There are always historic motorsport celebrations at Race Retro, which traditionally ignites the historic racing scene at the beginning of the year. In 2016, visitor numbers were actually down to 29,500 (29,700 in 2015) and the show felt a little smaller, somehow.
Yet the rallying activities, always a large part of the appeal at Stoneleigh, were bigger than ever, with ‘friendly’ racing happening outside the premises, in the usually muddy circuit, involving 20% more cars than last year. The Triumph Dolomite Sprint participating this year was a welcome change from the “usual suspects” Vauxhall Firenza, Metro 6R4 and Sierra RS Cosworth. Needless to say, to the Italian eye, the Group-B Martini-liveried Lancia Delta S4 won for evocative looks and heritage.
As always, big names and famous faces were to be spotted throughout the weekend, though one, in particular, was celebrated: World Driver’s Champion Damon Hill remembered his title (20 years ago) and time with Williams; needless to say, the event gathered four of the cars driven by the champion, fresh from the Williams Heritage Collection: the championship winning FW18, the 1995 FW17 race winning car, the 1993 FW15C with which Damon won his first Grand Prix, and a 1990-91 FW13B which Damon drove to make his debut as a Williams test driver in 1991.
Inside, hundreds of exhibitor stands covered everything one can think of, when it comes to historic racing: parts, spares, accessories, race suits, helmets and model cars.
Silverstone Auctions held its sale during the weekend, just like the previous two years. In 2016, though, the overall auction yielded £4.7m (£3.62m last year).
A new world record price was achieved for a 1990 Mercedes-Benz 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution II which, with just 1,723 miles on the clock, sold for £292,500.
Perhaps more impressive, though, was the 1987 Ford Capri 280 ‘Brooklands’ with a similarly low mileage of just 936 miles, which sold for £54,000. Another world record, and perhaps a somber reminder of the fact that more and more classics are now commanding prices which are beyond the reach of most enthusiasts.
The Italians did quite well, with a 1981 Lamborghini Countach LP400 sold for £213,750. A 1999 Ferrari 550 Maranello sold for £110,250, more than £30,000 over its lower estimate.
A much-loved British show, now a teenager (it turned 13 in February), Race Retro changes hands after this year’s event, as the show has been sold to new organisers Clarion Events.