It’s 6.30 am Monday 27th June 2022 and I am at work the day after the best few days of my life, I really should be looking at the 400+ e-mails I have just come back to but I just want to briefly write down how I am feeling after this years Goodwood Festival of Speed whilst it is still fresh in my mind, there have been so many amazing memories made over the last 4 days that it is hard to know where to start but here we go, have to say that I have mixed feelings at the moment, even getting a bit emotional as I’m still buzzing from what just happened but am really sad that it is now over, it is going to be a huge come down, I’m such grateful that I have the best day job also to help me get back into the daily groove.
So I went to the very first FOS in 1993, 29 years ago, where it was more like a garden party compared to now and I have been to nearly every one since when I can but this year was very different, after a few months of planning and negotiations we got invited to actually drive up the hill twice a day for 3 days in front of 10’000’s of people and the best part of it all is the car we would be doing it in.
I am a big Nascar fan, started watching that in the early 1990’s, for me it is the best motorsport on the planet and can be misunderstood in this country but there is no purer form of racing in my view, the skill involved in oval racing is incredible, it is like chess at 200mph as the various strategies play out and the skill to race in a pack on 40+ cars at 200mph cm’s apart is incredible. My Nascar hero was and still is Jeff Gordon, a real legend of the sport, he famously raced No 24 for 22 years, winning the championship 4 times and 93 races from 805 start, it is the reason why I race no24 myself. So to cut to the chase, I was actually going to drive a 2012 Jeff Gordon Nascar up the hill, it is around 900hp and I had only driven it for 10 minutes or so a week before in a quick shakedown at Millbrook Proving Ground, so no pressure then, but never one to turn down an opportunity I just had to go for it, I mean what could possible go wrong.
Firstly, I have to thank the UK Nascar Community, these guys are awesome, I’d met a couple beforehand at Carfest last year but at Goodwood I met many more of the gang and what a really lovely bunch of guys, within 10 minutes I felt I had known them for years, so knowledgeable and passionate about the sport but more importantly to me just really fantastic people, without these guys it would be impossible for me to drive a Nascar over here but with their support I knew I was in safe hands, when I left Goodwood last night I really felt like I had made some amazing new friends for life, so thanks again guys, thank you so much for the weekend and helping give me a truly off the scale weekend.
Goodwood FOS Thurs – Sun.
So here we go then, let’s run through the weekend, it is all a bit of a blur really of early starts, late finishes, very little sleep, a lot of coffee and thank god for adrenaline. I agreed to run the 24 a couple of months before but once I pulled into the car park on the Thursday it all became a bit real, this was really happening, I agreed to meet the guys in the car park where we sorted out all the passes and tickets then headed into Goodwood where the 24 was sitting in the paddock looking stunning, I want to thank Shaun at Road to Race for his support also in getting the car to Goodwood and collecting it after the event, so Thursday was a day of checking the car over, a few systems checks, getting signed on and collecting our access all areas passes and we even got a really cool medal to which would gain us access to the Driver Club where we were fed and watered for 4 days and then we had a wander around waiting for the big day on Friday.
Here we go, the first run!
Did I sleep Thursday night? Very little if I am honest, I really don’t get nervous but this was like nothing I had done before, it would have been nerve racking enough in a normal car but in a 900hp Nascar Monster it is enough to give anyone nerves, especially as it is a big car and the 2nd part of the run up the hill is very narrow, to make things worse as I sat in the holding area 10 minutes before Dario Franchitti, 3 time Indy 500 winner, said ‘Be careful, I’ve crashed loads of these, they are a handful’ thanks Dario.
From the collecting area you drive back down the track to the Start line, here you line up and wait to be called forward where you are told to wait, you watch this one man and once the car in front is far enough up the road ahead he waves you to go, I sat there waiting and all I could think was not to stall it which is really easy in a Nascar as the clutch is like a switch, on or off, but then I was told to go so I gave it loads of revs and we were off with a little wheel spin, the last thing you want at Goodwood is to be the person who gets it wrong so I drove it more like Miss Daisy than anything and although I had practised it a lot on my sim there is nothing like going up the iconic hill for yourself, the funny thing was though that although the hill was lined with 1000’s of people I never saw one of them as I was so focused on not getting it wrong that I may as well have been the only person there, it was all very surreal, so we poodled up, around the flint wall that everyone made me were of and I have never been so happy to see a finish line before but that was run one complete, I’d just done something that very few people had done before, driven a Nascar up the hill at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, the sense of relief was amazing but I was absolutely buzzing.
What is it like to drive a Nascar? It is basically like sitting in the middle of a volcano, it is a very brutal environment, incredible noise and power, you can feel the cars anger as you sit in it as it shakes and rumbles side to side, it seems to want to spin its wheels at every opportunity and it really wouldn’t take much for it to bite you but show it some respect and it is an exhilarating experience, it could be further away from my other cars I race which are generally lightweight but low power, but once you have tasted a thoroughbred top tier race car like this it is very addictive and as the runs ticked by I found myself just wanting to get back in asap for another go.
We had 6 runs through the weekend but that was my run done for the Friday as I had been introduced to YouTuber PetrolPed, again a really nice guy, and we were going to split the runs, 4 for me, 2 for him, so that he could do a film for his Channel about the experience of running a Nascar up the hill, really can’t wait to see this.
