The nation’s fondness for historic motorsport was emphasised at this year’s Race Retro, with a record crowd enjoying a fantastic nostalgia trip at a gloriously sunny Stoneleigh Park on February 22-24.

The event attracted a total of 24,212 attendees over its three days – an increase for on last year’s 23,100, which in turn was up on the 2017 figure. Amongst the attractions were a mix of rarely-seen racing and rally cars, live action, great display cars, trade stands, autojumble and much more. This event is renowned for attracting top motorsport personalities, and this year was no exception, with British racing drivers John Watson and John Fitzpatrick joined by ‘Rally Professor’ Rauno Aaltonen. The Live Stage in Hall 3 also played host to Formula One engineer Frank Dernie, BTCC driver Antony Reid and racing pundit Tony Jardine, along with rally stars Rosemary Smith, Bron Burrell, Russell Brookes, Jimmy McRae and Willy Cave.

The cars on display were notable for their provenance. The prime example had to Nigel Webb’s Jaguar D-type, which featured as part of an evocative tribute to Mike Hawthorn 60 years after his death and had been rebuilt from the chassis of the car that won at Le Mans in 1955. Other stars included Ayrton Senna’s recently restored Van Diemen RF81, plus a Porsche 962 and Audi R8C as part of special Le Mans display.

Irish rally driver and 1965 Tulip winner Rosemary Smith being interviewed on the Live Stage


As well as specialist machinery, plenty of more recognisable classics were on display. In Hall 3 these included an ex-Works Sunbeam Alpine and a Hillman Imp, a MkI Escort, an Opel Manta and fantastic Rover SD1, created by AWS Engineering using TWR parts. Around the show you’d also find everyman cars such as Fiestas, Minis, MGs, Triumphs, which shared space with homologation specials such as a Delta Intergrale and a fearsome Sunbeam Lotus. And to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the fearsome Metro 6R4, proudly displayed three full size examples and 128 1:43rd scale models!

On Saturday and Sunday, visitors were treated to two new Live Rally Stages with over 120 Group B and WRC cars in action under the watchful eye of Rallying with Group B. The existing stage had been forced to move due to the construction of HS2, but drivers soon got to grips with new layout, tail slides and all. Aaltonen was the first across the start line after being reunited with 977 ARX, the Mini he drove to class win in the 1963 Monte Carlo Rally, while Jimmy McRae lined-up alongside him in late son Colin’s Subaru.

This ex-works Hilllman Imp was once driven by Rosemary Smith


Back inside the halls, the Pride of the Paddock competition saw visitors awarding first prize to Ian Medcalf’s Fiat 500 Special Saloon, with Justin Benson’s Ferrari 250SWB replica announced as the runner up.

Over at Silverstone Auctions’ sale on the Saturday, the biggest seller was a gorgeous 1958 Porsche 356A Speedster at £292,500. For us though, the headliner had to be a one-owner-from-new, 53,000-mile 1979 Mk1 Volkswagen Golf GTI in Mars Red. Intense bidding saw it soar past its £17,000-22,000 guide price to achieve an impressive £27,225, proving that money is still out there for genuine, low-mileage cars with a traceable history.