Race Retro is a huge date in the calendar for those who love the rally cars of yesteryear, held at Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire.
The writer had tried on several occasions to visit, but always found that work or commuting home to see his long-suffering wife got in the way. It was a pleasure to be able to attend this year, and a privilege to be there snapping for RMS. A good friend insisted that we had breakfast together in the morning, and once this one hour per month ritual was over, I hit the A46 from Coventry for the 5 mile trip to Stoneleigh. It was, for once, reassuring to encounter a traffic jam outside this quiet village at 10:30am and 1.6 miles from the venue. I squeezed my little Fiesta between a Maserati Grand Turismo and a Ferrari 360 and crept along the automotive caterpillar to Stoneleigh Park for a day snapping and recording memories summarised below:
Thousands converged on the venue this year and the 4 large halls were packed with traders, selling everything from nuts and bolts to Formula 3 cars. The sheer diversity of products on show was staggering. Hall 4 held the majority of the Auto-jumble components, one poor young man carried what looked like a formula 1 type wheel with him for most of the day.
After a brief sniff around the 4 halls, I headed, with about 2000 others to the rally track, laid out in mud and tarmac – where cars from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s were driven by some sane and some madmen for the delight of the spectators. The driver of a red MK2 Escort made his own track, and seemed to be one of the few trying to turn the event into a drifting contest.
Two cars didn’t feel that exhausts were appropriate for this event – one Skoda and a rather stylish 70’s Droop Snoot Firenza – the noise was painful as they passed the commentator – drowning him out and getting amplified over the PA system – most of the drivers took a fairly-leisurely pace, but a couple of tarmac terrorists entertained, getting into the Zeitgeist of the paying guests who like me, may have inwardly demanded entertainment for their £20 entrance fee. We were not disappointed.
The rain held off for the morning session, though the light was not good for the snapper’s camera – he (me) profusely apologises for the poor quality of many of the shots. The poor light was coupled with the lack of knowledge of a brand new camera and lens that was triggered 3 times before getting used in anger at this event.
At least two anniversaries were being marked this year: 50 years of Chevron Racing Cars and the 10th year of the great loss of Richard Burns
Hall 3 housed the main “Live Stage” where interviews of racing legends of yesteryear took place. There was no obvious or published time slots for these, but I caught Ari Vatanen there signing autographs for a couple of hours and Barry “Whizzo” Williams getting a gentle grilling from the hostess on the live stage.
Also in Hall 3 was a huge Peterbuilt Gas Tanker which had been converted into a chuck wagon – selling pressed ground beef in bread for about a fiver a pop – I had an apple, my entire packed lunch which was found on the floor of my car, and concentrated on getting as many exhibits as possible captured in my allotted 6 hours at the show.
Halls one and two held most of the show cars, some for sale, but most merely there to advertise manufacturer’s wares. If I could have one complaint – it was that there was almost zero signage for orientation while walking around the venue. On a more positive note – the toilet and catering facilities were more than adequate.
All in all, £20 isn’t a lot of money for a day’s entertainment and I didn’t hear any complaints on the day. The show is not one where non-car enthusiasts will be entertained, at least not by anything non-car/ bike related. It’s automotive all the way (apart from beer and burgers).
The stand-out car for me on the day – a beautiful, liveried BMW, captured in the photos of the day. I think you’ll understand when you see the photo. My profuse apologies to “mk2 driver” (Stefan) from the forum, who messaged me after the event to say that he would have gladly accompanied me to the event. He was working overtime on Saturday morning at Jaguar Land Rover’s HQ and lives nearby in Bubbenhall. As it was, Del no mates managed to get loads done without having a friend encourage me to stop for pie and beers.