Next it was Saturday, this was going to be a full on day, as I had 2 runs then it was the Driver Ball at Goodwood House, the 2 runs went really well again, each time I was getting more confident with the 24 as I pushed it a little bit harder each time, that could be dangerous but I really wanted to get a feel what she could do. Our last run finished around 6.30pm and the ball started at 7pm, luckily the drivers had showers so it was chaos as everyone tried to get ready, have to say it is very surreal seeing loads of your hero’s in the their undies getting dressed ready for a night out.
The Goodwood Drivers Ball.
Just when you think things can’t get any better Wendy and myself found ourselves at the Driver Ball, I was looking forward to this just a much as the driving to be honest. So we arrived at Goodwood house around 7pm, where all the Bentley’s and Supercars are pulling up with all the rich and famous, then walk in for a champagne reception in the Goodwood Gardens, again surreal surrounded by loads of your motorsport hero’s, now I feel that you really shouldn’t approach these drivers in this sort of environment, just didn’t seem the right thing to do but another of my real heroes is Mika Hakkinen, I used to follow him all round Europe attending Grand Prix to cheer him on so when I saw him I just had to go and say hello and get a picture with him, he was as lovely as he seems to happily stood there to have picture taken, what a great start to the evening.
After the reception we are asked to take our table, we were sitting with 6 others, mainly from a Biking motorsport side of things but had some great chats, food was served which was incredible, basically smoked Salmon to start with, Beef for main and what was probably the best chocolate desert I had ever had to finish things off, all washed down with as much red and white wine as we wanted, as I was driving the next morning early I actually drunk more water than anything, what a shame.
Next we were asked to go outside for the entertainment to start and what a show that was, fireworks like I’d never seen before, amazing singers, pyrotechnics, drone planes firing rockets, a jet man landing on the stage followed by more singing and fireworks, all you could do was watch in awe at the spectacle, I’d certainly never seen anything like this before and what blew my mind was that all this was for just around 1500 of us, Lord March really knows how to throw a party.
After this was finished we were then asked to go back inside to the concert area for the live band, this is kept very secret and there have been many big bands over the years apparently, I knew that Lord March loves his rock music, as do I, so was looking forward to this, who could it be?
Well it certainly didn’t disappoint as it turned out to be one of my favourite bands who I have been to see many times before over the years, The Darkness, and what a show they put on, pure rock’n’roll, Justin the lead singer was really on it, again it was like I had been imported into some alternative motorsport universe as I’m down the front row enjoying The Darkness then I turn round and Mr LeMans, 9 times winner Tom Kristensen is jumping up and down behind me standing next to Lord March who was really loving it, I look a couple of people over and there is Jenson Button rocking out along with his Radford partner Ant Anstead, in the end everywhere you looked there were famous drivers and boy do they know how to enjoy themselves, I guess if you are willing to risk your life racing cars at crazy speeds then you really are going to enjoy life at every opportunity.
The Darkness finished around midnight then a DJ set started to finish things off, it was such an amazing night but I was keen to get to bed as I was going back up the hill in the 24 around 9am, so 3 hours sleep later I was back in the paddock and getting ready for my final run, who knew having so much fun would be this exhausting, although I am sure I won’t get any sympathy.
The Final Run!
Here we go then, my 4th and final run up the hill in Jeff Gordon’s 2012 Nascar, so I lined up behind world rally champion Stig Blomqvist, unbelievable I know, the Stig fired off up the hill and I was ushered forward, when I got to the line for the first time I looked up and as I did that I saw hundreds of people hold their phones up to film me pulling away, really wish I hadn’t done that as straight away the nerves set in, all I could think was don’t stall it now, I was given the go signal and I gave it loads of revs and we were off, I was determined to make this run my fastest attempt but at the 2nd corner I tried a bit too hard, touched the grass and got a little loose, at that point I decided to not be a hero and just get to the finish line which I did and that was that, I had completed my 4 runs up the hill with the car still in one piece, result. Next PetrolPed had one more run at the end of the day which he did successfully and that was that, the 4 best days of my life complete, huge smiles all round.
I’ve been racing for 5 years now and this was the first time I actually felt like a Race Car Driver, to be in the inner circle at Goodwood is like nothing else I have experienced and being in the drivers club, this is basically where all the drivers hang out away from the crowds, when in your race overall then all the drivers are happy to talk to you, I’ve just jotted down some of the people I spoke to below, talk about a Who’s Who of motorsport.
I even got asked twice for my autograph, I explained that I was no one but as I had driven Jeff Gordon’s car they still wanted me to sign pictures of Jeff, hilarious really but great fun.
So to coin a phrase, ‘if Carling did dream weekends’ then I have just lived mine, I really couldn’t have had more fun if I tried, I’m hopeful I’ll get invited back one day to do it all again but if not I’ll be fine with that as I now have the memories of a truly incredible weekend.
Finally I’d like to thank everyone at Goodwood for the invite and the hospitality, it really is an incredible event like nothing else in the world and to be a very small part of it has been such an honour and privilege so thanks again Goodwood and the UK Nascar Community for making this Petrolheads dreams come true, a weekend I will cherish forever and will never forget.
Please find some random pictures below –
Nigel Mansell and some stalker!
Wendy as a passenger with PetrolPed.
Thanks for the Memories Goodwood
PetrolPed No24 Goodwood FOS Adventure!