A guide to the 2014 car festival season (part one)

A guide to the UK's best motoring festivals

2014 Summer Festivals

A SUMMER of motoring fun kicks off today. Across Britain over the next few months you can see classic vehicles rubbing bonnets with supercars. Driving picks the top events

Car festivals

1. Goodwood Festival of Speed June 26-29

Motoring’s perennial garden party is now in its 22nd year, serving up the same mixture of classic, racing and sports cars zooming up the 1.16-mile driveway — better known as the hillclimb — to Lord March’s Goodwood House in West Sussex. To keep the festival as fresh as the cucumber slice in a glass of Pimm’s, there are a few tweaks to the format this year, starting with the transformation of the supercar run: for the first time the most modern and exotic road cars at the show will be timed on the hillclimb.

Is the McLaren P1 quicker than the LaFerrari? Rumour has it both cars will be there, together with the new Honda NSX, showing off what it can do for the first time in public.

They say The world’s pre-eminent celebration of motor sport and automotive culture in all its forms.

We say Crowded and the catering’s pricy, but still one of the best ways of spending a sunny Sunday

Tickets £46 for Friday, £60 for Saturday or Sunday, under-13s free


2. Run to the Sun May 23-26

Since 1987 a group of Volkswagen owners has been driving down to Cornwall in anticipation of summer. Now, 27 years later, the exodus has grown to 30,000 revellers, who surf, sunbathe and seek out other spectators’ classic cars by day and then party at four music arenas in the evening.

VW owners get their own camping area (there’s a VIP section for anyone with a classic camper van), and the show is also popular for owners of custom and modified cars.

They say For three days Newquay is ours.

We say Car shows don’t get much cooler; just avoid the boy racers trying to hijack the vibe.

Tickets £75 a person; includes camping for eight days


3. CarFest 

CarFest North, August 1-3; CarFest South, August 22-24

Combine a music festival with a car show, allow the eclectic mind of the radio host Chris Evans to curate it and you have one of Britain’s most successful motoring events, which has sold out both years since its launch in 2012.

It is held at two venues on separate weekends: CarFest South takes place at Laverstoke Park Farm in Hampshire, and CarFest North is at Oulton Park in Cheshire. Tickets for both were going fast as Driving went to press.

There’s a track at both events where you can watch vehicles race by in groups of seven, with Formula One cars, rare Ferraris and bizarre one-offs among previous entrants. In the evening, attention turns to the main stage. Acts confirmed for both events include Erasure, 10cc, the Feeling, Texas and Eliza Doolittle.

Carfest has a big appeal for families, with plenty of activities for youngsters of all ages. Evans admits that he’s doing his best to indoctrinate children into the world of cars. Good man.

They say A dream team of cars, music, food, family and ultimately some good honest fun.

We say Take a tent and prepare for a car-lovers’ Glastonbury – rain or shine.

Tickets One day from £57 (children 6-16 £10); weekend with camping £135 (children 6-16 £33; family £270)


4. Brighton Speed Trials September 6

As revealed in The Sunday Times, the trials — thought to be Britain’s oldest motoring event, with a 109-year history — were threatened with closure last year as a result of what some said was an anti-car policy by the Green-led council. After a campaign that attracted more than 12,000 supporters, the event won a reprieve.

Classic racing cars, supercars, hot hatches and superbikes all compete to set the fastest time of the day, with the beach as a backdrop. Watch from the road above with an ice cream in hand for an unbeatable day out.

We say Unmissable if you love the smell of burnt clutch on the seafront.

Tickets Free to watch; £10 for pit access


5. The Supercar Event June 22-23

Other car shows let you look at supercars; this one lets you ride in them. The Supercar Event turns owners of exotic cars into taxi drivers for charity on Top Gear’s test track at Dunsfold aerodrome, Surrey, otherwise unused during the Stig’s summer hibernation.

Expect to pay £30 to ride in a machine such a Ferrari F430 or a Lamborghini Gallardo; £60 will buy a ride in the car of your choice, with the exception of the hypercars, which typically include Ferrari Enzos and Pagani Zondas and are priced individually. As you zoom past the Top Gear studios and parked jumbo jet, see if you can spot the circles of rubber left by Jeremy Clarkson. Profits go to the Children’s Trust charity.

They say Where else can you pick from most of the greatest supercars and then be drive at speed?

