Goodwood goes the extra 1.16 mile for families
Anyone that has enjoyed the Goodwood Festival of Speed in years gone by won't need reminding what a world class event it is.
Set in the glorious grounds of Goodwood House, it is one of the most prestigious celebrations of the spirit of motoring. With it's 1.16 mile hill climb where the finest and fastest cars and drivers race to set the best time up the road past the house and through the grounds, air displays, rally and motocross stages that visitors can try, stands where manufacturers show off their latest models, crossed with hay bales, access to all areas and plenty of space to relax, it could be compared to a glamourous garden party.
You only need to look at the long list of the super-famous appearing over the four day event to realise how highly respected and enjoyed it is amongst sporting heroes, and of course most motor racing fans have it at the top of their bucket list, but what does it offer to those of us with young ones in tow - is it a good choice for families?
A year ago a young boy wrote to the Goodwood Estate owner, the Earl of March, to say that he didn't think so. While he'd enjoyed the event over a couple of visits, he felt it was a shame that children often found it difficult to get a good view of the on-track action or get near to the drivers for autographs, and therefore couldn't enjoy the event as much as adults. That letter triggered a series of improvements aimed directly at children that have transformed the Festival of Speed into a truly wonderful experience for the whole family...
The most obvious change is a very well designed family camping site that would be worth visiting as an experience in itself. With 60 pitches based at the Goodwood Racecourse it's an idyllic place to spend a few evenings with stunning views over the Sussex Downs, great play area, fridge space for all, bar and bbq, as well as 24-hour security.
What tells you you're at a Goodwood event is the attention provided by the dedicated family campsite manager, who contacts you a few days in advance to explain the facilities and ask if you have any questions or needs ahead of your arrival, then ensures your family has the most relaxed and wonderful time possible. Camping isn't cheap but as you can stay from Wednesday through to the Monday, and children go free to the festival it's worth treating it as a short holiday, especially as the south coast isn't far away if you fancy a day at the beach once you've enjoyed the adrenaline fuelled action.
On entering the festival site, the first thing you notice is the dedicated family area which provides a peaceful zone for you to retreat to where you know there is plenty of quiet shade or covered space to have lunch, use the loo, play games on the lawn - there's even a crèche area, and plenty of very helpful staff.
Venturing into the grounds, child-only viewing platforms have been built at key points along the hill climb route so kids can watch the action unobscured by the backs of grown-ups. There are also exclusive autograph points where your children can meet the likes of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button.
The exhibiting car manufacturers have been encouraged to welcome children too, with many creating fantastic multi-storey stands aimed at entertaining the little ones while their parents have a look around. The Ford stand was particularly popular with massive slides and climbing rings, the Bentley team were more than happy to let the children fully explore the limits of the electric seat motors in their £200,000 models, Renault produced framed photos of kids posing in their tandem Twizy and most provided goodie bags with posters and other fun stuff to collect.
It's so encouraging to see any event or product shaped by customer feedback, and great to think such importance was placed on a young boy's letter, so if you have doubts that your children would enjoy the Festival of Speed, be assured that Goodwood realise the racing drivers aren't the only VIPs in attendance.