The Escort darted off the line like Linford leaving the blocks, but about 100 times faster

Tony Bennett may have left his heart in San Francisco. I ended up leaving my stomach, and the rest of my innards, at the start-line of the Goodwood Park hill-climb course. The evisceration was performed by one Ford Escort world championship rally car, which bears about as much relation to the Escorts you park next to at Sainsbury's as Nick Faldo does to the blokes you see wielding golf clubs at the local 18-holer. That trick Escort was ably abetted by a Welshman called Gwyndaf Evans, the reigning British rally champion.

The scene was glorious Goodwood. But if you think the horse-racing track is special, you should visit Goodwood House, where his Lordship the Earl of March and Kinrara (Charles March to his mates) lives. Even better, visit Goodwood House in mid-June, and you'll see a peculiarly British event: the Festival of Speed.

Last year almost 100,000 people turned up for the fun. It is the Royal Ascot of motoring, a magical mix of lovely cars and picnics in one of England's most beautiful corners. This year it'll be better than ever and, as if to prove it, the organisers put on a press day recently and invited various hacks and top racers along for some fun. The racers asked the hacks to sit shotgun as they stormed up the hill-climb course, as used in the festival.

That's how I came to be sitting next to Gwyndaf in the cramped, hot, spartan cabin of an Escort rally car, just returned from the East African Safari, welded inside the bucket-shaped passenger seat by a seat-belt that could hold down King Kong. It straps around your chest, your waist and your groin.

Once buckled in, you're stuck. Gwyndaf told me how he crashed in his last rally, the Welsh, before powering on to second place. He's a little, balding bloke, quietly spoken and unassuming. He was wearing his Nomex space suit. I was wearing a pair of chinos and a thick jacket that was all crunched up in the bucket seat, making me even more uncomfortable. Gwyndaf said this Escort has a turbo-charged 300bhp engine (not bad from two litres), seven speeds in its gearbox and four-wheel drive.

Ex-Fl driver Derek Bell had just stormed up the hill in an old Ferrari sports racing car, and some other guy, who was clearly nothing like as good as Bell or Gwyndaf, had just spun his old Lotus 72 Formula One car on the first corner. It was our turn, and I was thinking what a beautifully peaceful and tranquil place Goodwood is, just as it was time to go.

I have been driven in racing cars and rally cars before; I have driven racing cars myself, and I have even been up in a Red Arrows Hawk. But my ageing body has never, ever been abused and shocked so thoroughly as it was on that start.

The Escort just darted off the line like Linford leaving the blocks, but about 100 times faster. No dipping rear end, spinning the tyres or wagging the tail, as you normally experience from fast cars accelerating off the line. This car just went. Just like that. In an instant. Goodbye.

My body was there with Gwyndaf, my eyes were there in the Escort, but the rest of me was back there with the starter. Gwyndaf changed gears with little wrist flicks, and I reckon we were already in about sixth, and probably doing well over 120mph, when it was time to negotiate the first corner. Gwyndaf braked hard - hard and long enough for my viscera to catch up. And after that I was fine. He drove fast up the rest of the circuit, all right. We screamed past the stately portico of Goodwood House, and then left the open, elegant grounds and sped through a forest, familiar Gwyndaf territory, and through various fast and slow bends. But Gwyndaf so obviously knew what he was doing that the fear and fright were left behind. Where my stomach had once been.

Timing: 54.52 seconds. Fastest time of the day. Faster than all the old sports cars and old Fl cars and new supercars on hand to impress the press. What a victory! And all I had to do was sit there and enjoy it.

The Festival of Speed, at Goodwood House, takes place from 20 to 22 June. Gwyndaf Evans will drive on the special rally stage in his British championship-winning Escort.

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Legal Secretary

    £17000 - £17800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to work ...

    Recruitment Genius: Ad Ops Manager - Up to £55K + great benefits

    £45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a digital speci...

    The Green Recruitment Company: Operations Manager - Anaerobic Digestion / Biogas

    £40000 - £45000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Operation...

    Recruitment Genius: Implementation Consultant

    £40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This global leading software co...

    Day In a Page

    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
    Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

    Why are we addicted to theme parks?

    Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
    Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

    Iran is opening up again to tourists

    After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
    10 best PS4 games

    10 best PS4 games

    Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
    Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

    Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

    Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
    Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

    ‘Can we really just turn away?’

    Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

    ... and not just because of Isis vandalism
    Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

    Girl on a Plane

    An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent