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Goodwood Festival of Speed 2007

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It's the largest celebration of Motoring History in the world - and it takes place every year right here on our doorstep in Sussex.

Set in the beautiful grounds and gardens of Goodwood House near Chichester, the annual Goodwood Festival of Speed opened its gates for the fifteenth year running on 22nd - 24th June. The event has gone from strength to strength, with visitor numbers climbing year on year.

This year the theme was 'Spark of Genius - Breaking Records, Pushing Boundaries', celebrating individual drivers and the engineering geniuses who have pushed the envelope of motor sports in their quest for victory. The majority of the cars and bikes featured in the displays were chosen for their ground-breaking designs, or because they pushed back the barriers of the time and enabled their drivers to achieve the seemingly impossible. Also featured were a selection of cars chosen to represent the achievements of their great drivers such as Fangio, Nuvolari, Jim Clark, Ayrton Senna, Jackie Ickx and Stirling Moss, not forgetting more recent stars such as Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso.

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Being able to walk around the paddocks and see and touch these machines is an awe-inspiring experience, matched only by the thrill of seeing many of them sprint up the 1.16 mile hill climb course at genuine racing speeds.

All types of motor-sports are represented, so as well as classic racing cars you will find a strong selection of rally cars, touring cars, CanAm racers, and of course, motorcycles. The two-wheelers were particularly well represented this year, it being the 100th anniversary of the Isle-of-Man TT races.

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All four of Britain's current Formula One drivers, Anthony Davidson, David Coulthard, Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton, attended the Festival at some point over the weekend. Lewis made his public debut in a F1 car on British soil, delighting the crowd with a display of wheel-spinning standing starts on the hill climb straight.

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At a somewhat slower pace, the Goodwood Organic Milk Race saw top professional cyclists teamed up with top motor sport drivers in an event reminiscent of the Milk Race from the 1970's. Jenson Button, Anthony Davidson, Mark Webber, Damon Hill, Colin McRae and Allan McNish had all pledged to take part in one of the three races. As well as promoting the launch of Goodwood Organic Milk, the event also raised money for the Richard Burns Foundation and the Teenage Cancer Trust charities.

At the Festival of Speed there is always plenty to see besides the hill climb events, and this year was no exception. As usual there was a Forest Rally Stage; an opportunity to see the best World Rally Championship drivers, including Carlos Sainz, Petter Solberg, Colin McRae, Stig Blomqvist and Paddy Hopkirk, let loose on a challenging 3km route through the forest near the top of the hill climb. The track has been enhanced this year and it provided some thrilling action for those who prefer their motor sport off the tarmac.

The Festival also has a great deal to see in the form of static displays. The Cartier 'Style et Luxe' exhibit is a regular feature at Goodwood. It showcases dozens of classic vehicles, all of which are collector's items. This year Cartier excelled themselves by bringing together five Bugatti Royales (with a combined value of around $60million) - the first time they have been gathered together for a major European event. Given that only six were ever built, that is quite an achievement, and it was a fitting way to celebrate 80 years since their introduction. The Cartier paddock also featured a stunning display of 1950s American cars, from an era when fins were the order of the day, and the bigger and more garish they were, the better.

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A new display for this year recreated the Bonneville Salt Flats, the setting for many land speed record attempts. In keeping with the 'Spark of Genius - Breaking Records, Pushing Boundaries' theme of this year's festival, on display were a number of record breaking cars, showcased on what is usually the Goodwood cricket pitch, which had been swathed in white to resemble the Bonneville Salt Flats. Amongst the vehicles on display were the 1960 Challenger 1 - a four-engined monster capable of over 400mph, and the Blue Flame - a bullet shaped rocket-powered car that reached over 630mph in 1970 and held the Land Speed Record for the next 13 years. There was also the current diesel land speed record holder, the JCB DieselMax, which achieved an average speed of over 350mph in 2006. Many of the cars on display had never been seen outside the USA before this event.

Whilst cherishing and celebrating the motoring achievements of the past, the Festival of Speed also looked to the future this year with the introduction of FoS-Tech, a major new eco-technology initiative. This new venture showcased a variety of state-of-the-art technology and eco-friendly projects, and intends to become a regular feature at the Festival. A number of alternate fuel cars were exhibited, including the BMW Hydrogen 7-Series, the Saab Aero-X and the hybrid Toyota FT-HS.

Over 200 exhibitors took stands in the display area. There was a huge variety of things to see, from small coachwork and tuning companies to the major car manufacturers whose stands would not have been out of place at any international motor show. The Festival is open to the public from 7:00am to 7:00pm each day, but a single day is hardly enough time to see everything.

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