The annual historic motorsport show featured record-breaking visitor numbers and remarkable racing cars.
Words and photos: Emma Woodcock.
The last weekend of February, mud climbing up your legs as rain and freezing wind drive hard across your face. You could never call this pleasant but at least it’s authentic: it wouldn’t be rallying if it didn’t demand commitment. Race Retro, which returned to Stoneleigh Park between the 24th and 26th February, doesn’t just show you the best cars, it brings them to life.
Out on a specially-constructed rally stage, crowds bunched three or four wide at the wilder corners as historic rally cars were hurled up to and beyond their limits. Fans of the old school were treated to throngs of rear-drive Escorts, with an ex-works Rothmans-liveried Mark 2 the crowning – and very sideways – glory. An RS200 represented Group B while a pair of Sierra Cosworths, one an ex-Didier Auriol three-door, the other a Team Bastos four-door, did battle for lap after sideways lap. Bringing things more up to date, a 1990s Escort F2 kit car threw ludicrous angles of power understeer and 2013 Fiesta R5 showcased the speed and composure of the modern rally car.
The indoor show was every bit as varied. A 1957 Thunderbird, glistering under the show lights, provided sumptuous contrast to a race-prepared Lotus Cortina, the latter used to promote the new generation of teenaged historic racers. There were early Escorts everywhere: period and contemporary; circuit and rally-focused; freshly built and bearing duct tape scars.
Nothing came close to the Rallying with Group B stand which swarmed with visitors throughout the event. Their Escort RS Cosworth world rally car finished second on Rallye Monte Carlo while their Sierra Cosworth was one of ten pre-production cars before its rallying career. Were that not enough, Ayrton Senna drove this very car while sampling rallying in 1986.
Silverstone Auctions sold cars over all three days of the event. One of the star lots was a Ford GT originally owned by Jenson Button. Helped along by its star connection, it reached £246,375: the third-highest hammer price of the weekend. Low mileage elevated the sale prices of more commonplace fast Fords. A Mark 2 Focus RS with 1,800 miles made £41,063 while an Escort Cosworth with fewer than 25,000 miles found a new owner for £39,375. Most remarkable of all, a 1990 Fiesta RS Turbo made £16,313. Everything considered, it was an exceptional show.
Next year’s show takes place between 23rd and 25th February 2018