One of the motoring highlights of my 2016 season, if not of all time, has to be driving a fabulous Porsche 906 on the Goodwood Festival of Speed Hillclimb.
The car had come from the Porsche Museum, where in recent years it had been restored to its original, and immaculate, spec. This particular prototype has a very unusual history, as it ran at the 1967 Nürburgring 1000Km race as a camera car – filming the race for the German ZDF channel (Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen). Hence the branding!
The 906 wasn’t the only race and historic Porsche from Stuttgart to grace Goodwood in the summer. There was a 1973 917/30, a 1977 936, a 1977 935 Baby and a 911 GT1/98 from 1998. Being one of the older guys, I was allocated one of the older cars to drive – luckily the wonderful 906, which I had the pleasure of sharing over the Goodwood weekend with former Austrian Porsche driver Rudi Lins. He knew the car particularly well, as amongst his many accolades, Rudi won the 1967 FIA European Hill Climb Champion in one, and now he is often wheeled out by the museum to drive the little beauty at demonstration events.
Gull wing doors, nice ruby red armchair type bucket seats, no seat belts and definitely no legroom! I was laid back in the car with my knees up against the steering wheel – it was fantastic! And it was powerful too, with the same, albeit race prepared, two-litre engine that went into the 911 of the day. Extraordinary to think that, like me, it’s over fifty years old!
Driving the 906 up the Hill made my first visit to the Goodwood Festival of Speed very special indeed – but there were lots of other things to do as well. Porsche Carrera Cup GB’s PR guru Rob Durrant had organised for some of the championship drivers to ferry journalists and VIPs along a private road to avoid the traffic queues in our race-going 911 GT3. It was great fun. We had guests from around the world, all of which had a most memorable entry to a quite remarkable event.
They were long days, with three days of early starts and late finishes – and during the day when I wasn’t mingling with the fans in the garages and trade areas, or with the other drivers in the exclusive TAG Heuer Drivers’ Club, I spent time driving the wonderful 1966 Carrera 906 up the Hill.
The way that worked was that cars ran up the Hill in groups, and then after the last car in the group had completed its run, we all ran back down again at lower speed and in convoy, enabling the spectators and fans to have a closer look at the machinery. In my first run were fellow Porsche Carrera Cup GB drivers Charlie Eastwood, Tom Sharp and Paul Reece, and we had icons from the past including Porsche Le Mans winner Richard Attwood, Sir Stirling Moss and Emerson Fittipaldi – and relaxing in the cafe at the top of the Hill was Jenson Button. If you’re a motorsport fan, it really doesn’t get better than that!
I also had the pleasure of riding shotgun with Tom Sharp, the 2015 PCCGB rookie Champion, in my now favourite car of all time, the current 911 R. This in my opinion is the ultimate 911. Only 991 units have been built on a minimalist lightweight version of the 991 chassis to celebrate the introduction of the original 911 R in 1967. This time with five hundred horse power, courtesy of a four-litre engine driving through a manual gearbox – and what a thrill it is!
Add in the Goodwood Ball, with ZZ Top and Chrissie Hynde playing, the massive crowds, fantastic atmosphere, motorsport legends in every corner, iconic and rare racing cars at every turn and an A-list celebrity guest list, and the Goodwood Festival of Speed really is an outstanding event and highly recommended. And who knows, hopefully I’ll be lucky enough to drive the Hill again in 2017.
Written by: John McCullagh
Images by: Porsche Motorsport