We say If you love Top Gear and supercars, you’ll not go anywhere better this summer.

Tickets £13.20, under-16s £8.80, family £31.50


Summer Festivals

6. Cholmondeley Pageant of Power June 13-15

This year the Pageant of Power at Cholmondeley Castle in Cheshire has bagged the perfect accompaniment to wailing sports cars and roaring fighter planes: Status Quo. The rockers play the opening concert on Friday night, launching a weekend of action on the track, in the air and on water.

The vehicles confirmed include a 1951 Ferrari 212 F1 car and the latest Maserati GranTurismo MC Stradale. If past form is any guide, you’ll see priceless classics, rally heroes and dozens of modern supercars battling to set the fastest track time. There’s also jet-ski racing and stunts on the castle lake, as well as wing walkers and the Red Arrows aerobatic team in the sky.

They say The only place to see explosive power on track, on water and in the air.

We say Manages to rival Goodwood without taking itself so seriously.

Tickets £30 a day; £115 for Status Quo concert and weekend entry


7. Silverstone Classic July 25-27

The circuit that hosted the first F1 world championship race in 1950 is celebrating its 50th British Grand Prix (it hasn’t been held at Silverstone every year) and is marking the occasion by claiming to have the biggest gathering of F1 cars in history. More than 100 will be in competition across the weekend, making up some of the 1,000-plus racing cars that are competing in 24 events.

There will also be action in the air: Second World War P-51 Mustang fighters are taking part in some of the displays. Live music comes from a vintage era: Bonnie Tyler is on the bill alongside Aerosmith and Eagles tribute acts.

They say Experience the world’s biggest classic motor-racing festival.

We say You’ll wonder why you bother watching modern F1.

Tickets Friday £39, Saturday £57, Sunday £50; children 6-16 £5.50


8. Norwich Motor Show July 19-20

Norfolk may be the butt of numerous Clarkson jokes, but as well as being home to one of one of Britain’s most-loved sports car companies — Lotus — it also hosts one of the UK’s best provincial car shows. It’s not on the same scale as Goodwood or Silverstone but still boasts an air display, live music and an array of cars and motorbikes, ranging from 1920s Austins to the latest models in the showrooms. It’s a family event, and the kids will love the vintage bus trips, amusement rides and an appearance from the Daleks.

They say This year will be the best yet.

We say A petrol-powered village fete.

Tickets £5, children free


Cartoon festivals

9. Motorsport at the Palace May 25-26

Sadly this doesn’t involve turning the Mall into a drag strip; the name refers to the site of the former Crystal Palace in southeast London, where racing has taken place since 1899. A section of the track was revived in 2010 and each summer it rumbles with the sound of pre-war racers, rally machines and modern sports cars. Spectators stand just a few feet away from the vehicles as they drive through the leafy park.

You’ll also run the gauntlet of car clubs, each trying to demonstrate the lure of classics such as the Rover P6 or Morris Marina. There’s a kit-car show and a touring Diggerland event, which sadly is just for children.

The say A fantastic couple of days of motor sport in one of the capital’s most pleasant parks.

We say The perfect day trip for Londoners

Tickets £8; under-16s free


10.  Scottish Borders Historic Motoring Extravaganza June 1

Worth a visit just to see the grounds of Thirlestane Castle, this festival in the Borders aims to cater to car enthusiasts while providing enough entertainment for other members of the family too. There are hundreds of classic and performance cars, military vehicles, muscle cars and motorbikes, with visitors able to hitch a lift in the passenger seat of some. But there’s also a craft tent, adventure playground, funfair and mini quad bikes.

They say An exciting day out for the whole family.

We say The best classic car festival in Scotland.

Tickets £8; under-16s free


11. Llandudno transport festival May 4-5

Kicking off the best of this year’s motoring festivals is what’s said to be Wales’s largest transport festival. A cross between a steam rally and a classic car show, it has miniature traction engines a short walk away from vintage Rolls-Royces and Triumph Stags. If you’re reading this article on the north Wales coast then you probably know all about it, as the event takes over Llandudno today and tomorrow, with a parade of cars and steam engines accompanied by marching bands.

They say A unique annual celebration of transport and entertainment heritage.

We say A gentle start to the festival season.

Tickets £6; under-16s £1



Click here to read A guide to the 2014 car festival season part two