Over the last 29 years, the Goodwood Festival of Speed has seen many a phenomenal car roar its way past Goodwood House in the event’s timed runs. From pre-war Grand Prix veterans to the latest and greatest road and racing cars, some incredibly special machines have been put through their paces on the 1.16-mile course.
These are the five fastest cars that have ever gone up the hill at the Festival of Speed.
5 Jaguar XJR8/9
Best time 44.19
In 2009, Justin Law set a blistering time in the Jaguar XJR8/9, a mighty Group C sports prototype powered by a huge 7-litre V12 engine. It’s great to see this car getting extra limelight at Goodwood, though; although it won the driver and manufacturer titles in the 1987 World Sportscar Championship, it missed out on victory at the Le Mans 24 Hours, the crown jewel of endurance racing.
4 Gould GR51
Best time 42.90sec
When the 2002 British Hillclimb Champion Graeme Wight Jr rocked up to the following year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed, many expected a quick time from the driver. Few would’ve expected him to get so close to the outright record, though — but that’s exactly what Wight Jr did when he completed his run of just 42.9sec in a Gould GR51 hillclimb-special.
3 McLaren MP4/13
Best time 41.60sec
With car technology advancing at a never-ending rate of knots, performance records don’t normally stay still for long. It’s testament to just how incredible Nick Heidfeld’s Goodwood hill climb run in 1999 was, then, that the time he sat was the fastest ever seen at the Festival of Speed for 20 years.
Behind the wheel of the McLaren MP4/13 with which McLaren comfortably won the 1998 Formula One World Championship, Heidfeld went on to set a blisteringly quick time of just 41.6 seconds, at an average speed of just over 100mph.
Though the record has since been beaten, Goodwood’s ban on F1 cars setting timed runs means there’s a very good chance that Nick Heidfeld’s record won’t be broken by another open-wheel racing car for the foreseeable future.
2 Volkswagen ID.R
Best time 39.90sec
Having clinched the outright electric car record the previous year, Romain Dumas and Volkswagen returned to Goodwood in 2019 with their eyes set on breaking the overall course record. Poor weather meant they couldn’t set the new fastest time during the Sunday Shootout, but Dumas and the ID.R managed to smash Heidfeld’s time during Saturday qualifying, with the first ever sub-40sec hill climb run at the Goodwood Festival of Speed.
Confusingly, a Goodwood spokesperson told Driving.co.uk the 39.9sec time was “unofficial”, as it was set during the Qualifying session, but later changed this position, saying that any timed session over the weekend is eligible to contest the overall Hill record.
1 McMurtry Spéirling
Best time 39.08sec
At 3,200mm long and 1,500mm wide, the McMurtry Spéirling is certainly the smallest car to ever clinch the record at Goodwood, something most likely to its benefit on the tighter parts of the course. In 2022, the diminutive electric vehicle built by Gloucestershire-based motorsport firm McMurtry Automotive, snatched the record from the Volkswagen ID.R when it was driven by ex-Marussia F1 driver, Max Chilton.
Aiding the Spéirling in its attempt was its low weight (1,000kg) and high power (1,000bhp) giving it a 40% better power-to-weight ratio than a Bugatti Chiron and a 0-60mph time of around 1.5 seconds. Rather than relying on large wings to create aerodynamic downforce, the McMurtry uses an underbody fan combined with tight, ground-hugging side skirts to create a suction force drawing the car closer to the ground. In a year that saw some of the Formula E racing cars at Goodwood criticised for their relative lack of noise and drama, the whoosh and uncharacteristic din of the Spéirling’s fan and rear-mounted motor proved that an EV can still put on an exciting show.
The top 10 fastest cars at Goodwood Festival of Speed
|Graeme Wight, Jr.
|Peugeot 2018 T16 Pikes Peak
|Leyton House-Judd CG901B
|Subaru Impreza “Gobstopper II”
Bonus: Toyota TF102
Best time 41.565sec
Nick Heidfeld may have held the Goodwood hill climb record for twenty years, but one car and driver combo did manage to pip the McLaren driver’s time way before Romain Dumas in the Volkswagen ID.R blew away the competition in 2019.
In 2002, Allan McNish managed to thread his Toyota TF102 Formula One car up the course in a time of 41.565sec.
As the ban on timed runs for F1 cars was in place ahead of 2002, though, Allan McNish’s incredible drive isn’t officially recognised as the Goodwood Festival of Speed’s fastest ever hill climb attempt in an open-wheel racing car.
These days, F1 cars aren’t timed up the hill and instead are left to do spectacular burnouts to please the crowds.
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