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Goodwood Festival of Speed

One weekend every year the Earl of March turns the driveway of his leafy British estate, Goodwood, into a petrol-head's dream. The Goodwood Festival of Speed, now in its 20th year, is easily the most diverse motor sport event in the world. 

It gives enthusiasts the chance to watch F1 cars, Le Mans cars, rally cars and supercars -- past and present -- all screaming along the Earl of March's 1.6km driveway to the main house. 

Every year Lord March chooses a theme for the Festival, and this year's is 'Young Guns - Born to Win', "This year's going to be a great year, a vintage year. We're celebrating young guns.

Young engineers, designers and drivers who broke onto the motorsport stage and changed it forever. Sebastian Vettel has to be one of the biggest young guns, and it's great to have him here." Along with the two-time F1 champion, this year's event featured more than 150 cars and 100 motorcycles from an assortment of motorsport eras.

Pre-war F1 and Indy cars mix with Sir Jack Brabham's 1962 machine and Mark Webber and Lewis Hamilton's current weapons. Supercars from bygone eras like the incredibly rare Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing scream up the hill immediately after the latest and greatest from modern supercar makers like Ferrari, Audi, Porsche and Lotus. 

Rally cars like Sebastian Loeb's Citroen DS3 WRC and Dakar-style trophy trucks like Jesse James 600kW Chevy monster, and even a five-tonne racing prime mover with more than 1,000kW, thunder up the short course, wowing spectators as they drop wheels onto the carefully manicured grass either side.

Then it's Ari Vatanen's 1988 Pikes Peak-winning Peugeot 405 (Google 'Climb Dance' for some of the most amazing footage you'll ever see) followed by the 2012 Le Mans' winning Audi R18 e-tron just three weeks after it took the chequered flag. Then comes an unreleased 2013 McLaren MP4-12C GT3 racer followed by Nissan's groundbreaking and whisper-quiet Leaf electric race-car prototype.

Dozens more drive up the hill, some at breakneck speeds like Nick Mason in the bullet-shaped 1936 Auto Union Type C, others more sedately like the 1903 Mercedes 60HP with its 9.3-litre four-cylinder engine. And that's before dozens of racing motorbikes from seven decades of two-wheel motorsport howl like angry hornets across the usually serene English countryside.

Superstars and celebrities are the event's other huge attraction. Wandering among the garages and displays and arenas, it's not unusual to see motorsport legends past and present chatting like mates at a sunday barbie. Formula One guns Sir Stirling Moss sharing a laugh with Sebastian Vettel and Alain Prost.

Australian motorbike legends Wayne Gardner and Troy Corser swapping wheelie tips with Sir John Surtees, the only person to win both motorcycle and F1 world championships. Indycar and F1 racer Emerson Fittipaldi and six-time Le Mans winner Sir Jacky Ickx, Kiwi-born multiple Pikes Peak winner Rod Millen and his compatriot and seven-time Bathurst winner Jim Richards, Pink Floyd drummer and car collector Nick Mason, AC/DC's gravely-voiced frontman Brian Johnson…

Not all have raced, but all are united by a love of cars, just like the fans who've come to see them. Since the demise of the British International car show, car companies have leapt at the opportunity Goodwood presents to put their latest in front of the English public. Audi, Lotus, Toyota, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and many more erect massive pavilions on Lord March's lawn, some more than three stories high, and all filled with shiny new cars for punters to paw and drool over.

But the real action is on the track, and there's no shortage of fancy new cars tearing up the track among the racing classics, and this only adds to Goodwood's uniqueness. Where else can you see the latest Ferrari, Benz, BMW and Toyota being put through their paces in the one place? Electric cars were also featured -- Australia's own Mark Webber drove Infiniti's new electric supercar, the Emerg, up the hill -- but their noiseless progress left some fans cold. Engine sound, it seems, is an important part of enjoyment. 

Webber's first visit to Goodwood was in 2011. "Lord March always puts on an amazing event. Everywhere you look there are a lot of motor racing legends, both cars and drivers. It's great for different generations of fans to see all this stuff in the one place." Webber says Goodwood gives professional racing drivers a rare opportunity behind the wheel. "There's no competition so it's more relaxing. It's good to give a few burnouts and a nice wave."

Officially the cars are timed as they climb the 1.6km driveway, and there is a finish line, but few come here for the trophy. Instead most cars are driven 'creatively' up the hill. Professional drivers more used to carving swift, clean lines around the world's racetracks take the opportunity to express themselves on Lord March's bitumen. Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel seem determined to outdo each other behind the wheels of their respective F1 cars. 

Hamilton sends his million-dollar McLaren into lewd slides and double donuts before screaming off in an expensive cloud of tyre smoke. "It's great to be here again," he said afterwards. "Beautiful day and just great to get back into one of my old cars and do some donuts. Normally you don't get to do that, so it's pretty cool." Not to be outdone, Vettel matches Hamilton spin for spin, then locks the Red Bull's front wheels and floors the engine, creating great clouds of smoke. 

Eventually the back tyres overpower front wheel grip and the Red Bull claws forward, front tyres stubbornly but futilely locked. Conservative estimates put the cost of the four F1 tyres Vettel ruined at more than $10,000. At Goodwood, it's not about saving tyres or who's quickest. It's about who gets the greatest roar of approval from the adoring crowd. Because everyone is here to celebrate the rich history, diverse present and exciting future of motor sport.