'Why haven't I been to this event before?'
That's what I asked myself as I drove home from Race Retro 2018 last week. Held at Stoneleigh Park in Coventry (literally a half an hour drive for me) - Race Retro is an event that brings together some of the world's greatest rally cars, old and new, and shows them off on track to the public at full send.
I attended the event with Dave from Auto Ethica, and having both never been to the event before, we didn't know what to expect. The plan was to arrive at 9am and leave around midday, having seen some rally cars thrash about on the course. Little did we know we'd not be leaving until gone 4pm... This event really is that good.
Stoneleigh Park is an agricultural industrial park of sorts, and acts like a mini Bicester Heritage - albeit with less photogenic surroundings. Like Bicester though, the various buildings and warehouses actually get incorporated into the event, so in the empty barns you'll find the pit area for the 60+ classic rally cars, and over on the other side of the Exhibition Halls you'll find Silverstone Auctions.
What you need to know about Race Retro, is that it's all about the rally cars. New, old, boxy, wedgy, fast, slow - everything from a tiny little stripped out FWD Chevrolet Spark, to Colin McRae's ex-Focus WRC monster. All manner of things can be seen on track, but obviously it's the Group B and A cars that really get the crowd going. As the Audi Quattros and 205 T16's fly past, everyone in the crowd follows with their eyes, like a really bad game of tennis. It's funny to step back and watch everybody spectate, actually.
Away from the track and into the most surprising part of the day for me, the exhibition halls. Something that I didn't even know existed - it reminds me of the Classic Motor Show at the NEC, lots of stalls selling parts, merch, toys, memorabilia - you name it you can buy it.
But the REALLY interesting part of Race Retro is found in hall 3. On one side of the hall you'll come across a display of about 20 of the finest classic rally cars you've ever seen. A State Express 555 Impreza, Martini Lancia Delta, Honda F1 car and even a Rothmans 911 rebuilt by Prodrive and driven again in Total 911. So, good. But on the other side of the hall...
The highlight of my day - quite simply - a Silk Cut Jaguar XJ-R9 sitting adjacent to the Henn's Swap Shop Porsche 956. The latter is a livery I'd never even heard of, but before long I'd researched and found that it raced in the 1984 24 Hours Of Le Mans and came 2nd. This car was instantly the car of the weekend for me.
I don't know why but I'm drawn to Group C cars more than any other type of race car - I don't know why but when I figure it out I'll let you know!
Just like the Sunday Scramble, Race Retro is an event that is now marked in my calendar. If you need your classic rally fix, look no further...
Take a look at my images below to see all the good stuff from the day, including that 956...