The cars are run, with enthusiasm and, more often than not, a ferocious turn of speed, up a hill through the grounds of Goodwood House. The event is quintessentially British, and so drenched in nostalgia that it turns many a grown man moist-eyed with memories.
This can be your chance to see, hear and even touch cars that were raced by your childhood heroes. It's not impossible that the hero himself will be there, driving that prizewinning car up the hill. Stirling Moss is coming this year, so are ex-Formula One world champions John Surtees, Nelson Piquet and Mario Andretti, the current Fl racer Johnny Herbert and many other racing luminaries.
The setting, however, is as important as the cars and drivers. Nestled in the South Downs of Sussex, the grounds of Goodwood House lend the event a surprising gentility despite the billowing exhausts. It's not all racing cars, either; there are also some quite extraordinary road cars.
If you have never seen or heard of a Voisin, for example, this is your chance to see these astonishing-looking machines, produced in tiny numbers by a brilliant French eccentric between the wars.
The main themes of the event, now in its sixth year, are innovation in racing cars, racing cars from the American Indianapolis 500 event, Porsche's 50th year', and the 75th anniversary of BMW motorbikes.
The racing cars start with the first car that ever won a motor race, in l889. The victorious de Dion Bouton looks more like a bedstead on pram wheels than a sleek racer.
Napiers, Spykers, Mercedes, Bugattis, Peugeots and Bentleys are among the early machines, Alfas, Auto Unions and Maseratis among the pre-war racers, all of them magnificent, all of them fast and all of them deadly dangerous by today's standards. If nothing else, you will get an impression of the bravery - or stupidity - of those who raced them.
The Indy cars, as they are known, are mostly American, machines built to run anticlockwise around a 2.5-mile oval circuit for 500 miles. If that sounds dull, it isn't. The cars were powerful almost from the event's inception in 1909, and the format of the race provided far more overtaking drama than a modern Grand Prix.
Until a little British rear-engined car called a Cooper appeared in 1958, the cars in this event were all engine, their long, throbbing bonnets hinting unsubtly at the drama to come. As well as Indy cars, there will be Indy drivers, the best known of them Mario Andretti.
It's not all cars. Bike lovers will enjoy the machines assembled to celebrate BMW's 75th year in two-wheelers, and some famous Nortons will be in evidence.
Admittedly, 200 cars driving up a hill one after another does not make for a consistently exciting sight, even for the committed enthusiast. The appeal of the event derives more from the chance to see such an amazing selection of machinery in one place, and from the possibility of a chance sighting of some famous names.
The Goodwood Festival of Speed, Goodwood House, near Chichester, West Sussex (01243 755000). The event started yesterday, and runs until tomorrow. Today runs up the hill begin at 9am, and continue until 6pm. Tomorrow, paddocks open at 7am, runs begin at 9am and the event winds down at 6.30pm. Entry today costs pounds 15, pounds 25 on Sunday, but is by advance booking only. However, if you arrive by car, chances are you will be able to gain entry.Reuse content