Drive vs ride: What’s the best way to take on the Goodwood hillclimb?
The Goodwood Festival of Speed is a motoring event turned up to 11. And then some more.
With a full spectrum of four (and occasionally two) wheeled madness on show – from drift cars to £20m concours-worthy Aston Martin – this is an event like no other.
Having attended for the past decade as a spectator and witnessed the hillclimb from afar, this year would be slightly different as I’d be allowed to go up the Festival of Speed’s star attraction for myself.
First up was a drive up the hill in the new Toyota Supra, followed in the afternoon by a ride in the Morgan Plus Six – the British firm’s first all-new car in a long time.
But how does it compare being behind the wheel to sitting alongside a driver who actually knows what he’s doing? It’s time to head to the start line.
Given customer deliveries of the Supra haven’t started yet, this is a rather good first car to take up the Goodwood hillclimb in.
Having seen what happens when people are a bit too ambitious (e.g hale bale disasters or extreme scrapes down the Flint Wall) I was eager for this not to be the case on my turn.
The Supra run was also the first of the whole festival, with ‘my’ Supra only being the fourth to set off. No pressure then.
After a great deal of waiting around (a feature at every Festival of Speed) it was time to head up the hill.
Few things are as intimidating as the Goodwood start line, where you have cameras on you at all angles and spectators wanting you to show off in the hope of some wheelspin or – more likely – to cash in on a crash video on YouTube.
But anyway, Sport and ‘M’ (manual) mode activated and it was time to go for it. Sat at the start line, the first corner appears so far away, but comes up like a flash – though the same could be said for every corner, in truth.
Past the imposing Goodwood House and next is arguably the most feared corner of the 1.16-mile hillclimb – Molecomb corner. Over the years, many vastly-experienced drivers have crashed here, and I was keen to not add myself to the tally. Taking the corner remarkably steady, all was very smooth and stable in the Supra.
The Flint Wall is an equally scary place. With a narrow section between the chalk and bales, it’s easy to see how easily you could get it wrong. After that it’s plain sailing to the top to the hillclimb. At the chequered flag I glance at the speedo to see something near 120mph. Not bad for a novice!
Perhaps most surprising is just how soon the climb is over. But, short or not, it’s safe to say I caught the Goodwood buzz.
Up next I was swapping my place in the hot seat with a pro racing driver for a ride up the hillclimb in something a bit different from Morgan – the Plus Six.
This is the firm’s first all-new car in 19 years, and even if it might look similar to its predecessor, it’s remarkably different.
In a strange coincidence, the Plus Six shares its underpinnings with the Supra, with Morgan and Toyota both taking advantage of the latest BMW Z4’s underpinnings. This means they each use BMW’s 3.0-litre ‘B58’ in-line six petrol engine paired to an eight-speed ZF manual transmission. That said, each firm is quick to stress how different they are from their German sibling.
The engine’s 335bhp already feels fruity in the Supra, but given how light the new Morgan is, the Speed Six feels much quicker than the Toyota. That could be because I’m sat next to a pro, though.
Racing driver Shane Kelly is at the helm of the Morgan, and he knows this car much better than most. For the past few months he’s been at the heart of this car’s progression as one of the development drivers.
On the run up to the start line, I instantly know this run will be a bit more dramatic compared to my comparatively smooth morning leg.
As soon as the flag goes down at the start line, it’s burn-out time. “It’s for the crowds,” Kelly tells me, with an enormous grin on his face as we’re surrounded by smoke from burning rubber.
He’s not the only one smiling, with a massive grin gracing my face for the entirety of the run. So much so that I have people commenting about it on social media….
Being in the passenger seat lets you take in Goodwood and the whole experience to a better degree – though that could be partly because the Plus Six is a drop-top. But regardless, there’s a greater sense of fun and appreciation from the passenger’s seat. This equates to this bigger smile, rather than my angry concentration face observed in the Supra.
But despite that, there’s a huge thrill and sense of achievement as a driver, and knowing that you’re in charge. If it goes wrong, it’s my neck on the line, and there’s a strange buzz from that.
At the end of the day, I reflect on having two different runs on the same piece of tarmac, and experiencing two very different cars built from the same platform.