Matt Prior: In defence of the Festival of Speed

empty road lead

Advertising roads so everyone flocks to them is, in Prior’s mind, a bad idea

Prior reflects on public disgust for the Goodwood Festival of Speed, and how lonely roads are often the best

My local pub recently received a two-star online review from a walker who arrived to find it shut.

They had checked a website created, but left dormant, by the pub’s previous landlord: wrong times, wrong menus, wrong everything.

They didn’t follow up before leaving a review. Didn’t call. Didn’t check. So the new landlord, busting a gut to make it a success, cops unjustified two-star flak. Hundreds of people enjoy the pub every week.

If five more visitors think to leave a five-star rating, it still only pulls the mark up to 4.5. As the cliché says: no good deed goes unpunished.

And so to the Goodwood Festival of Speed, one of the biggest, most successful events in the motoring calendar. The de facto British motor show; a success to all involved.

Except, last week The Sun managed to find a handful of people in Chichester furious that it takes place, so miserable does the accompanying congestion (briefly) make their lives.

The eldest of the complainants, 66, was born nine years after the motor circuit held its first race; even in the decades when there was no competitive racing, there was regular motorsport activity. I watched track days and did a Formula Ford experience at Goodwood back in the early 1990s.

One griped about being “not into cars”, which is like living in Wembley and bitching about that football thing. Goodwood has had motor racing since 1948 and crowds since horse racing began there in 1802. The horses noted their biggest one-day crowd, of 55,000, in 1955.

I know Goodwood’s traffic is bad. The A27 is busy at the best of times, and the Festival of Speed is its worst. But it’s only a few days a year, and you can imagine what kerfuffle would be caused by the suggestion of major road building on the south coast.

“They can go and race around a circuit elsewhere,” another said. This is an argument more often used by people who live next to busy roads, and who have more of my sympathy. To my mind, public roads are best enjoyed as a more lonely experience.

I was struck last week by Steve Cropley’s column in which he mentioned finding new roads close to home that he didn’t know existed.

A month ago when trying some Ducati motorcycles a few miles from mine, I was directed onto something similar: roads I didn’t know were there and that will remain better for me not to reveal their location.

Advertising roads so everyone flocks to them is, to my mind, a bad idea. Nobody notices one car or motorcycle going past; they do two or three. By the time it’s 20, they’re furious, and by the 200th of a morning, the local council is getting an earful at the next parish meeting.

Scotland’s North Coast 500 is a huge success for some, but I’ve had letters from those it doesn’t benefit, who only notice the congestion, the motorhomes blocking passing places and the waste left behind. There are bits of Wales, too, that were advertised by another car magazine which will never be forgiven by some of the locals.

Take your cars to an organised gathering elsewhere, they say there. Except when you do: guess what? Cue a grumpily posed person in a national tabloid newspaper.

This brings me to my Ireland road trip. Have I said too much? I hope not. It’s a four-hour, £400 ferry from Great Britain, so it’s not an easy Saturday morning ride-out for most of us. (But whisper it: it’s worth the effort – buy this week’s mag to see it).

Source: Autocar

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