The Parisian Rétromobile has the flair, manufacturer support and big-budget displays, but our own International Historic Motorsport Show has a home-spun charm that is hard to match. Somehow, Stoneleigh Park’s agricultural centre in the rolling fields of Warwickshire seems the perfect setting for the particular breed of hard-worn old car enthusiasts who flock there each February – and it’s so much more pleasant than the spirit-sapping caverns of the NEC.
More than 29,000 passed through Race Retro’s halls this year, as the show cast its net to appeal to as many as possible. The 50th Anniversary of McLaren theme was a year too late, but never mind. Any excuse is fine if it allows us another chance to gaze at Hunt and Fittipaldi M23s, Can-Am behemoths and chisel-featured M16C Indycars.
Rallying is always a draw here and the in-vogue Group B theme featured in both static displays and out on the live stage. Instead of prize cattle, Audi Quattros, a Lancia Delta S4, Metro 6R4 and rare Mazda RX-7 mixed with all manner of mudslingers on the showground. And when the rally cars were resting, the British Historic Kart Club members entertained, buzzing around on machines dating from 1956 to ’82.
Star guests were interviewed on stage, their number including Sir Stirling Moss, Norman Dewis, Win Percy and Barry Lee. Meanwhile, Silverstone Auctions hosted its annual sale with lots amounting to £1.6million, including an ex-Ayrton Senna Honda NSX that went for £85,000. Damien Smith