The biggest motorsport stars in the world rubbed shoulders with the biggest motorsport fans in the world last weekend at the 20th Goodwood Festival of Speed in the UK. This unique event – which showcases the most admired and exotic cars and motorcycles from all eras of motorsport – was also the perfect setting to display some of the most iconic BMW bikes ever produced, from 1923 to the present day.
Among the many unique features of the Goodwood Festival of Speed is the opportunity for enthusiasts to get up close to many priceless works of rolling automotive excellence that have graced our racetracks and roads ever since motorsport competition began. In all, more than 500 spectacular vehicles were on show and in action. Not only that, but many of the world’s fastest drivers and riders associated with these legendary machines could also be found at the Festival, relaxed and only too happy to talk to fans about the ‘glory days’ and the part they played in making them so memorable.
BMW is a long-time supporter of this annual event, so accompanying an impressive line-up of historical racing cars that included the F1 World Championship-winning Brabham BMW BT52 of 30 years ago, a 1999 Le Mans-winning BMW LMR and a 1979 BMW M1 Procar, were a selection of exciting racing motorcycles and sidecars from the Sixties to the present day.
These included an R 50 from 1966, ridden by Helmut Dähne; a 1970 RS 54 outfit; a 2002 BMW Boxer Cup R 1100 S; a 2005 BMW Power Cup K 1200 R; a 2013 S 1000 RR and a 2013 series production HP4.
For visitors to the Goodwood Festival of Speed, the timed hill climb is one of the many spectator highlights, as they get to see – and hear – some of the loudest and fastest pure-bred race machines go ‘hell for leather’ up the 1.16-mile drive of Festival founder and motorsport enthusiast Lord March. The famous 'Hill' itself even features on the latest Gran Turismo 6 computer game, due for launch this winter.
The Festival welcomed legendary riders from all eras and areas of motorsports, including Giacomo Agostini, Kenny Roberts, Kevin Schwanz, Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton, Alain Prost, Sterling Moss, Sir Jackie Stewart, and many more. Among the many high-profile celebrities and racers to entertain the crowds lining the route was BMW Motorrad Goldbet SBK Team racer Chaz Davies, who took on the challenge of the hill climb on the HP4, as well as the R 1100 S Boxer Cup machine.
“Goodwood is always an amazing place to be. It’s great to run into lots of riders that I know from World Superbikes – but the real treat is seeing people like Kenny Roberts, Kevin Schwantz and Giacamo Agostini as well. There are true legends from every age of racing, on two and four wheels. My bike was in the paddock next to Helmut Dähne, who was on an amazing BMW Classic bike.
The HP4 was great to ride. The traction control really comes into its own, as the surface on the hill climb is slippery enough, and that’s before you get a hundred years worth of old cars and bikes leaking oil all over it! But the HP4 managed to keep on top of it all – and it was a great bike to ride.
“I had a very quick ride on the R 1100 S Boxer Cup race bike, too. I wanted to see what the anti-dive Telelever forks felt like – it’s an amazing bit of engineering, it really does improve the handling if you’re braking into a corner. And the Boxer engine was great, so grunty and producing lots of low-down torque.
“The 90 Years of BMW Motorrad stand was fantastic. I got to explore it on Saturday and the bikes are very cool. I especially love the Concept Ninety. I had hoped they might let me take it up the Goodwood Hill! But it was needed for display of course. Maybe next year!”
Riding the R 50 up the Hill was Helmut Dähne, best known for his production TT-winning exploits in 1976 on board the iconic R 90 S.
“I knew the builder of this 1966 R 50 motorcycle very well, as he worked with me at BMW for a few years,” said Dähne. “It's great to come here and see all the people and all the bikes – old and new. I've ridden the latest RR but not the HP4. I'd like to try it but I think it's too powerful for me!”
One of the most popular highlights ‘on the hill’ was official BMW Motorrad UK stunt rider Mattie Griffin, who thrilled onlookers with his skilful repertoire of tricks and moves onboard his BMW F 800 R, with no-handed wheelie circles and feet-up donuts among many stunts performed by the Irish star on the famous drive.
“I had a fantastic time at Goodwood and was delighted to be invited back to perform,” he said. “There's a wonderful atmosphere here and you can't help but join in the fun. Getting to perform some of my stunts on the hill is a great privilege – and it's a real buzz when you hear the crowds. Add to that the fact that it's an open paddock and the visitors get to wander around and see the bikes and cars up close, and you have an event you just couldn't match anywhere else in the world.”
Chaz and Mattie both took time out to visit the huge three-storey BMW Pavilion, home to cars and motorcycles, for interview sessions and to sign autographs and pose for photographs with fans.
As the Festival of Speed celebrated its 20th anniversary, BMW Motorrad has its 90th birthday celebrations running throughout 2013, so brought an impressive display of around 40 classic, modern and even concept machines to Goodwood – from the original BMW R 32 of 1923 to the latest bikes on sale today, such as the all-new BMW R 1200 GS.
All decades were represented in the display, and included in the special outdoor exhibition were some rare prototypes such as the beautiful art-deco inspired R 7 of 1934, and the R 10 scooter that so very nearly made it into production in the 1950s. Approximately 60 years later, the C evolution electric scooter prototype represented the brand’s latest urban mobility offering, along with some other 'future' classics including the Concept Ninety homage bike developed with Roland Sands, and the current Superbike World Championship S 1000 RR race bike of Marco Melandri.
Visiting Goodwood was Head of the BMW Museum in Munich, Dr Ralf Rodepeter who was delighted to see the increased presence and interest in motorcycles at this year’s Festival.
“It is great to see the brand so well represented at Goodwood, especially with the 90th anniversary of BMW Motorrad. We wanted to bring some of our key motorcycles from the last nine decades for this special exhibition at the Festival, as it's important for bikes to be here alongside cars. Also, out on track, it was great to see some amazing classic machines – including the R 50 racer piloted by Helmut Dähne – alongside some of the latest BMW race bikes.”
Motorcycles also featured among their four-wheeled counterparts in the BMW Pavilion, where an HP4 Carbon supersports bike, the latest R 1200 GS and a K 1300 R naked roadster captured the attention of ‘petrol-heads’ – many of whom enquired about the quickest route to a motorcycle licence and subsequent ownership via training with BMW Motorrad.
Twenty years ago, when Lord March hosted the first Festival of Speed, event staff were warned to expect up to 2,500 visitors. In fact, 20,000 fans turned up back in 1993! This year, more than 280,000 enthusiasts attended the sell-out festival over the four days and were privy to the biggest line-up of motorsport's all-time greats at this largest and most prestigious garden party in the world. To see a short film of this true celebration of motorsport held in the immaculate grounds of Goodwood House, visit the BMW Motorrad brand channel on You Tube.