Heavy rain and strong winds failed to stop die-hard historic motorsport fans enjoying the live action of the Slowly Sideways Group B rally cars at this year’s Race Retro at Stoneleigh Park. Only adding to the fun, rally legends Markku Alen, Bjorn Waldegard and Russell Brookes thrilled the crowds as they slid around the stage.
Following a busy first day, the inclement weather on Saturday and Sunday did impact visitor numbers. Overall, the show was ten percent down on previous years, which the organizers feel is a good result in the current economic climate.
The feature area dedicated to the use of biofuels and greener motorsport received a positive response from event organizers and clubs, with a number of leading organizers planning to allow or use low-level gasoline and ethanol blends in the08/09 seasons.
Another highlight was the bringing together of Junior Rallying, BTRDA Juniors, Autograss, Minicross, Saxmax and T Cars, to highlight the opportunities for juniors aged from 12 to 16 years old to compete, a first for the motorsport industry.
This year’s chosen marque, Ford, was celebrated with an exciting display of cars, including Colin McRae’s Focus, Maurice Gatsonides’ Zephyr and the first Escort ever to win an international rally – Roger Clark’s from the 1968 Circuit of Ireland.
Another feature display – covering 40 years of the Ford Escort – was sponsored by “Retro Ford” Magazine and included a number of iconic cars: there were two ex-Hannu Mikkola cars, Jari-Matti Latvala’s 2008 car was displayed by M-Sport, and an Alan Mann racing Escort was also on display.
Bonhams’ auction proved to be one of the best so far this year, with sales exceeding £500,000 and 70 percent of the available lots being sold, including the Ford Escort which Bjorn Waldegard drove to victory on the East African Safari Rally in December 2007, sold for £80,000.
The display of competition sidecars at the entrance to Hall 3 was a unique sight, with the current World and British Sidecar Champion Tim Reeves in attendance, along with ten-times champion Steve Webster MBE; and Stan Dibben, who raced with Eric Oliver in the 1950s. Outfits from over 50 years were on display. Another motorcycle feature was the Wall of Death, which first appeared in the UK in 1929 and is one of only two left in existence in the UK; this proved immensely popular with visitors of all ages.
The Ace Cafe area was again re-created and expanded, after its success in 2007, and now included a Concours of Cafe Racers, which was won by Gary Lawrence with a Norvin (Norton/Vincent). The Ace Cafe was sponsored by Footman James and the Concours Awards by Autoglym.
Alongside the Ace Cafe was a new stage for interviews and celebrity autographs. There were 28 celebrities this year. Malcolm Wilson and Mark Deans, Head of Ford Motorsport, opened the Show on Friday; the British World Sidecar Champions opened proceedings on Saturday; Markku Alen, Bjorn Waldegard and Russell Brookes did so for the rally fraternity on Sunday.
Event and series organizers and sporting motor clubs were out in force and reported strong interest from competitors. The Historic Sports Car Club showcased Historic Formula 2, which they took over in 2007, while a new series for 1000cc Formula 3 cars from the 1960s was launched by Keith Messer. Formula Junior was back from Australia and New Zealand, where it launched a global FJ Series for 2008, in celebration of its Golden Jubilee.
A whole range of classic car tours and less competitive rallies had stands in Hall 1. Of the more well-known public events, Classic Silverstone reported strong interest, as did The Rally Show at Chatsworth. Additionally, in the rally area, Historic Endurance Rallying Organization and The Lombard Rally (for standard cars up to 1400cc) reported themselves very pleased with entry inquiries.
Retro car sales and inquiries were strong, with Proteus, GT40 Supercars, Nostalgia Cars and Tygan very pleased with the level of interest at the show. Lola Cars, celebrating 50 years as the World’s most prolific racing car producer, showcased a T70 Mk III Continuation Car and announced a new series build of the T70 Spyder and Coupe cars, both eligible for vintage and historic racing. Morgan brought the Aeromax from the Geneva show to sit alongside their competition ready Roadster 3.0 V6.
The private car sales area also expanded in 2008 and Barry Walker, who only booked space at the last minute, sold an MG J2 and a replica MG K3, which together fetched over £75,000.
The 2009 Race Retro will be held from Friday 13th to Sunday 15th March. To book tickets and for the latest updates, visit http://www.raceretro.com.