I’ve been attending the Festival of Speed since 2007, all of them on the Friday since I was hooked in by free Friday tickets that used to be given away in the Sunday Times (a lot has changed since then!) It’s now most definitely not free, but still, in my view, worth every single penny.
The Friday used to be a relatively low key ‘enthusiasts day’, most of the headline cars still went up the hill but usually driven by test/reserve drivers. I distinctly remember a number of the road cars passing me on through Chichester early in the morning, and those that were already in position could be covered up until lunch time. It’s now a full-on Festival of Speed day with air displays, many of the headline drivers and everything in full swing. Interestingly the Thursday (which used to be the Moving Motorshow) is now experiencing the same ‘feature creep’ with more and more activity being added to the hill and elsewhere each year, I’m seriously considering the Thursday next year (or Thursday and Friday) to try and recapture that slightly more relaxed feel.
As always I followed my tried and tested plan of arriving in the car park just before it opens at 6:30am (which does mean a 4am start for me). The roads are quiet, the car parks are quiet and the entry queues are non-existent. It does mean waiting for 20 minutes or so until the gates open, but helpfully the security team pre-checked our bags whilst we waited, which meant we could walk straight through dead on 7:00am. The pay-off for arriving so early? The paddocks are empty, and I do mean empty…
With so few people around you can enjoy the vast paddock areas remarkably efficiently. I don’t bother with the manufacturer stands on the other side of the hill, so can usually see everything in the paddocks within 2 hours. That leaves me with the rest of the day to enjoy the action on the hill. The downside of being early? Many of the teams/crews are a bit more relaxed about taking the covers off cars, particularly in the supercar paddock now that they don’t run up the hill until later. Less than half were uncovered as I wandered through first thing.
I pick pretty much the same spot on the hill every year (at least since they closed off the area I used to watch from) for the first run through, which is basically the last section of hill climb before you head into the forest rally stage. It stays relatively quiet here all day, you can easily pop off to the loo or go and grab some food and still find a space at the front when you return. The one issue (well, apart from the lack of nearby facilities) is that you’ve got to be on the ball when spectating or photographing. There are no TV screens and very limited commentary coverage, and vehicles appear out of the wooded area at quite a pace.
After the first complete run through I headed slowly back down the hill to play around with different angles. I was surprised at how much room was available this year, pretty much all the way down to the start line there were spaces at the front, something I’ve not experienced at FoS.
Viewing locations on the house side of the hill are extremely limited, despite a walkway ascending well beyond the paddock there is nothing but a crossing point (with no viewing) at the end of it. Considering it can take well over an hour between crossing openings it’s fair to say there were more than a few hot, bothered and fed up people stood waiting to cross whilst not being able to see anything. I did manage to find one tiny bit of space where I could fire away some shots (on tip toes!) but other than that, it’s a fruitless exercise looking for locations on that side (cars passing right to left as they go up the hill).
Over 10 hours done, I headed out at around 5.30pm. Amazingly I drove straight out and somehow avoided any major congestion around Chichester, so all in all a very smooth day for such a large event
- Sony a7RII
- Sony a7
- Sony Zeiss FE 55mm 1.8
- Sony FE 24-240mm f3.5-6.3 OSS
- Sony FE 100-400mm 4.5-5.6 G