Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Always Meet Your Heroes

You know that phrase 'Never meet your heroes'? Well I've never stood much score by that. I honestly think that you should always meet your heroes - if you're disappointed when you meet them then maybe they don't deserve to be your hero in the first place. On the other hand, every time I've met one of my heroes, I've been thrilled and all the happier for the experience. This past weekend, I was at the Goodwood Festival of Speed with my Dad. This is a huge motorsport event in the UK, and one of the best places for you to meet your motorsport heroes - something which meant one of my dreams was made a reality on Saturday...

Wednesday - The Shaky Start

The Festival of Speed is spread over four days, with Thursday hosting the Moving Motor Show; a place for manufacturers to show off their latest models. As Dad and I had bought tickets for all weekend, we decided to set off on Wednesday so we could be at the show bright and early on Thursday. We left the house around midday, hoping to arrive in around three hours. As per usual, we took our Range Rover - a car which has served us very well in the eight years that we've owned it. We also decided to take the caravan with us, as there's a lot to be said for having heating when you come back from a long day out!

So, with the Range Rover packed up and the caravan close behind, we made our way towards the motorway and on to Goodwood. However, after only a few miles on the motorway we hit a problem: the Rangey was overheating! We managed to get off of the motorway and into a nearby garage to let it cool down, however this situation was far from ideal. Dad had the idea that maybe the radiator was blocked up with mud from the off road trials. So, once the Rangey had cooled down we set off to a nearby relative's house to clear out the radiator. 

After a long time clearing out the mud, we set off for attempt two of Mission to Goodwood. Once we'd been on the run for 15 miles, we hadn't hit any problems, so we assumed all was well - although we didn't take any chances and stayed well clear of the motorway. A few hours of travel and what seemed like an endless traffic jam, we finally made it to the campsite at around quarter to 6 in the evening. We got the caravan set up, had dinner at the campsite's cafe and got ready for the first day of the show.

Thursday - The Moving Motor Show

We got up bright and early on Thursday, after hearing horror stories about the traffic getting into and out of Goodwood. Luckily, Thursday is one of the quieter days at Goodwood so we got in with no problem. After parking, we wandered over to the aviation exhibition (which was the way to the main gates), where a Lewis Hamilton look-alike was standing at an RAC trade stall. Of course, I posed for a photo before we continued in to the show. 

The first thing that we saw was the huge moving motor show area next to the start of the hillclimb. Inside was where manufacturers (including Ferrari, Mercedes, Fiat, Renault, Honda, Porsche and so many more) could show off their latest models. We had a look around, and so at 8:15 in the morning Dad and I got to sit in not one but two Rolls Royce cars - the Rolls Royce Phantom and Ghost! Now there's an opportunity that doesn't come along that often.

After wandering around the moving motor show for a while, we progressed on to the trade stands and the other manufacturer exhibitions outside. We walked past the Honda stand, where the BTCC car was on display. From there, we walked past Mercedes, which had loads of old and new models all together. The Lotus display was one of my favourites - mostly because they were showing off two Lotus-Renault F1 cars on the corner of their stand! When we went inside, Dad got chatting to a guy who worked for Lotus, hearing about the new technology and development that Lotus had conducted. That's one of the best things about Goodwood - you get a good chance to talk to other like-minded petrolheads without any restrictions. After looking over the Lotus cars, we moved on to the Renault display. Inside I saw my first Red Bull F1 car of the day! Of course, I ogled this car for quite some time before progressing to the other cars Renault were showing - some of them the very earliest models. One thing that did let me down in the Renault display was the showing of their latest electric car - the Twizy. This car honestly looks ridiculous, and throughout the rest of the day I must have seen hundreds being sent up the hillclimb - much to my distaste! All in all, I think I'd rather walk than get inside a Twizy... While browsing the stands, we came across a TVR Tuscan - one of my favourite cars, and one I intend to own some day. As with most exhibitors at the show, the guys at the stand were very welcoming and allowed me to sit in the Tuscan - yet another photo opportunity!

