The Goodwood Festival of Speed is, by its very nature, a mecca for supercar fans. It’s more noteworthy if you spot a machine that isn’t a supercar; they pack out Lord March’s garden for four days a year in all shapes, sizes, ages and provenances.
The Michelin Supercar Paddock is a particular hotspot for supercar lovers. This is where car manufactures show off their latest and most super supercars. Like some sort of decadent urban sprawl, it grows every year. And the 2016 FOS Supercar Paddock was no exception.
But Michelin didn’t want to just show them all off. It wanted to create a bit of competition among all the supercars. Enter, for the first time, the new Michelin Showstopper Trophy, celebrating the best of all the supercars on show.
The first bit is simple: each day, a crowd ‘cheerometer’ picks out the best car of the day across Goodwood’s three days. Those who can’t visit can vote via Facebook. This creates a shortlist of six cars, which is presented to six judges who, on the Sunday afternoon of the FOS, have to decide the overall Showstopper winner.
I was one of those judges. And so, onto the cars.
Car 1: Koenigsegg One:1
First up was the ridiculous Koenigsegg One:1. That’s one horsepower for every kilogram of weight. It has a megawatt of power in total and only six were built and sold to customers (this car, the seventh, is Koenigsegg’s own development car). Rare as hen’s teeth isn’t the half of it.
Total power is 1,361hp and the ultra-mean styling leaves you in no doubt this thing is viciously, wickedly fast. It’s an exciting car to look at, given its function-over-form visuals, and the sheer fact it’s so rare and powerful adds serious kudos.
But is it a true beauty that will stop people in their tracks and make them gawp? Does it pack the venomous exhaust note that will rattle windows three streets away? Do enough people know what it is to be sufficiently wowed by it? With these questions in mind, it was onto the next car.
Car 2: Singer Porsche 911 recreation
A bigger contrast between the so-pretty Singer and the hard-nosed Koenigsegg is hard to imagine. This immaculate car – bought by a customer in Newcastle, and accordingly so named – certainly had people swooning as it sauntered onto stage.
It’s a 4.0-litre car, with around 400hp, which will ensure this lightweight original 911 is not short on performance (we’d be happy with a flat-six half the size). Singer’s also developed the chassis to cope – you can tell that by the stance and attitude it has.
But while everyone loves it, this is perhaps not a conventional show-stopping supercar. It’s pretty and gorgeous, but something you gently fall in love with rather than instantly and passionately lust after. Which takes us onto the next contender.
Car 3: Ferrari 458 MM Speciale
This Ferrari 458 Speciale is a one-off. Dubbed MM, it’s been built for a customer who felt the mighty Speciale wasn’t quiet special enough for him. So he invested an absolute fortune in commissioning Ferrari to create his own bespoke edition.
If I was to tell you this car has unique alloy wheels, whose homologation the customer had to finance and likely cost him a cool half-a-million quid for the privilege, you’ll have an idea of just how much of a one-off this car is. Certainly, it’s money-no-object, like all the best showstopping supercars.
Many in the crowd fell in love with it. Thing is, this is one owner’s personal car, rather than a ‘series’ model. It’s hard to dream enthusiastically about something that you literally wouldn’t be able to buy even if your lottery numbers did come up. The best showstoppers, see, are always seeded with a trace of ‘what if’, no matter now implausible…
Car 4: Noble M600 Speedster
The Noble M600 made a welcome entrance onto the stage. Noble has been building the M600 for the past few years, of course, but hasn’t made a big fuss up to now. Rather, it’s been concentrating on getting production methods spot-on and honing the Noble into a viable ‘British Ferrari 488’.
The Leicestershire firm’s now happy with where it’s at, so took the opportunity at Goodwood FOS 2016 of launching a new iteration, the M600 Speedster. Its central open roof section helped show off a very elegant colour combination and this package certainly seemed to impress the crowd.
There might have been a bit of post-Brexit patriotism in this, mind. Can the familiar Noble M600 still genuinely stop the show as a supercar standout? As the judges mused, the next car rolled up…
Car 5: Mercedes-AMG GT R
We say rolled up. Rather, roared up, loudly and ground-rumblingly. The GT-R revealed by Lewis Hamilton on the Friday of Goodwood FOS 2016 is extraordinarily vocal. And if you somehow miss the noise, you can’t fail to miss the colour. Lurid matte metallic green of the most nuclear shade; be in no doubt, this is a bona fide showstopper contender.
It produces 585hp and will do well over 200mph, but the really clever stuff is beneath the surface. Developed to monster the Nürburgring (hence the colour…), it has exotic tech and developments aplenty to make it a likely driver’s dream.
Things were close. This amazing Mercedes-AMG seemed to have the crowds whipped up and ready to cheer. There was just one more car to come onto stage for the judges to see and the crowd to drool over (OK, and for the judges to drool over).
Car 6: Aston Martin Vulcan
And there it was, the monstrous limited-to-24, track-only Aston Martin Vulcan. All 800hp of seemingly unrestricted V12, humungous width and the sort of aero overload you only normally see on a World Endurance Championship sportscar racer. It looked absolutely brilliant.
And it sounded out of this world. Even with restrictions in place, the Vulcan arks out more than 100dB of exhaust noise. Take them all out and it’s too loud for almost every major racetrack in the country. The test driver revved it as it came onto stage: the crowd was deafened and small boys jumped with joy. Or shock. Or both.
The fact it’s a track-only supercar had some of the judges raising a slight eyebrow. Others wondered about the multi-million-pound price, when cars such as the Singer cost so much less. While bold beyond belief, it’s also not a supercar beauty like the Ferrari. But as the judges cast their votes, the crowd was in no doubt which was the favourite.
The showstopper supercar winner
When the votes were totted up, it turned out we had a three-way tie. The Ferrari, Koenigsegg and Aston Martin had all scored two votes apiece (my vote went, of course, for the Vulcan).
This was a bit awkward. Would we have to do another round? Then the man from Michelin pointed out the rules of the new Showstopper Trophy. In the case of a tie, the Facebook vote would decide things. And which car had racked up more votes than all the others put together? It could only be one car…
And that’s how the Aston Martin Vulcan claimed the inaugural Michelin Showstopper Trophy at the Goodwood Festival of Speed 2016.