THERE’S NOTHING like the sound screeching tyres to snap you out of the lethargy of an early morning weekend start. Someone somewhere was getting a very intimate demonstration of what a Caterham could do on the Caterham Experience, which was just one of Race Retro 2009’s many, varied attractions.
I though, would not be distracted. Last year we turned up to RR on the press day which meant that there wasn’t any action on the live stage. Mr Huge did make a return visit on the Saturday, but alas I couldn’t make it. So this year, I was intent on getting a right eyeful of retro action.
Refusing steadfastly to be distracted by the beautiful Aston Martin DBR1 in the main entrance (Aston being this year’s featured marque) or the fantastic old skool race transporters: one Ecurie Ecosse – complete with special Austin-Healey Sprite – sat alongside a Tyrrell Racing lugger from the F1 team’s Seventies heyday, we trudged on up to the live stage’s parc fermé.
Amusing though the historic karts were, futting around, they just couldn’t compete with a car park overflowing with rally machinery. Up here, unless you were wearing PIA, Cibié or Hella spot-lamps, kevla bodykits and some proud battle scars, well, I’m sorry, but you just weren’t going to get any of our attention.
There was a line up of ex-Russell Brookes cars from a Lotus Sunbeam to a Sierra RS Cosworth, bearing familiar Andrews Heat For Hire livery. GpB was well represented with Didier Auriol’s very bright ‘Export 33’ MG Metro 6R4 (see opposite) sitting next to a Pug 205T16 and the ex-Guy Frequelin Manta 400. It really was hard knowing where to go first with Adrian Kermode’s 911, a David Sutton RS1800, a FIAT 131 Abarth and an ex-Works TR7 V8 all demanding closer inspection.
All a bit too obvious for you? How about David Bramwell’s MkI Austin 1800 and Eoin Sloan’s Citroën GS 1220, both of which demonstrated that rally cars needn’t be massively fast or uncomfortable in order to make entertaining viewing. Roly-poly, float and wallow.
Who did we think put on the best show? Alan Watkins in his Escort RS1800 really did give it some beans and he would have easily walked away with the most impressively committed drive where it not for Rauno Aaltonen in a 1967 Mini Cooper S. Rauno may be in his seventies, but once he and the Cooper were warmed up, he showed everyone that he has lost little of his speed and skill.
Given that hypothermia was starting to feel like a very real possibility, we decided to reluctantly go off and do the indoors bit.
As usual the clubs did a first rate job of providing plenty of eye-stopping attractions – there was a Lola T70 on the Grand Touring Club stand, a cracking Elva on the HSCC stand, a beautiful little Kieft on the 750MC stand and the VSCC exhibited the superb 1923 GN Spider hill-climber, complete with intoxicating oily aroma. Oh and if you love BMC Comps Minis, then you were in for a treat with Paddy Hopkirk and an immense display of Works cars marking the Mini’s 50th birthday.
A bevy of trade stands ensured that there was plenty of lovely tempting components around to make you forget the recession. Not interested in getting your hands dirty? Well, that wouldn’t have saved your wallet from undergoing GBH, because there was plenty of automobilia on offer: books, models, memorabilia and even clothing for anoraks who need an upgrade.
Given all the nasty headlines and photos of Glum Gordon looking, er, glum, there was a possibility that this show might have been a little quiet, but thankfully this wasn’t the case. Instead, those who attended, managed to escape the glum realities of today by indulging in some of the great motorsport contenders of the past.
Unlike some annual car shows which tend to attract the same old firm of vehicles and exhibitors, Race Retro managed to be both varied and interesting enough to withstand our scrutiny for two consecutive years. If you haven’t yet been, make sure you pencil it in for 2010.