Stars of the track smile through rain at Festival of Speed

Picture: Malcolm Wells

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LEGENDARY two-time F1 world champion Emerson Fittipaldi is used to the sun in his native Brazil – but he still smiled through the rain as he was besieged by fans at the Goodwood Festival of Speed.

He was among a host of famous drivers, including fellow world champions Alain Prost and John Surtees, who took to the hillclimb course yesterday on the first day of the three-day motorsports extravaganza.

SPEED STAR Emerson Fittipaldi signs an autograph. Picture: Paul Jacobs (122220-8)

SPEED STAR Emerson Fittipaldi signs an autograph. Picture: Paul Jacobs (122220-8)

Roads around Lord March’s estate near Chichester were busy from early in the morning as tens of thousands of enthusiasts headed for the biggest celebration of car culture on the planet.

Despite the mixed weather, Fittipaldi happily signed autographs and chatted to fans. He said: ‘It’s always a great pleasure to be back at Goodwood, to see old friends and remember the golden years. This is the only event in the world where the old and the new drivers come together and it’s passing on the tradition of our sport to the younger generation.’

Another motor racing legend, Sir Stirling Moss, was warmly greeted by the large crowds. He explained: ‘I always have a great time here. Everybody is so friendly and it’s a wonderful occasion.’

Celebrity chef James Martin had forsaken cooking for cars and was enjoying himself in a period Mini Cooper on the rally stage, plus he took part in the Supercar Run in a Maserati Gran Turismo.

CLASSIC A Lotus speeds up the damp hill at Goodwood

CLASSIC A Lotus speeds up the damp hill at Goodwood

He said: ‘There’s just an amazing collection of cars here and it’s an event I never miss. I have to film my TV show tomorrow morning, but I’ll be straight back here afterwards.’

An amazing selection of important racing cars and bikes from 100 years of motorsport history took to the hill, with spectators able to get up close to their favourite machines and personalities just a week before the British Grand Prix.

Contemporary F1 is always hugely popular at the festival and six teams, including Ferrari, are represented in 2012 – the 20th festival. Nick Heidfeld in a McLaren and Jerome d’Ambrosio in a Lotus were among drivers putting on a show for the legions of petrolheads who head to Goodwood every year.

Away from the track, BMX and trials bike riders were pulling off incredible stunts in the expanded Goodwood Action Sports arena, rally stars slid around the forest and the supercar paddock allowed people to drool over exotica including the Lamborghini Aventador, Bugatti Veyron and Ferrari 458 Italia.

In the Cartier ‘Style et Luxe’ area, visitors wandered around a unique collection of vehicles used by the Queen and other royals, brought together to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee.

Spectators also looked skywards as the Red Arrows, now with just seven planes flying in formation, put on an impressive display, followed by a ground-shaking flypast by a Typhoon Eurofighter jet.