After more wandering around the stands, we headed over to the Goodwood Action Sports Arena; a place obviously for the daredevils among us. In this area, people who have no sense of danger launch their motorbikes and pushbikes over large jumps and perform stunts such as backflipsmotorsport!

From there, I caught eye of a large Red Bull logo, and of course I went over to investigate. It was the Red Bull Gridster's area; a place where people could compete in videogames to be crowned the virtual racing champion. In this area, we also saw another Red Bull F1 car (another photo opportunity of course), and the Gran Turismo car designed by the brainboxes at Red Bull as a "What if there were no restrictions" exercise. After staring at my beloved Red Bull F1 car once more, we then watched the hillclimb for a while.

On Thursday, the hillclimb is full of demonstration runs of the newest makes of car. While some manufacturers were showing off the big, shouty-engined supercars, others were demonstrating their electric models. I'm kind of against electric cars. While I understand the ethos of being eco-friendly, I must admit I like the sound of a noisy engine much more. That probably says a lot about my character, but there we go!

When we'd seen enough Renault Twizy cars than we could stomach, we wandered over to the F1 paddock. On the way, we saw the amazing Lotus sculpture outside Goodwood house. The reviews were right: the sculptures outside the house are really impressive! When we got to the paddock, we saw so many F1 cars that I thought I'd died and gone to petrolhead heaven! The contemporary F1 cars on display included Lotus, Caterham, McLaren, Red Bull and, somewhat to my surprise, Ferrari. We also saw F1 cars from every other era from teams including Williams, Ferrari, Tyrrel, Lotus and way too many more for me to list. We also saw other race cars from many disciplines, and even the odd supercar.

Once we'd been overloaded with racing cars, and after we'd watched the Ferrari F1 car being delivered, we headed over to the Cartier Style Et Luxe display to look at the luxury design icons of the car world. To our joy, there were even a couple of Land Rovers thrown in! Directly opposite this display was the supercar paddock - probably one of the most expensive areas of the show. In this area, we saw almost every type of supercar worth seeing, including two Bugatti Veyrons, the Red Bull Infiniti cars and Pagani cars for good measure. As well as the supercars, a third Red Bull F1 car was thrown in! See what I mean about petrolhead heaven?

You might think that by now we'd seen every possible display of cars, but oh no. We walked down from the supercar paddock over to the Cathedral Paddock, where more racing cars were being held before their attempt at the hillclimb on the coming days. We saw contemporary racers, as well as some lovely classics from the very early days of motorsport. It was great to see the evolution of racers, and it's a rare opportunity to see so many cars in the same space.

The day still wasn't over, and so from Cathedral Paddock we wandered back up through the F1 paddock and along the hillclimb to the rally stage. This was the only time we did this walk: let me tell you now that the hillclimb at Goodwood is LONG! On the other days we opted to take the tractor shuttle towards the rally stage - a wise decision I feel! However, once we did get up to the rally stage we were rewarded by being able to see loads of rally cars up close. Once we'd had our fill, we wandered back down the hill, through the F1 paddock one last time (where we saw Alain Prost, but at the time didn't register who it was!) and eventually headed back to the campsite absolutely exhausted!

Thursday photos:

Friday - Our First Stars

On Friday we got up a little later, mostly because of the tiredness from Thursday! Unfortunately, this meant that we caught the traffic and it took us an hour to travel four miles. Still, we managed to get into the circuit for 9:00, giving us plenty of time to look around. When we arrived, we saw the first lot of cars attempting the hillclimb in anger. Even though some people were attempting timed runs, those who were on the hill for show managed to perform some stunts to entertain those of us in the crowd. One person who was performing a timed run who managed to entertain us - Terry Grant, who attempted the hillclimb in reverse!

We managed to wander around most of the bottom section of the hillclimb, before we headed off to the F1 paddock for a second time. While we were in there, we saw a pre-war Mercedes being fired up. In stark contrast to the electric cars, this Mercedes sounded great - although most of the crowd jumped at the noise! As we were walking away Dad spotted an F1 star - Nick Heidfeld! Sadly, Nick disappeared into the crowd before we got a chance to get any autographs or photos, but it was cool to know that F1 stars were still wandering around, even on the main show days.

