Jason Barlow: Worship speed - while you can

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Indy Lifestyle Online

I was in France the other week, driving a very fast, very sexy new Porsche. Our hotel looked out over a famously louche bit of the Mediterranean coastline, with the cream-cake palaces of Monte Carlo spread out far below. It was a good day.

Until talk turned to Transport Secretary Alistair Darling's "pay-as-you-go" proposal for a nationwide road-charging scheme, darkening the mood somewhat. How much would it cost, when would it be introduced, where would it be rolled out, and would the tiny new Toyota Aygo attract the same levy as the latest supercharged Range Rover? (Darling suggests it would. The green lobby is outraged.)

The whole schemeis predicated on the fitment of "black box" transponders in every car. What are the civil liberties implications? With one of those babies in the car and my new ID cardin my wallet, we're clearly talking George Orwell here. We decided that for anyone who enjoyed driving for driving's sake - an odd notion I know - the end was nigh(ish).

Before I don my sandwich board and walk up and down Oxford Street, let me point you in the direction of an event that government mandarins are no doubt trying to legislate against: the Goodwood Festival of Speed. It happens next weekend, and if you love cars, get yourself down there.

The 9th Duke of Richmond held a private hillclimb through the park at Goodwood in 1936, and opened the racing circuit 12 years later. Its relevance declined over the years, until the 9th Duke's grandson, the Earl of March, invited a few friends with fast and historic cars to his house for a satisfyingly old-school blast up the hill.

They came; so did 10,000 other people. That was the inaugural Festival of Speed in 1993; in recent years, a capacity crowd of 140,000 has made it one of the summer's key social gatherings.

One of the privileges of this job is that you get to hang out with some of motoring's great characters. At the Festival of Speed, it's a pleasure that's extended to everybody. If you want to know exactly how absurdly bushy F1 world champion-elect Fernando Alonso's eyebrows really are, here's your chance to find out.

Then there are the cars - 411 of them. World debuts this year include the Aston Martin V8 Vantage, BMW M6, Ferrari SuperAmerica and Alfa Romeo Brera.

A rally stage has been carved out of the forest, high above Goodwood House; the most dangerous rally cars of all time - the Group B monsters from the 1980s - will blast through it.

God knows what stuff will be left for the good Earl to assemble in 2015, but if we're all going to hell in a hand-basket - or a Toyota hybrid - then we may as well go out in a blaze of glory.

Tickets are still available on www.goodwood.co.uk, or call 01243 755055. None will be available on the day.

The writer is editor of 'Car' magazine.


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