As the start line gantry draws closer, I have a mini freak out. I’m about to drive the only working version of a car worth €700,000 up a narrow strip of tarmac with pretty much no run-off. Only 77 examples of the car in question - the 2019 935 - will be built, and the one I’m tightly strapped into is sat on fresh, cold slick tyres.
The answer, of course, would be to bimble up the Goodwood Festival of Speed Hillclimb as though I’m popping down to Tesco for some milk, but there are tens of thousands of people watching who are expecting a little more drama, and multiple supercars behind me that won’t be hanging around.
What needs to follow is a balance: I have to make my way up Goodwood Hill briskly but carefully, bearing in mind that I’ve only been up the course twice before in cars of a very different flavour - a Cayenne Coupe Turbo and a Jeep Grand Cherokee Track Hawk. Not the most relevant experience, but better than going in completely blind, at least.
It will, I’ve decided, be like an out lap, which I guess it kind of is. This seems like the best solution: if it looks a little pedestrian compared to other runs today, people will forget almost immediately. If I bin a car like this quite so publicly, on the other hand, I’ll have to quit motoring journalism, move to France and change my name to Jean-Claude. Having forgotten 95 per cent of what I learned in GCSE French, I’m not especially keen on this option.
I’ve barely time to contemplate my Gallic exile before it dawns on me: this run is happening imminently. The Friday programme at FoS is an hour behind due to track stoppages, and the organisers are sending the cars of the Supercar batch up in quick succession in an attempt to catch up. Just a few seconds after a very green Lamborghini Huracan Evo howls its way off the line in front, I get the signal from the marshal. This is it.
Putting my foot down for the first time in the 935 - having only driven it a few hundred yards at walking pace - the rear-most Michelin Pilot Sport tyres have an argument with the traction control system, which I’ve been told to leave on. I short-shift into second, head for the redline and slot into third, which I hold for the first corner.
Underneath all the 935’s bespoke carbonfibre composite panels lies a 911 GT2 RS Clubsport. That means I’m sat in a fully stripped cabin sporting a full roll cage, and a race-spec digital display supplied by Cosworth. And yes, those slicks.
The rubber wrapping the retro-style ‘capped’ wheels and the firmer adjustable suspension setup means that through my clammy fingertips I’m feeling all I need to from the surface of what’s essentially the Duke of Richmond’s driveway. Clipping the grass at turn two, the run past the man’s mansion and up to the main bridge is over shockingly quickly - full throttle in these tight confines is borderline terrifying. Starting with a GT2 RS road car and liberating it of 150kg of kerb weight will do that.
I’ve never cared much for the noise emitted by Porsche’s 3.8-litre twin-turbo flat-six, but with a louder exhaust and no soundproofing in the 935, there’s no arguing with its angry, buzzing purpose. It needs to be loud, too, or the transmission whine would threaten to drown it out. This may not technically be a racing car, but it is, really.
As I reach the bridge I’ve just short-shifted into fifth, and decide that’s a good point to lift and begin gradually braking for the most dangerous part of the run - Molecomb. They say if you can see the corner and if you’re not already braking, it’s too late - the camber of the turn will chuck you into the hay bales. It’s probably the Festival of Speed’s main accident black spot, but there’s no chance of YouTube infamy on this run - I’ve come off the power hilariously early.
No matter, I’ll simply coast it through the tight left-hander, ready to fire the 935 towards the even scarier flint wall. Again, that short stretch is done and dusted before I’ve had a chance to process the scenery rapidly warping around the windscreen. A hefty stab of the brakes is now needed, and a left/right flick of the steering wheel to navigate the solid wall without crunching things happening.
The little run-off I had has all but disappeared now. The tarmac is tightly flanked by those surprisingly solid hay bales, giving an even greater sensation of speed. Around the last corner, it’s full-throttle all the way to the finish. I chop through several gears with the carbon paddle shifters while my intestines are seemingly compacted to one half their normal size. Did I mention this car’s quite fast?
The digital speedometer reads 163kmh as I cross the line. It has, as far as Goodwood hill climb runs go, been a fairly gentle effort, but I’ve met my target of a brisk run without risking Operation Jean-Pierre becoming a reality. Most importantly, I’ve experienced something I’m unlikely to forget it a hurry.
"Goodwood, I've decided, is both the best and worst place to drive a car for the first time, especially something like the 935"
We’re held at the top of the hill in the world’s most expensive traffic jam, with the 935 parked alongside the likes of the Apollo IE, Ford GT MkII and the De Tomaso P72. Once the whole batch is accounted for, all that’s left to do is slowly run back down the paddock, with - of course - a few stabs of the throttle to entertain the crowd.
Carefully parking up and unclipping myself then pushing open the impossibly light driver’s door, I’m greeting by the 935’s technicians. They seem relieved for their baby to arrive back in one piece after being driven off by an idiot journalist.
I take a minute to study the car. The 935/78 ‘Moby Dick’ Group 5 racer-inspired flanks, that huge rear wing, complete with 919 Hybrid endplates, and the sheer space it takes up. Just being in its presence is special. And driving it, even briefly, even if the opportunity is unlikely to come around again, is something else entirely.
The only trouble is, it’s like I’ve just been given a small dose of a powerful drug, and I’m about to go cold turkey. Goodwood, I’ve decided, is both the best and worst place to drive a car for the first time, especially something as rare and expensive as the 935. As automotive introductions go, this one is going to take some beating.