Rally stars take centre stage at Stoneleigh Park

| 2 Mar 2017

The savage bark of Subaru flat-fours and the signature whistle of Renault 5 Turbos echoed around Stoneleigh Park as part of Race Retro’s 15th anniversary last weekend. Ari Vatanen, one of the event’s star guest, thrilled fans on the Rally Stage giving full-on demonstrations of a Ford Escort RS1800 like the one in which he won the 1981 World Rally Championship (later driven by owner Alan Watkins above), a BMW E30 M3 and a Subaru Legacy. 

“It’s always great to drive the old cars,” explained the Finn (above in Anthony Harrison’s Mk1 Mexico), “although I blotted my copybook when I clouted the back of the Subaru. I remember when Colin [McRae] became my teammate and we were testing in Wales. I took him out to show how the Subaru could be driven, was going far too fast and rolled the car. But it wouldn’t be me if I didn’t drive like that!”

A raft of other rally legends at the show included Mark Higgins and Russell Brookes, with Tony Mason commentating. More than 80 cars were in action over the weekend, many co-ordinated by Rallying with Group B, including assorted Audi quattros, Subaru Imprezas, Ford RS200s and Metro 6R4s. 

Bronwyn Burrell brought the famous Austin Maxi in which she took part on the 1970 Daily Mirror World Cup Rally with Tina Kerridge-Reynolds and Tish Ozanne. Next month ‘Bron’ will be tackling the London-Lisbon Classic Rally.

Indoors, an outstanding tribute to 50 years of the Ford DFV engine, curated by Mike Costin, featured a TS7 – Team Surtees’ first Formula One car, which made its debut, driven by the boss, at Brand Hatch in 1970. Alongside was a Lotus 49B in iconic Golf Leaf colours.

Younger machinery included a Williams FW08C, the firm’s first post ground-effects design – as raced by ’82 World Champ Keke Rosberg and Jacques Laffite. It was also the first F1 car driven by Ayrton Senna, after he pestered boss Frank Williams for a test. Alongside is the famous Tyrrell P34/6, raced over the past few years by Kiwi Roger Wills.

The ex-Jim Clark Lotus 33 R11 was unveiled for the first time in public for more than 40 years as part of a launch for the Jim Clark Trust’s crowd-funding appeal. Jim’s cousin Doug Niven spoke of the plans to open a new Jim Clark Museum in 2018, asking for support to make the fantastic new development a reality.  See more here http://jimclarktrust.com

Nine-times Le Mans winner Tom Kristensen was impressed with his first visit to the revamped Stoneleigh fixture, which drew a record crowd of 21,000. The Dane donned his Bentley overalls to be reunited with the Speed 8 in which he took his fifth victory at La Sarthe (above, photo courtesy of LAT) and later took questions from a packed house on the Live Stage. 

If you fancied getting involved in the Historic Group C Series, this 1990 Spice SE90C – the 18th of 52 built by Gordon Spice’s firm with Pontiac ‘Super Duty’ 3-litre four-pots – was being sold via Brackley-based race-prep specialist Damax.

Rally Preparation Services showed this fabulous, much-campaigned ’39 Chevrolet Coupe – a veteran of last year’s gruelling Peking to Paris enduro.

It wasn’t all competition cars, though. This immaculate 17,000-mile 1969 Vauxhall Brabham HB Viva estate drew lots of attention, mainly because the price went up from £9850 on the opening day to £13,500 by Saturday afternoon! The three-owner car had a bare-shell restoration over 10 years.

And here’s the one that our roving reporter wanted to take home: a stunning Opel Manta 400 in Andrews Gwres I Rentu livery – Heat for Hire but in Welsh – used only on the Welsh International Rally. Dad would have loved that.

The winner of the inaugural Pride of the Paddock award went to Ian Thompson’s exacting replica of the Peugeot 205 T16 that Vatanen drove in period. It was chosen by visitors and signed by the man himself (photo by Darren Skidmore). Next year’s Race Retro takes place from 23-25 February: see more at www.raceretro.com