Goodwood Festival of Speed is probably the most famous of the many spectacular events held at the Earl of Marchs ancestral home. It consists of 12,000 leafy acres near the UKs West Sussex coast, providing plenty of room not just for a hill climb but a forest rally stage, an aviation display and copious hospitality tents.
We went in search of Kiwi connections but this year they were a little thin on the ground. With one notable exception: Bruce Anstey. Fresh from his first ever Superbike class win at the Isle of Man, the man was in great demand for photos and autographs but we managed to have a quick chat. He was obviously pleased at taking the premier class win, after nine wins in other classes. So much so that he shrugged off losing the ultimate lap record to rival John McGuinness (who was parked right next door in the Honda tent). Bruce hasn't made it back to NZ in ten years. Im based here [in England] now, and thats where my partners from, said the Wellington-born, now Windsor-based, racer. But Id like to get back some time, for sure.
Bruce and his team owner, Clive Padgett, were spotted eyeing up a BSB-spec R1, prompting an enquiry about Bruces other racing plans. But, no, the Flying Kiwi will be sticking to road racing. If you want to see him in action again this year, the best chance will be at Augusts Classic TT, where Bruce is scheduled to do a parade lap on the unique Works Norton restored by Ken McIntosh. We reported on this very special machine at its appearance in the Classic Motorcycle Festival at Pukekohe back in January.
Another famous, though clean shaven, face in Goodwoods bike paddock was World Superbike contender Leon Haslam. A first race crash at Portimao, scoring 12th place after remounting, put Leon a long way behind the seemingly unstoppable Johnny Rea in this years championship. Did he think he could catch the Ulsterman? Realistically, were not going to catch Johnny, admits Haslam. But we definitely can win races, and thats what were aiming for. Lying third in the championship, 149 points behind Rea, he is really looking forward to the next round at Laguna Seca and hoping its going to be typically hot. The conditions should suit us, says the British rider. The bike is better in hotter race conditions, so we should go well.
Casey Stoner might now be a retired Moto GP racer, but he is still a magnet for the fans. Every time he appeared, the Honda stand was swamped with crowds taking photos. Johnny Rea was getting a lot of attention too, but the biggest drawcard, inevitably, was Valentino Rossi. Having Stoner and Rossi riding the same stretch of tarmac was pretty special.
There were, of course, all manner of historic and eye-wateringly expensive machines on display at the Festival of Speed, with a huge number making the run up the 1.16 mile hill climb course. Attendance over the four days exceeded 180,000. Its an amazing event, and one for every petrol-heads bucket list.