Race Retro – March 2009

The RaceRetro event has now been running for several years and this is the third consecutive year that I’ve personally attended. To me, it is the signal of the arrival of spring, (hopefully) and the start of the multitude of events that constitute the UK auto enthusiast’s calendar. An eclectic mix of cars with a sporting pedigree – be that racing or rallying – is displayed at the Stoneleigh venue, and may former competitors take the opportunity to come along, meet with their peers and generally join in the fun. A small Forum gathering of just myself. Piers and his father went along. Listening to Paul Roache’s encyclopaedic memory of motor sport from the 60s onwards is always fascinating –  and reveals how much I have to learn about the subject!
In case you had not noticed (and if that is the case, you surely WILL notice it soon!), 2009 is the “Year of the Mini”. To celebrate 50 years since the launch of Sir Alec Issigonis’ 10 foot marvel, there will be all manner of festivals and event during the year. Since this is a motorsport show, the focus here was on the BMC Competition cars from the 1960s, when the world of rallying had a major shock at just how good this tiny little cars with their 10″ wheels could be. There were some fabulous displays, bringing together a variety of Mini Coopers, many of which are now privately owned, so that several cars from each year were on show!
There were some road cars, too, with an example of a very early 1959 model, and 2 Mini Coopers, both for sale at a rather ambitious £17,000.
Not to be outdone with a marketing opportunity, there was a stand with examples of the New Mini. We had a good look at these. The new Cabrio was on show, and I would hate to be a rear seat passenger behind anyone with longer legs than me, as there would be literally no rear legroom at all. We thought that the JCW Cabrio at over £25k was expensive, then we discovered a hatch model with a sticker price at nearly £30k. At that sort of money. there are plenty of alternatives!   
Although 2008 was the “year of the Escort”, marking its 40th anniversary, the Mark 1 is such a cornerstone of motorsport even now, that several of these cars were on show.
Many of the cars on display were there because of some previous great achievement. Take this, for instance, the 1959 Aston Martin DBR1, Le Mans winner that year.
And here is the 1956 Maserati 250F, a car driven by Sir Stirling Moss, which won the 1956 Monaco Grand Prix.
And here, the 2008 Aston Martin, uncleaned after its success at Le Mans.
And the Jaguar XJR9:
And there were more……….. the “Innsbruck” Triumph, the 2000/.2500 cars were successful as rally cars in the late 60s/early 70s, and this car had certainly had a chequered past, with a crash so bad that it is amazing that the car could be rebuilt let alone that it was!    
Not all the cars are quite what they might seem, and this Lola looked just “too” good. It turned out to be brand new, a modern recreation, and absolutely splendid with it.
There were a number of other cars with competition pedigree to look at, to remember and reminisce:
Bizzarini was a “breakaway” mark after the eponymous founder had something of a disagreement with Enzo Ferrari. A small number of the cars bearing his name were made in the 1960s, so it was more than a surprise to find 2 of them at the show.

Representing something completely different was this Curved Dash Oldsmobile, which it is planned will be used to make a journey from San Francisco to New York. Rather them than me, going all that way in this!
The often overlooked Brooklands Museum (well worth a visit for the history of the site as well as the exhibits) had the 1933 Napier Railton on show. This 24 litre monster develops over 500 bhp, which gives it a top speed of 168 mph, and a 5mpg fuel consumption figure. Driven by John Cobb, it has 24 land speed records to its name. What a splendid beast!
This GN is familiar from outings at Prescott
Race transporters are now attracting lots of interest, and these 2 are both on show regularly at events around the UK:

One of the attractions of this event is the opportunity to see a wide variety of former rally cars in action on a short “special stage”, with some notable drivers. This year was no exception, though the new event organisers had cordoned off access to the cars while they were indoors and also while they were outdoors, so a close up inspection was not possible. Commentary for the event was provided by the unmistakable Tony Mason, who has lost none of the enthusiasm that I remember when he regularly featured on Top Gear. Among the drivers out on the stage, we were treated to Mark Higgins, Russell Brooks (a regular at this event) and Rauno Aaltonen. This 70 year old latter providing some spectacular, and slightly out of control-looking cornering in a BMC Works Mini Cooper. A wide variety of cars were out there, from a Lada to Sierra Cosworth, Kaadett GTE, Metro 6R4, Sunbeam Lotus, Porsche 911s, Opel Manta and Renault Alpine. A splendid sight indeed.
It’s always worth a tour of the car park at events like these, and we found some interesting and unusual vehicles parked up:
Those who know no better might wonder I am all excited about what appears to be “just” a Talbot Avenger Estate. However, having read  all about this car in Classic and Sports Car a while back, I can inform you that this is no ordinary Avenger, as underneath lurk the mechanicals of a Sunbeam Lotus. Built as a works rally support car for the Talbot team, this car was rebuilt and restored to the magnificent condition you now see.
This Vauxhall Chevette was the very limited HSR car, and had covered a mere 43,000 miles. With the exception of some slightly faded tartan red seat trim, it was immaculate. What a splendid vehicle.  
Next year will mark 30 years since the launch of the ground-breaking Audi Quattro. I’ve seen nothing announced, so this is pure Colin speculation, but I am sure that the 2010 event will see a special tribute to what remains one of my favourite rally (and road) cars of all time……… I can’t wait!
2009-11-24 07:24:34

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