From the paddock, we headed up to the shuttle tractors to the rally stage. We had to wait a fair while, however eventually we got on to the tractor and up to the rally stage. When we were up there, we managed to catch a glimpse of the Red Arrows display - something which is always impressive. Once the air display was over, we walked into the rally stage to watch the rally cars in action. We walked around most of the outside of the stage, before heading back down the hill. As we were wandering out of the woods, a car crashed into a tree right behind us. This highlighted the dangers of the chalky surface in the stage, coupled with the rain we had on that day!

We watched the hillclimb as we walked back down the hill, seeing cars ranging from F1, endurance racing, touring cars, supercars and many more. I don't think I've seen so many cars from so many disciplines in one weekend.

As on Thursday, we wandered back through the F1 paddock before we set off to the campsite. When we were in there, I spotted Jerome D'Ambrosio by the Lotus truck! Just as he was setting off to the driver's club I managed to have my photo taken with him - the first F1 star I met over the weekend! 

After the final wander through the paddock, we went back to look at the Alain Prost display. In here, there were F1 cars that Prost had driven over his career, as well as photos documenting his career to date. What we weren't expecting to see was the man himself! I of course went over and managed to get my first autograph of the weekend. Smiles all round!

Friday Photos:

Saturday - Meeting My Hero

Now, I'll digress for a moment. As you're probably already aware, I'm a Vettel fan. Sebastian is my absolute hero, and I've been a fan of him for quite a long time. I love his attitude and approach to races, and it's something I have tried to incorporate into my academic career. On Saturday at Goodwood, Vettel was due to attend. As I mentioned at the start of the blog, I've never believed in the 'Never meet your heroes' phrase, and I was desperate to meet Seb in person for the first time. 

We left the campsite much earlier than Friday, something which paid off as we arrived before the gates had even opened! This gave us plenty of time to wander around the trade stands once again, where Dad bought me a Team Lotus backpack (my usual Land Rover bag had been killing my back, so I needed something a little more practical!). Once we'd looked around for quite some time, we headed over to the Red Bull Gridster's area. Seb wasn't due to arrive until 9:45 so, content in the knowledge that this was the place to meet Sebastian, we headed back over to the hillclimb to watch the pioneering cars set off from the start line. 

We stayed at the hillclimb for a while, but knowing what the crowds were like at Goodwood we wandered back over to the Gridsters area to ensure we got a good spot to have the best chance of meeting Sebastian. We arrived just in time, and I managed to get a good place right at the front of the crowd! After quite a wait, I spotted Sebastian standing in the VIP area of the Gristers stand. When Seb had completed his interviews, he headed over to the stage through the crowd. He signed loads of autographs - but walked straight past my Red Bull Haynes manual book! I worried a little that I wouldn't get my autograph after this, but I was still happy that I got to see Seb so close. We stayed for the whole event, during which Sebastian raced the current Gran Turismo champion and gave an interview. After this, I thought that Sebastian would simply head off to his next appointment, however to my joy he came back down to sign more autographs! I got my autograph (the smile was even bigger), and asked whether he'd mind if I had my photo with him. After a nervous second waiting for the answer, Seb replied 'Sure! Just let me sign these autographs and we can take it' - to my delight of course! Another worrying moment arrived though, as a member of Red Bull staff tried to pull him away to his next appointment. Luckily, Sebastian was lovely enough to still let me have a picture together, and he even waited to make sure the photo came out alright - what a guy! I have to say, by this point I was probably the happiest person alive, and Sebastian/Red Bull, if you're reading this, THANK YOU! You've made a motorsport geek very happy! After wishing Seb good luck for the rest of the season, we headed away from the Gridsters, mission accomplished and ready to enjoy the rest of the day.  

