Another epic Goodwood Festival of Speed

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Goodwood again played host to a glorious turnout of biking stars and machines during the weekend’s Festival of Speed.

Former GP and superbike world champions were out in force, including Freddie Spencer, Nicky Hayden, Tom Sykes, Giacomo Agostini, Phil Read, Carl Fogarty, Colin Edwards and Troy Corser.

Fans also rubbed shoulders with TT stars John McGuinness, Bruce Anstey and James Hiller, as well as WSB regulars Alex Lowes and Sylvain Guintoli.

A mouth-watering selection of classic and modern racers were ridden up Goodwood’s famous hill climb, including this year’s new carbon monocoque Mugen Shinden electric Zero TT machines, 500cc GP racers, MotoGP missiles and WSB bikes.

Celebrating the 40th anniversary of Barry Sheene’s first Grand Prix world championship, a collection of the legendary Brit’s race bikes were on display, from the Bultacos he began his career on, through to his two-stroke 500cc Suzukis and Yamahas. Son Freddie also brought his Dad’s 1976 world championship-winning Suzuki RG500 back from Australia to the UK for the first time.

Leftfield road bikes included Energica’s Ego electric superbike and the 175,000 Euro, Dutch built-Vanderhiede, featuring a carbon fibre monocoque chassis and Aprilia RSV4 engine, which was finished just five days before the start of the Festival.

The California-built Arch KRGT-1 also made its first appearance at Goodwood. The two-litre S&S V-twin sports cruiser, built by the firm’s co-founder Keanu Reeves, was ridden by the man himself.

The Matrix star said: “It’s an assault on the senses to be here with all the amazing machines and legends. It’s crazy, beautiful and picturesque all at the same time. It was a thrill to go up the hill on our prototype KRGT-1S. The bike is unique – you’ll never ride one like it. It has a long wheelbase, low centre of gravity and you can take that 240 rear tyre all the way down in the corners. We worked with Öhlins to develop the suspension, so it’s set-up well. You can even ride it on the track.

“Bikes have been in my blood since I was a little kid. There was a motorcycle gang that used to come into town called Satin’s Choice. They looked like pirates and I wanted to be a pirate. One of my first bikes was an 850 Norton Commando. I got it in 1987 and still have it now.”

Bike-mad TV chef James Martin got a chance to ride the Honda Fireblade superstocker that McGuinness raced in this year’s TT.  He exclaimed: “It’s quick isn’t it? I’ve got a BMW R1200GS and I usually like the old stuff like Brough Superiors, so I’m more used to hand gear levers, but the Blade is mega. If I ever wheelied it up the hill it wasn’t intentional.”

Climbing the hill at Goodwood FOS

At any other time of the year this 1.16-mile strip of tarmac is the pathway leading to Lord March’s country abode. But for a magical weekend in June it becomes one of the most hallowed pieces of motorsport tarmac in the world, lined with straw bales and thousands of race fans.

Down at the start line, Freddie Spencer is up ahead of me on a Rothmans Honda 250 and Freddie Sheene sits next to me on a Telefonica Movistar Suzuki RGV500. Everywhere I look there’s a famous race bike revving up and waiting to be thrashed up the hill, piloted by the biggest names in motorcycle racing.

Over the weekend I ride a Pata R1, my own Prime Factors S1000RR race bike, a replica of Sheene’s title winning Suzuki XR14 RG500 and my bedroom poster bike: Kevin Schwantz’s 1989 Pepsi Suzuki RGV500. Five F1 cars dribble past inches from my foot, engines screaming. Pinch me I’m dreaming.

Blurring through the tunnel of trees and straw bales up the hill, with a few wheelies thrown in for good measure, the finishing line quickly arrives and my run is over all too soon.

Gathering at the top of the hill, we lean millions of pounds worth of famous bikes against wooden posts. The stars admire each other’s machines, wave to the crowd and swap stories over coffee. We all ride back down to the paddock together – a smoke-hazed carnival procession of priceless machines and legendary riders, who between them, have re-written the motorcycling history books time and again.

Goodwood is a petrolhead’s paradise. Everyone’s smiling.  Even after 12 years of riding here I still can’t get enough.

Thanks to Steve Wheatman, Chris Wilson, Nathan Colombi, Nigel Everett, Bruce Charman and Lord March for making it all happen.

Pictures: Joe Dick, MCN