Alén gets retro with Lancia

Live rally action adds excitement to packed Race Retro historic motor sport exhibition
By Paul Lawrence

“It is my first time here at this event. It’s fantastic to see all these cars again,” said Markku Alén after climbing back into the cockpit of a Lancia 037 rally car for the first time in over 20 years.

At the wheel of the ex-Jolly Club car, Alén was one of the star turns on the live rally stage at the fifth Race Retro, the International Historic Motorsport Show at Stoneleigh Park.

Now firmly established as the starting point for the coming season of historic motorsport, Race Retro has grown into a broad church. The three-day event covers sport on two, three and four wheels, and new features for 2008 included a focus on motor sport for young drivers, historic karting and the use of green fuels in the historic competition arena.

At the nerve centre of the show was the main ‘speed street’, a gathering of the key players in the organisation of race meetings, championships and series in historic racing. For anyone planning to go racing this season, the choice was dazzling, with the chance to race anything from an MG Midget to a Porsche 917, an Austin A35 to a ‘Cologne’ Capri.

Taking pride of place on the Masters Racing Series stand was one of several Cologne Capri re-creations from the skilled ex-Broadspeed team at QM Engineering. Destined to race in the new Touring 70s series that Masters has created, the prospect of James Hanson and Julian Bronson at the wheel of the 3- to 4-litre GAA-engined Capris going head to head with BMW ‘Batmobiles’ will be a highlight of 2008.

Meanwhile, the news that the Circuit des Remparts at Angoulême is back on a strong footing for 2008 and beyond drew widespread approval. This September the classic French street race will celebrate 30 years since the first revival event in 1978. Still running on the original 1939 track, the races will include pre- and post-war action, including dedicated races for Grand Prix Bugattis and Alfa Romeos. Willie Green has been recruited to work on entries for the event, which runs on the same weekend as the Goodwood Revival meet (September 19-21).

Elsewhere across the show were little gems like the Djinn, a Shelsley Special built in 1947 by Rupert Instone. Now owned by former hillclimb champion Martyn Griffiths, it has not been run for at least 15 years but is now nearing the end of a complete restoration by Ewan Cameron. It is expected to be back in action at the famous Worcestershire hillclimb this season.

Outside, Markku Alén in the Lancia 037 and Björn Waldegård at the wheel of a Mk1 Ford Escort were the stars of the rally stage, as Audi Quattros, Peugeot 205T16s, Metro 6R4s and more were put through their paces with varying degrees of driver commitment. “The mechanics have done a great job with the preparation of the car,” said Alén. “I have not driven an 037 for many, many years, but it felt very familiar.”

Show organiser Ian Williamson was pleased with the response to the event, although attendance numbers were not available as Motor Sport closed for press. “We were pleased with the new layout and there was a very good response to the bio-fuels area,” said Williamson.

However, the event’s future will now be the subject of considerable discussion over the coming months. “We’re negotiating to sell the show,” confirmed Williamson. “We feel we’ve taken it a long way.”