Race Retro 2018
A trip to Stoneleigh Park in Coventry for the 2018 Race Retro seemed an ideal event to blow some of the motorsport pre-season cobwebs away and get some much needed fresh air. Having seen some previous coverage of the event on the internet and various social media platforms, I decided to travel down on the Saturday in what turned out to be an unexpectedly glorious day of sunshine.
Usually when there is a three day event I like to get there on day one to make sure I see all the cars, as there is always a risk of damage or technical issues after a days running. However with Race Retro, there is no action on the Rally Stage on the first day so please be careful if you are going next year, as, in my opinion, the rally stage is the main draw for this event. The location itself for Race Retro is very much a 70’s style industrial park with a mix of new and old buildings built on a grid type pattern with the exhibition halls sitting alongside office buildings and other manufacturing type architecture, so if you are expecting a sweeping vista across a country park you’ll be left a little disappointed in this aspect of the event.
Race Retro can, for all intents and purposes, be considered an event of two parts – the first part is the indoor exhibition halls filled with many trade stands, a stage featuring interviews with various figures from the motorsport world and a selection of historic racing cars on display, and then the second part is the outside live action rally stage featuring an array of rally cars from many different eras of off road racing. Having walked through the exhibition halls it was apparent that my efforts would be better spent outside on the rally stage and around the rally cars than indoors as it was difficult to get a clear shot of any of the cars being shown and with the crowds of people looking to buy everything from motorsport artwork to trailers for transporting cars to events, there was little for me to photograph.
Therefore, the images here are focused on the rallying aspect of the event, with shots from parc ferme and the live rally stage. There was a good mix of old and not so old rally cars (although I really must stop thinking of the 20 year old Subaru Impreza as modern), and if you grew up in the era of the Lombard RAC Rally (with William Wollard presenting the TV coverage throughout the night) then this event will bring back some memories from the rallying at that time.
The stage itself uses a series of roads that are looped together to form a circuit layout, which means that there is no waiting for things to happen, however hay bales, tarmac and a lot of 90 degree bends are the order of the day. If you go expecting to see rally cars being driven flat out on loose surfaces then you will be disappointed – this is a purely hard surface event with the exception of those who get it wrong and drift off track.
Notwithstanding the fact that the cars are being driven on tarmac, it was good to see so many of the rally cars being driven hard through the rally stage – the Focus WRC in gravel specification was determined to spend more time side ways or on three wheels than not, and hearing the Audi Quattro Sport and Renault 5 Turbo 2 at full chat will always bring a smile to my face. Whilst the event could be accused of being a bit ‘Micky Mouse’ given the circuit style layout and surface, it meant the action was constant.
Away from the circuit there was opportunity to shoot in the parc ferme garage as well, although light was at a premium here so that meant ramping up the ISO and accepting a drop in image clarity and sharpness (I could have dragged the tripod out and resolved this as an issue, but why make it easier for myself…). Like at a number of classic events these days, everyone could get up close to the cars in the paddock area – there was no VIP only access or overly sensitive owners keeping you back from the cars which is refreshing in comparison to the modern racing events where there is a desire to shield the cars and drivers from public view. The flip side of this is that as a photographer, you have to have the patience of a saint sometimes to get the shot you want.
If you like your rallying, but find the thought of hiking through the Welsh mountains at 4am to get a good spectator spot off-putting, Race Retro is worth consideration – the live stage is set up in such a way that, with a bit of moving around, you can see most of the circuit. However you will find yourself elbow to elbow with other spectators and may be disappointed in the lack of mud churning, gravel spraying, corner cutting that rally cars are so good at.
With cars released onto the track 5 or 6 at a time and in reasonably quick succession, with a mix of the quick and not so quick, they sometimes cause themselves a small traffic jam as they catch each other up, but this highlights just how rally cars have progressed over the years in terms of speed.
Please now enjoy the rest of the images from the 2018 Race Retro – apologies for the dust spots on some of the images, I tried to clean most up but depending on the brightness of your screen you may see a number I’ve missed. I really need to get the sensor cleaned on my camera at some point…