Remember the Ents? Thought so. Well, it’s around this time of the year that Treebeard’s family and friends get very excited. It’s Festival time. We all know Goodwood has a hill, but sometimes it’s easy to overlook what goes between the trees up top.
Overlooking the Forest Rally Stage which actually looks out over the whole Festival of Speed will be more difficult this time. DirtFish is in town.
You knew that. You knew we were partnering with Goodwood Festival of Speed to deliver three events in one: SummerFest from our own beautiful backyard in Snoqualmie, Safari Rally Kenya and, of course, the Festival’s Forest Rally Stage.
What you didn’t know about is the treat DirtFish owner Steve Rimmer has lined up for hundreds of thousands of fans attending live and watching virtually.
It starts with one of only five Ford Escort RS1700Ts in existence. Plenty have seen pictures of Ford’s early answer to the Group B question. Some have even been fortunate enough to see one in the flesh. Very, very few, the world over, have ever witnessed an RS1700T in full flight.
That all changes this week. Four decades ago Ari Vatanen and Pentti Airikkala were busy testing a car codenamed Columbia (after Space Shuttle’s first successful flight). They drove it in Portugal, AV crashed it in Wales, and, of course, it spent day after day pounding its was around Ford Motorsport’s Boreham test site in Essex.
Originally scheduled for a Corsican debut in 1983, it wasn’t to be. Stuart Turner took up the role of motorsport director, saw the Germans writing the Italian word for four on the wall, and culled the RS1700T on March 14.
That was that. And very few RS1700Ts would see the light of day again. Even fewer would have fuel fired through the development 2.3-litre Hart or turbocharged 1800cc Cosworth BDT motors.
— Ryan Champion (@Ryan_Champion) June 21, 2022
Ryan Champion enjoys the opportunity of a lifetime this week when he drives Steve’s Ford Escort RS1700T on a demonstration run up the hill.
Whatever you’re doing at the moment, stop and stare. And if you’re not lining the Duke of Richmond’s mile and a bit long drive, then find a device and watch Goodwood’s live stream.
And stay for what follows. It might not be quite as rare, but the sense of occasion is enormous when an Audi Quattro E2 takes to the stage. And Steve’s is a very, very special car. This is chassis number nine, the car Hannu Mikkola used to win the Mänttä Rally (a 1000 Lakes warm-up) in 1985. Used as a promotional car by Audi, Mikkola bought the car for himself before selling it to Juha Kankkunen. Now? It’s one of Steve’s most prized possessions.
Steve’s son James – an accomplished rally and RX driver – takes it up the hill.
Don’t just watch this time, listen hard too. Yes, the Escort makes a nice noise, but if you want the aural brutality of Group B in your ear, this is it. It’s wonderful.
After that, find the tractor and jump on the trailer that will elevate you the 144 meters to the Forest Rally Stage. Ready?
Good, because Mr R has lined up an ex-Colin McRae Ford Focus RS WRC and Subaru Legacy RS for you to feast your eyes on. Alongside, there’s ex-works examples of a Ford Escort RS1600, a Fiat 131 Abarth and the Nissan Sunny GTI Tommi Mäkinen made dance before winning four world championships with Mitsubishi.
Steve and James will be behind the wheel of some of those cars, along with Ian Gwynne – whose BGMsport firm does such a magnificent job in preparing and running them – and his daughter Jess.
Oh yes, just the three generations of McRae. Jimmy, Alister and Max will all be ready to relive old memories and make some epic and awesome new ones in the case of the 18-year-old son and grandson.
“It’s going to be a great week,” said Steve. “You know me, you know my passion for rallying – but one of the things I’m really, really keen on is getting the cars out and giving them a run. These cars weren’t designed and built to sit under covers in a museum, they were made for rallying – so let’s take them rallying.
“As ever, I have to say a big thank you to Ian and everybody at BGM for the work they’ve done in preparing the cars so beautifully – they look like they’re straight out of the factory. Let’s hope they’re in the same shape on Sunday afternoon!
“This is probably the biggest weekend in the DirtFish season. Back at the Rally School, we have SummerFest – a festival along the lines of Goodwood itself. It’s such a shame we couldn’t be at the School for SummerFest and I wish everybody an absolutely fabulous time on Saturday. I know it’ll be a great, great day.
“And, of course, we have our new partnership between DirtFish and Goodwood here. This is something special for us. We’ve already seen the amazing content Colin [Clark] and George [Donaldson] have been creating out in Kenya this week and to have that Safari Rally Kenya coverage switch to be hosted from the center of Goodwood is going to make for an incredibly memorable week and weekend!”
Not only will it be memorable, it’ll re-write history as well. For the first time since its inception in 2006, the Hannu Mikkola-designed Forest Rally Stage will run in a different configuration. Last year’s flying finish is this year’s stage start.
Ian Gywnne is a fan.
He said: “This is something we’ve been talking about for a few years – it’s going to be great! This will be our 17th consecutive Festival of Speed, so we’re fairly well acquainted with the stage running in the original direction. To be going the other way will be really interesting and not just for the drivers and co-drivers, but the spectators out there as well. It’s something different, something new and something the organisers should be applauded for.”
And, of course, it’ll give the trees something to talk about as well.