From this point (still with a large grin on my face) we headed back over to the hillclimb to watch the bikes and F1 cars. Of course, the riders and drivers were keen to impress the crowd, and we saw our fair share of wheelies and donuts - cue the tyre smoke! There really is nothing like the sound of an F1 car in front of you - it's something everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime.

By this time, it was around lunch and we were both pretty worn out from the wandering of the past few days, so we headed over by the Blackrock Driver's Club, where people were waiting for more autographs. I waited there for a while, not really expecting to meet anyone, but to my surprise Karun Chandhok came over! I managed to get another autograph, and then had a much needed sit down to rest for a while.

After resting, we once again watched the hillclimb. In between stages, we also saw a 'Jubilee moment' featuring cars which had at one time carried royalty. This was accompanied by canon fire, fireworks and the Irish Guards - quite a spectacle, even if you're not a royalist. Saturday also featured another air display - that of the Tornados. Again this was quite something, and honestly it was one of many moments when nobody knew what to look at!

Our final visit of the day was to my beloved F1 paddock, where the F1 cars were returning from their second runs. Vettel was the last F1 car in, and for the second time in my life a Red Bull F1 car performed a burnout two feet in front of me. It was worth the damage to my ears - thank you Sebastian!

Saturday Photos:
Part 1
Part 2

Sunday - The Rally Stage

On Sunday we decided to spend most of the day at the rally stage. The tractors weren't running when we arrived, so we investigated more of the trade stands. While we were browsing, we came across some wacky racers - both from the cartoon and some more innovative and realistic versions! We saw real-life versions of the cars from the Wacky Races cartoon, probably one of the TV series from my childhood that got me in to motorsport. We also saw cars made from a double bed and an office (where the steering wheel was actually a keyboard!). Honestly, we saw new things every day.

After we'd wandered for quite a while, we headed up to the rally stage. We managed to wander quite a way in to the stage, seeing the jumps and a load of sideways cars. As much as I love rallying, I'd never actually seen a rally stage in person. After watching it at Goodwood, I still think that if money were no object, I'd happily become a rally driver. 

When the stage had closed for lunch, we headed over to the top paddock, where the cars waited to descend back down the hill after their climb. The F1 cars had come back from their first run, and as we arrived we saw Nico Rosberg giving out autographs. We also heard from the commentators that Nick Heidfeld was up at the rally stage, after asking Skoda whether he could have a ride around. Of course, we didn't want to miss the opportunity to meet yet another F1 driver, so we wandered over to the rally cars. Nick didn't sign any autographs before heading out, but when he returned he happily posed for a photo and signed my programme - thanks Nick!

We had lunch after this, then wandered back over to the top paddock. At the time, it wasn't that full, so I managed to get a spot right next to the fence. This paid off, as the supercars came up next - with the Infiniti cars being driven by Mark Webber and Adrian Newey. I managed to get two photos with each, and my Red Bull Haynes manual gained two more signatures. So, once again Red Bull made my weekend!

We stood around there for a while longer, and watched the F1 cars come back up the hill. I have to say now, that I have never seen so many F1 cars doing donuts in my life. Mark Webber must have gone for the record, with at least seven consecutive spins around. You have to love a bit of showing off!

Once we'd watched the F1 cars for the last time, we headed back into the rally stage to watch some more sliding around and drifting cars. We walked through the stage to get back to the hillclimb before watching the top 20 cars competing for the fastest time up the hill. This was yet another moment when we didn't know where to look, as we could see the rally stage, hillclimb and racing buggies all at the same time! When we'd watched all of the cars, we walked back down the hill and watched the last cars of the day make their way around (including a great few stunts!). We eventually left at 7 after the curfew fell on the show, and headed back to our campsite. 
Sunday Photos:
The End
So, all in all a fantastic weekend! One last thing to mention was that when we were leaving the campsite on Monday, we passed two Infiniti supercars - one of which was showing off the Red Bull logo. This was pretty cool in itself, but when I looked over to the other Infiniti I looked at who was in the passenger seat. It looked suspiciously like my hero - Sebastian. With that last moment of awe, we drove back home (a much less dramatic journey than getting there!). Same time next year?