Last Weekend’s Race Retro Exhibition Combined Vintage F1, WRC Heroes, A Swap Meet, And More
Photography by Will Broadhead
Trade shows are funny places, particularly when you are a photographer that prefers to see machines in motion; the thrill of an animal in the wild will always eclipse one locked up in a cage. Yet, just like zoos, people still flock in droves to check out what’s on display at these sorts of exhibitions, ones that help motoring fans navigate their figurative way through the wet and wretched winters of England. I did so many of these events last winter that I swore I would stay away from them this time around, and had managed to do so, until last Friday when I chanced upon an event that I hadn’t been to before: the Race Retro International Historic Motorsport Show.
So, early on Friday morning I arrived at Stoneleigh Park, just an hour’s drive from where I live in Oxfordshire, with a fresh roll of film (read: memory card) and an open mind as to what I might be able to spot through my lens. Any of you that have photographed at a big show before will understand that it’s a tough gig getting pleasing results under the harsh fluorescent lighting of an exhibition hall, not to mention finding a clean shot in amongst the people and barriers that threaten to ruin almost every exposure, but thankfully the show at Stoneleigh isn’t the bun fight of some of the bigger events. There seemed to be ample space among the crowds for the most part, and while the halls don’t command the same square footage as other venues that I’ve been to, there is no quality lost in what’s on display here.
As one might expect, the emphasis of the exhibits is very much motorsport-related, and regardless if you were there to make an automotive purchase for the season to come, or just to enjoy a pleasing variety of historic racing cars in one spot, you wouldn’t have been disappointed by this spread of machinery. A personal highlight for me was a Williams FW11B that was driven to a championship win by Nelson Piquet in 1987 and was originally built in my hometown, reminding me of the awesome turbo cars that were my first introduction to motorsport, as well as memories of happier times for my favorite Grand Prix constructor.
Of course, as much as I enjoy being absorbed by legendary racing cars, I was there to capture the event in images, as well as memories. I had found myself making a bit of a game of photographing the people in the show as they were engrossed by the exhibits, responding to those that caught me in my acts of voyeurism with a wink and a smile. I also began to make a bit of a thing of attempting to frame cars in ways I might not usually, that is, when afforded the privilege of a clean background.
My favorite section of the show however was the autojumble. Tucked away in an unkempt barn, this seemingly forgotten part of the exhibition space proved the most entertaining, both for the interesting items on display and the photographic fun. Dimly lit, with shafts of yellow light filtering in through Perspex-covered skylights, the stands and cars in here looked fabulous against the slipshod backing of the unfurnished barn. Weber carburetors sat inline next to men offering to shine your shoes, alongside stands of vintage motoring books and automobilia, as well as of course parts and pieces of many a forgotten motor-car.
The show is much more extensive than I have described, with arrive and drive classic car experiences (fancy a jaunt in an E-Type perhaps?), motorsport personalities being interviewed on the live stage, and even a historic rally being run over the weekend from Stoneleigh to give a taster and training for those that might wish to progress to some of the more intense endurance rally experiences out there.
There were also two live rally stages, featuring a whole host of Group A and B cars, that sadly was only running on the days that I was unable to visit. Everything that I missed though, is certainly temptation enough to return next year and whilst I won’t be too fussed if I don’t get to attend some of the bigger shows, Race Retro will most definitely be in the calendar.