Welcome back Race Retro!
Providing an indication that normality is finally returning to motorsport, the hardy and bucolic annual Stoneleigh exhibition showcasing the UK’s national racing, rallying and speed scene returned to the calendar last weekend following two pandemic-enforced year’s absence, and although understandably more compact, quality counterbalanced a lack of quantity.
Shoe-horned into just two halls of Stoneleigh Park’s expansive agricultural complex this year, the Reis sponsored exhibition appeared to attract the same sort of numbers to what seems to be a friendly and relaxed atmosphere with a third hall dedicated exclusively to Silverstone Auction’s sale of high-quality competition and road cars, itself perhaps an indication of a tough global commercial climate adversely affecting some collectors.
That said, the auction achieved a high number of sales, most at strong money. An example being a record £596,250 paid for a pristine Ford Cosworth Sierra RS500 (above) with 5,000 mileage – the result of a bidding war between an online buyer in Dubai and one in the UK!
Racing and Rallying personalities proliferated the show with some appearing on the Rally stage and also the Daily Live Interview stage for interrogation (below). These included irrepressible, twice BTCC champion Jason Plato, Louis Aitken-Walker, 1990 FIA Ladies World Rally Champion, Welshman Dave Llewellin, twice British Rally Champion and son Tom, a former Welsh junior rally and national rallycross champion.
But motorsport heroes weren’t limited to the stage and former F1 drivers Howden Ganley, Mike Wilds and Jackie Oliver along with F1 designers Mike Pilbeam and Tony Southgate mixed freely and signed autographs for show visitors.
There were also fascinating interviews with John Saltinstall, author of an autobiography of Belgian F1 hero and 6-time Le Mans winner Jacky Ickx, and also with family members of British industrialist the late Sir Alfred Owen, owner of the BRM team 1954 – 1970 and custodians of the iconic marque name.
Simon, Nick, and Paul Owen discussed commissioning (above) the first of three stunning recreations of the high-revving Type 15 V16 1·5 litre F1 car. Chassis IV has been constructed by BRM specialist Hall & Hall who were represented on-stage by principal and former team mechanic Rick Hall. Two more Type 15s are currently being built to utilise unissued and unique chassis plates held in BRM archives, one of these is for renown international collector and watchmaker, Richard Mille.
Outside in bright spring sunshine 110+ top class rally cars spanning 5 decades, Group A, B and WRC cars – Mini Cooper to Porsche GT3 to Metro 6R4 – tackled the tricky mixed surface stage set up in Stoneleigh’s capacious grounds, always a popular feature with competitors and fans.
Organised by Group B Rallying.com, there were two sessions on Saturday and Sunday. While for the many fans of Historic Karting there two daily demonstrations on the in-house Kart track organised by the British Historic Karting Club.
All in all, there was nothing not to like about Race Retro 2023 and a big thank you to organisers, Clarion Events.
© Images and words by Ken Davies