown in from Brazil to be reunited with his world championship-winning Brabham car from 1983.

Meanwhile the evergreen Sir Stirling Moss is also joining in the fun in the sun - at 83, he’s piloting the Mercedes W196 in which he won the British Grand Prix at Ainteree in 1955.

Spectators are being greeted by an amazing sculpture soaring above Goodwood House, consisting of three Porsche 911s suspended atop thin metal spikes. It has been created to celebrate 50 years of the legendary 911.

Rally drivers are kicking up dust in a special forest stage, there’s an aviation exhibition and the FoS-TECH pavilion is providing a glimpse into motoring of the future.

On two wheels there are drag bikes and some of the world’s best BMX and trials bike riders are pulling off impressive aerial stunts in the Goodwood Action Sports arena, while the supercar paddock is packed with roadgoing exotica that most people can only dream of owning.

In the Cartier ‘Style et Luxe’ area, visitors can wander around a selection of beautiful vehicles that will be judged tomorrow by a panel including pop star Simon Le Bon and designer Sir Terence Conran. Meanwhile children are being entertained by meeting real-life versions of characters and cars from the TV cartoon Wacky Racers.

Crowds of more than 180,000 are expected at this year’s festival, which has a ‘greatest hits’ theme featuring some of the most memorable motoring moments from the past two decades.

Yesterday saw a new world record for a car sold at public auction when the 1954 ex-Juan Manuel Fangio Mercedes W196 grand prix car went under the hammer at Bonhams at the festival for £19.6m.

Admission to the Festival of Speed is strictly by advance ticket only. For more information, go to goodwood.co.uk or call 01243 755055.

Don’t miss The News on Monday for reports and pictures, plus follow the action over the weekend here and on Twitter using the hashtag #newsfos