Race Retro has always been a motorsport show that I enjoy attending each year, I used to enjoy Autosport International, but after many years that show became too stale with its contents, too much geared towards the racing industry rather than for racing fans and too expensive to attend and as a result lost its appeal. Race Retro however has much more charm, is laid back and still has a good mix of “Real” race cars rather than just “show” cars as well as plenty of traders selling everything imaginable, traders that have over the years been priced out of trading at the Autosport Show. Race Retro still has an auto jumble area too which adds to the character and appeal for me as I always enjoy looking around this area for the odd treasure for my collection.
So I was delighted to learn that I had won a pair of tickets to the event courtesy of the My Car Heaven’s competition. I had already decided that I would be attending the event anyway as a friend and I were attending a charity boxing night in Leicester in the evening and Stoneleigh was only 26 miles away from Leicester so it made sense to fit both events into the same day. But winning the tickets made the day even more enjoyable, and I decided that I would put the money that I would have otherwise spent getting into the show, towards a special treat on the day.
For a number of years, Rallying with Group B, have entertained the crowds by demonstrating their collection of old rally cars on the live demo stage in the grounds of Stoneleigh Park, this has grown year on year with the stage improving each year and the number of cars in attendance growing each year too, to the point that it has become a main attraction of the show. This year there were around 100 cars taking part on the rally stage and like last year, Rallying with Group B were offering passenger rides around the stage in some of the rally cars taking part in the demonstration. So I decided to put the admission money towards a ride around the stage. So after a quick look in one of the halls upon arrival at the show, I got my hand stamped and headed back outside and walked over to the rally stage and headed straight for the tent where you paid for the rally car rides. There was already a very long queue, clearly this was more popular than I had imagined and at £25 a ride, it was reasonably priced too. So I joined the queue and awaited my turn. I was greeted by a friendly face at the desk where you sign a form and pay your money, I personally knew the person on the desk, a former rally co driver from my local area, who used to co drive for her brother, who happened to be my mechanic whenever my car needed any work doing. ( Small world isn’t it )
Due to the number of people waiting to take a ride and not too many of the drivers taking part on the demo stage offering rides, it was obvious that I was going to be stood in the queue quite a while, as it’s a personal choice if a driver wishes to take passengers or not and earn a bit of money back towards their costs of running their cars on the stage. The cars run in 3 separate batches and the early batch included quite a few Audi Quattro’s and MK2 Escorts offering rides, then the second batch had a Renault 5 Turbo and a RS 500 Cosworth and a Ferrari 308 GTB.
After 90 minutes of standing in the queue, (wishing I had gone to the toilet first ) it was my turn to await the next car to pull in to take me out on the stage. I was gutted that the chap stood in line in front of me got the opportunity to sit in with Tony Worswick in his bright yellow Ferrari 308 GTB, I had secretly been hoping that I would either get to ride in the Ferrari or an Audi Quattro or a MK2 Escort. So I had missed out on the Ferrari, so what car would pull up and be my chariot on the stage. I was initially a bit disappointed when a Mk1 Escort Mexico pulled up and I was ushered towards the passenger door. I am a large lad, so getting me strapped into the bucket racing seat was a big task in itself which took around 4 or 5 minutes as the marshal and the driver had to adjust all the straps as the previous person in the car had been the drivers young son. Maybe the seat buckle worked for him, but for me it was located under my right bum cheek so clearly that was not going to work for me and they set about making the adjustments and with a bit of forcing myself back into the seat and a great deal of breathing in, the marshal managed to get the lap belt and shoulder belts fastened.
The driver introduced himself to me, his name was Anthony Harrison and he was from Morecambe and he asked me if I had ever done anything like this before. Whilst queueing for the start line we had the time to have a nice chat and I told him that I marshal on rallies, and told him not to hold anything back on my account and to drive the wheels off it if he so wished.
Having been initially disappointed at not getting in the Ferrari, that soon changed when Anthony blasted off the start line and threw the car into the first 90 right corner with just the handbrake. It was clear that Anthony would not be hanging around and he drove it like he had just stolen the crown jewels and had the whole Metropolitan police force chasing him. One on particular corner we exited the corner sideways with most of the wheels on the grass rather than the black stuff. The speed bump rattled our teeth as he took it without any loss of speed. Then the long back straight with the 90 left at the end of it. The outside of the corner marked with a double stack of hay bales certainly comes up on you fast and I sat there thinking, “At what point is he going to start slowing down for this corner, as I would have been braking back there !” Instead he was still accelerating and at the last minute dabbed the brakes and pulled the handbrake and around the corner it went sideway with a lot of tyre squeal and tyre smoke and another trip onto the grass. That was just the first lap, we had another two laps of the stage still to go. On the third lap Anthony said to me, “I never know how many times I am supposed to go around”, so I replied, “If you want to go around any extra laps, it would be fine with me.”
