Why everyone loved the slowest car at Goodwood this year

SO THE brake dust has settled and the tyre marks on the tarmac have finally been swept up. The Goodwood Festival of Speed – arguably now the nation’s biggest event for seeing exciting new cars – is over for another year.

Anyone who ventured the 270 miles south (I’ve long thought that the Duke of Richmond should set up a northern spin-off, but that’s another story) would have seen the new Land Rover Defender, albeit as a heavily disguised test mule, ahead of its official launch. They also got a sneak preview of the new Lotus supercar, the Evija, and a chance to check out Ford’s latest ST hot hatch.

But the highlight is getting see all sorts of shiny supercars, single seaters and race and rally stars going “up the hill” – as in being driven to within an inch of their lives up a road snaking its way through the grounds of Goodwood House. A 20-year-old record was smashed by Volkswagen, which pummelled its all-electric ID.R racer along the course in a staggering 39.9 seconds. I’m not sure what the slowest time up the hill at this year’s event was – but I’ve a sneaking suspicion it might have been me.

I know this because even though the batch of cars getting ready to thunder past the Goodwood crowds wasn’t even within sniffing distance of the ID.R’s vital stats, they were still pretty well endowed when it came to outright oomph; entries included the Ferrari GTC-4 Lusso, Lamborghini’s Huracán and McLaren’s 570S Spider. Meanwhile, some very brave people at Citroën asked if I’d like to have a crack. In a 2CV.

Sportingly, they’d given me the fastest version on offer – a 1989 2CV6, which has a 602cc two-cylinder engine rather than the earlier 425cc version – but that still meant I had just 29bhp to play with and a 0-60mph time of 29.8 seconds. Ever watched For Your Eyes Only and wondered how Roger Moore managed to get away from a brace of Peugeot-driving baddies in one? He didn’t – the cars they used in the film had been fitted with engines from the GS, whereas the car I’d been entrusted with hadn’t.

But that didn’t matter a jot once the brand-new supercars had screeched off into the distance, racking up times the French big-seller could only dream of, because everyone loved the 2CV. Crowds unmoved by yet another Ferrari cheered and waved when they saw it leaning and lurching through the corners, its skinny tyres doing their best to squeeze every last mile an hour out of the car. A few minutes later it’d chalked up yet another fan. It’s the first time I’ve really driven a 2CV for any meaningful length of time, and I loved its packaging, its characterful two-cylinder clatter, its light but beautifully communicative steering and, best of all, how it keeps motoring to the bare minimum and puts 110 per cent into the few things it does have.

Never have I been so delighted to have finished last – but if it’s smiles-per-pound we’re judging this year’s Festival of Speed on, I reckon I’ve found the standout winner.

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