Festival of Speed 2018

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

Kit List:

  • 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

Goodwood 76MM

I last attended the Members’ Meeting back in 2015 (#73MM), it was incredible. Imagine the Festival of Speed in full flow but with loads more room and less than half the people there…that’s the Members’ Meeting. Imagine more McLaren F1 GTRs than you are ever going to see again in your life, all lined up in the paddock with almost nobody surrounding them – Members’ Meeting. Imagine 90% of the circuit being completely devoid of spectators, despite ultra-rare racing cars battling wheel to wheel with plenty of famous racing drivers filling the grids – Members’ Meeting.

The downside? It’s in March and it’s usually very cold out around the exposed airfield circuit. This year took that to another level though, as you can see from the photo above. With a feels like of -10, strong winds and heavy snow it was quite an experience.

Rewinding a bit, I packed my Sony a7RII, Sony FE 55mm 1.8, 85mm 1.8 and the 100-400mm G Master. I’ve never shot a single frame of action with the Sony so I was looking forward to seeing how it would perform. The 100-400mm was on hire from the good folk at LensesForHire so it would be my first experience of that too.

The first bit of fun for the day? The car park. March + grass parking rarely works too well but most cars seemed to get in ok. From then on I had a few hours to explore the paddock before the track action was due to begin. Unlike the Festival of Speed you really have room to breathe in the paddock and the people are generally far more civilised.

I then braved the elements and headed out into the open. I found some nice angles out around the circuit and due to it being so cold I rarely bumped into anyone, unlike the Festival of Speed I could shoot from wherever I liked. Goodwood is strange in that it has zero conventional debris fencing, instead it’s a combination of raised banks and low fences. It looks great and is fantastic for spectating, but does limit the number of really low angles available. After an hour or so the snow arrived, a light flurry at first but then turning into a fairly decent blizzard. Remarkably the track action carried on largely to schedule, giving me the opportunity to shoot through the snow for the first time.

The a7RII and 100-400mm held up really well considering the conditions. Between the wind and feeling colder than I ever have before it was pretty challenging. AF would regularly lock onto the wall of snow coming down rather than the vehicle, but once it gained a lock it would rarely let go. As expected the batteries really took a hammering. Shooting motorsport you can usually squeeze 3-4 times the CIPA rating out of a mirrorless battery, but not so much when it’s that cold. I went through 4 full batteries within 1600 shots, yet on a warm day that would be two at most.

Next up was the paddock as I was really keen to get some snow shots whilst it was still coming down. This was my favourite part of the day, everywhere I looked there were unique scenes to shoot, I would guess a once in a lifetime experience.

I called it a day very early, heading off at 12:30 after 5 hours of shooting. Although the weather was due to improve at Goodwood we had an amber warning at home for later in the afternoon. As I had to get back that day I didn’t want to risk it (a good choice, as it happened, as we were snowed in later that evening). I missed the Group 5 stuff, but cheered up as soon as I started working through the photos as I realised I had a wonderful record of a unique few hours at Goodwood…