THE celebrities were out in force – but an amazing selection of cars and bikes from 100 years of motorsport history were the real stars of the show at Goodwood’s Festival of Speed yesterday.
Tens of thousands of spectators enjoyed sunny weather on the first day of the three-day festival near Chichester.
And petrolheads got a chance to see their favourite cars past and present just a week before the British Grand Prix, as well as F1 driver Mark Webber.
The contemporary grand prix grid was well represented, with Lotus Renault’s Russian driver Vitaly Petrov among those thrilling the crowds with the sight, sound and smell of runs featuring screaming engines and burnt rubber.
Many Ferrari fans had come to get up close to the cars and team they idolise and test driver and Le Mans winner Marc Gene from Spain put on a great show for them in last year’s car that nearly won Fernando Alonso the world championship.
And a piece of America came to West Sussex as a collection of Indy 500 cars and driving stars including Dario Franchitti, Dan Wheldon, Danny Sullivan and Bobby Rahal joined forces to celebrate 100 years of this legendary race across the pond.
Chef James Martin took time out of the kitchen to kick up some dirt behind the wheel of a rallying Mini.
Martin, who lives near Winchester, lapped up the experience of flinging the little 1963 Cooper S around the forest stage - and got to drive the very latest Ferrari FF in the Supercar class running up the hillclimb course.
He said: ‘This is relaxation for me. It’s fantastic to be among the legends of motorsport because I’m so passionate about it. The magic of Goodwood is that every year there is something new.’
Meanwhile former grand prix ace and BBC F1 commentator Martin Brundle was back behind the wheel, piloting a Le Mans Jaguar, and French racing star Rene Arnoux enjoyed being reunited with a 1977 turbocharged Renault F1 car. A smiling Brundle said: ‘It’s nice to be able to rev it a bit and wave at the crowd.’
Away from the track, the supercar paddock was packed with exotic roadgoing machines from Aston Martins to a Koenigsegg, Lamborghinis and the McLaren MP4-12C, and the Cartier ‘Style et Luxe’ concours d’elegance featured a variety of the world’s most beautiful and stylish cars. The big crowds looked skywards as the Red Arrows put on an impressive display. They were due to return today, followed tomorrow by the only Vulcan bomber left flying.
Jenson Button was set to join the party today, while the biggest draw tomorrow will be his McLaren teammate and fellow world champion Lewis Hamilton.
Admission is strictly by advance ticket only. For more information, go to goodwood.co.uk or call 01243 755055. Don’t miss Monday’s News for more coverage of the Festival of Speed, plus weekend updates at portsmouth.co.uk .