Opening the season

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With more than 24,000 visitors on February 22-24, this year’s Race Retro was verifiably rammed.

Gleaming examples of turbocharged Formula 1 cars, celebrating 40 years since the first turbo-powered F1 win (Jean-Pierre Jabouille at the 1979 French Grand Prix), sat proudly in the main hall of Stoneleigh Park. Nelson Piquet’s 1986 title-winning Williams-Honda FW11, a prime example of the era when boost was turned up to 11 and dynos were incapable of measuring full power, was also on display alongside turbo hardware from such as Benetton and Alfa Romeo.

And on the Live Stage, John Watson sat and reflected on that very era in which – with a naturally aspirated Cosworth! – he won the 1981 British Grand Prix; the ‘Rally Professor’ Rauno Aaltonen mused on the injustice of the Minis’ disqualification from the 1966 Monte Carlo Rally and demise of Group B; and John Fitzpatrick described his incredible and wide-ranging career for the awed crowd.

The Live Stage was the perfect platform for sporting heroes to inspire and captivate the thousands of people who attended.

Rally pioneer Rosemary Smith, Russell Brookes, F1 engineer Frank Dernie, BTCC stalwart Anthony Reid and Tony Jardine also starred on stage, with the audience getting question and answer sessions.

Memorabilia from Mike Hawthorn’s life and career sat in gleaming glass cases as onlookers caught a rare glimpse of these pieces of history. And thousands of those punters briefly stopped at the Motor Sport stand, to chat with our team, pick up a copy or take out a subscription. In the Pride of the Paddock competition – a concours of sorts – visitors voted that Ian Medcalf’s Fiat 500 Special Saloon deserved first prize, with Justin Benson’s Ferrari 250 SWB replica as runner-up. On two wheels, the Retro and Café Racer Pride of Ownership was taken by Dave Morgan’s 1976 Honda CB836.

Historic and grass-roots racing was also represented with various club stands.

Outside there was the familiar scent of petrol, chatter of flywheels and whine of turbos as rally cars lined up for the Live Stage. This year, two new stages welcomed more than 120 cars – including the mad Ariel Nomad driven by Will Corry, David Wright’s Ford Focus WRC, Paul Howarth’s Subaru Impreza ’99 WRC and Rauno Aaltonen in his Monte Carlo Rally-winning Mini Cooper. Jimmy McRae put the icing on the cake, driving son Colin’s Subaru Impreza.

A few lucky spectators also got the chance to sit in the passenger seat while HERO Events taught more than 150 people how to drive and navigate off-road; ‘Arrive and Drive’ gave many more the chance to try their favourite classic car.

Silverstone Auctions’ sale drew many spectators, with a 1964 road-rally Porsche 356C fetching nearly £70,000, one of 12 right-hand-drive 1956 BMW 502 V8s taking £27,600 and a 1972 Ferrari Dino 246GT in brilliant blue changing hands for £270,000.

Race Retro provided a weekend of spectacular action on the Live Rally Stage, captivating conversation on the Live Stage with the Motor Sport editorial team and presenter Gemma Scott, and the perfect homage to motor sport’s incredible past thanks to the thousands of visitors.

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