While the idea of living in a vast stately home surrounded by thousands of acres of land seems idyllic, the reality is often somewhat different — constant maintenance and huge running costs being the most commonly-cited drawbacks. But things look spick and span at Goodwood House in West Sussex, partly because it’s incumbent, the Duke of Richmond, has successfully combined business with pleasure by using the grounds to stage one of the world’s best-loved motoring events, the Goodwood Festival of Speed.
The Duke inaugurated the Festival back in 1993 by turning the 1.1 mile stretch of estate road that runs in front of the house into a hillclimb course. The thrilling spectacle of seeing dozens of great cars and motorcycles racing up the hill against the clock attracted 30,000 visitors the first time round, and the Festival of Speed became an annual happening that is now so popular that attendance is capped at 150,000.
The event has earned a special place in the hearts of old car enthusiasts the world over, and is now regarded as one of the main fixtures on the international motorsport calendar — the largest motoring garden party in the world, they call it.
It has, of course, grown hugely since its inauguration and become a must-do event for many leading manufacturers of cars, motorcycles and luxury goods — including the various watch brands that have come along to partake of the festivities over the years.
Bremont and TAG Heuer have both had a go, but 2017 saw Montblanc sign a five-year deal to become the Festival’s official timing partner.
The news came shortly after the brand unveiled a whole new collection of TimeWalker models that pay tribute to motorsport and hark back to the history of its Minerva manufacture, as a maker of stopwatches during the first half of the 20th century — with the hero piece being the limited edition Chronograph Rally Timer Counter, a 50mm beast with a winding crown and push piece at the 12 o’clock position in classic stop-watch style.
This weekend, Montblanc marks its second year in the job with two special ‘Goodwood’ watches — a Timewalker Manufacture Chronograph (£4,400) and an automatic date model (£2,345), both dubbed ‘Cappuccino’ editions thanks to their ‘tropical’ dials.
An example of the chronograph version will be presented to this year’s top driver at the Festival of Speed, with the two models being on display throughout the weekend in the Montblanc pavilion and available to buy in selected boutiques and from the brand’s web site.
Both watches were created by Davide Cerrato — the dapper, Morgan-driving, automobile-obsessed former Tudor designer who now heads-up Montblanc’s watch division — and neither would look out of place beside the steering wheel of a classic car, especially with those creamy panda-type dials and ‘Sfumato’ aged leather straps from the brand’s Florence tannery.
Bulgari also has a presence at this year’s event and is showing its two latest driver’s watches designed in collaboration with partner brand Maserati. The Octo GranSport and GranLusso watches respectively feature 41mm DLC carbon or pink gold cases, with both models using a retrograde dial display that’s loosely based on a Maserati rev counter. Straps, meanwhile, are perforated, padded and top-stitched in the style of a luxury car seat. The Gransport costs around £9,500, the GranLusso around £23,000.
When you’re not watch shopping at this year’s Festival, however, take time to check out the superb array of Porsche cars that has been assembled to celebrate the legendary marque’s 70th anniversary and visit the Cartier Style et Luxe lawn beside the house to see the entries for a variety of concours competition classes.
Since this is the Festival’s 25th anniversary, there’s a special category for cars made in 1993, together with others for Jaguar’s XK models and models that epitomise the playboy lifestyle.
In a special ‘first glimpse’ section of the show can be found the actual Ford Mustang driven in the epic Bullitt movie car chase, while directly in front of the house you can also see this year’s remarkable ‘central feature’ sculpture by Gerry Juddah – comprising six real Porsches attached to a pylon 100 feet above the ground.
Live action events include the ‘GAS’ arena where freestyle motocross, trials, BMX and mountain bike stars perform insane tricks for the crowds, and there’s also a forest rally stage and Terry Grant’s eye-popping stunt show (he drives a Range Rover at 70mph; on two wheels).
It is, however, the hillclimb action that still forms the heart of the event, giving spectators the chance to see cars and motorcycles from all eras being driven hard and fast at an unusually close distance.
This year has already seen some particularly impressive action from a diverse range of insane vehicles, including drift cars, NASCAR racing trucks, the new Brabham B62 – and even a Honda lawn mower powered by a 189 horsepower CBR1000 motorcycle engine that can reach 150 mph.
Only at Goodwood….