After a couple of minutes, my rally car ride came to an end, but what a total thrill ride and a total buzz as Anthony certainly knew how to drive his MK1 Escort Mexico to within an inch of its life. It was certainly worth the £25 fee and I thanked Anthony for driving it like he had stolen it. At this point there was only 15 minutes of the morning stage session still to run, so I quickly ran around to a good corner on the stage to get some photos of the cars on the stage before the session ended. Sadly I didn’t get to take any photos of the majority of the cars on the stage due to being in the queue for 90 minutes, but I had enjoyed my ride which was something new for me at Race Retro. So unfortunately I didn’t get any of star drivers Miki Biasion or Alister McRae on the stage.
It was now 1 pm and we needed to leave at 3.30 pm to head across to Leicester for the boxing so I had to quickly work my way around the rest of the show in 2 short hours. A tall task indeed as I am a collector, so could spend those two hours just looking at the trader’s stalls, trying to decide on what to spend my money on and take home. In the end I bought a new 1/43rd diecast that I had been looking for, a book on the Lancia Delta S4 and a trio of nice retro liveried racing mugs in Martini, Rothmans and Silk Cut colours.
There was a stunning collection of cars gathered in the Motorsport Hall of Fame Hall, 4 cars from the history of Prodrive and David Richards which included his first car a Porsche 911S SCRS in beautiful Rothmans livery, Colin McRae’s 1996 Subaru Impreza WRC, a current Aston Martin Vantage GTE Le Mans car and a BAR Honda F1 car.
The next group of cars included 4 stunning rally machines dear to my heart, Miki Biasion’s Sierra Sapphire Cosworth, a Lancia 037 in OLIO FIAT colours, and a pair of Martini liveried cars, a Lancia Delta HF Integrale 16v and an ex Colin McRae Ford Focus WRC. Behind these an Audi Quattro S1 EVO 2 and Manuel Reuter’s Ford RS500 Cosworth touring car.
A Jaguar D-Type with its big brother Jaguar XJR9 parked alongside it, showcasing Jaguars rich history at Le Mans. Two race bikes from Steve Parrish, a McLaren F1 car that had been driven by Dan Gurney, a tribute to the great American driver that recently passed away. There was a great collection of ground effect race cars to celebrate 40 years of ground effects, including the Swap Shop Porsche 956, Williams FW07 and Mario Andretti’s green Martini liveried Lotus 79 as well as a Martin Brundle Ralt RTS 3 F3 and a Chevron B48 F2.
I had the opportunity to ask Brian Redman a question during the Q & A session on the Hall of Fame Live stage, and asked him what it was like to race the mighty Porsche 917-30 in anger. Brian is a great speaker and talked at length about getting the call from Roger Penske asking him if he wanted to race the car at Mid Ohio in 1974, and went on to talk about the handling characteristics of the car and how you had to drive it, and then about the race itself and his choice of tyres etc. Brian also talked about owning and selling the No.20 Gulf Porsche 917 that was used in the film Le Mans. Brian bought the car for £9000 but had to sell it 3 years later when he hit hard times after a bad racing accident. He sold the car for £30,000 and later helped Richard Attwood sell the car for £1.2M, the car recently sold to Jerry Seinfield for $30M
There were some nice cars on display in Hall 1, with a nice collection of cars on the Rallying with Group B stand including a Tommi Makinen Nissan Sunny GTR, a Proton Iriz R5, Andrews Heat for Hire Opel Manta, Skoda Favorit, Ford Escort RS1700T, RS200, MG Metro 6R4, Mini Cooper. On other stands there was a beautiful Subaru Legacy RS in yellow Camel livery and some older historic rally cars from the long distance endurance events of days gone by including a Hillman Hunter.
Hall 2 contained the usual mix of competition cars from all disciplines of historic motorsport from single seaters, touring cars, etc. Sadly 3.30 pm came around way too fast and it was time for me to leave, but I could have easily spent another 90 minutes at the show and would have spent some more time at the live demo rally stage if I didn’t have to leave for my evening plans.
A big thank you to My Car Heaven for running the competition and for the two tickets to the show.