14 February 2012

Reliving the glory days

Autosport International show packs nine halls at the National Exhibition Center to celebrate 60 years of historic race and rally cars

Autosport International, The Racing Car Show, has expanded to fill almost half of the National Exhibition Centre south-east of Birmingham, kicking off on Thursday 12 January with two busy trade days before opening to the public over the weekend. Once you include the live action arena, the Autosport Engineering Show and the Pistonheads Show, nine halls were needed to showcase the UK’s massive world of motorsport.

Historic cars filled only a small part of that, but among the extreme wealth and glamour of the modern F1 cars, the karts and the specialist manufacturers, a significant historics area emphasised the importance of this still-growing section of the industry.

The Historic Sports Car Club celebrated 60 years of Formula 3 with a great line-up of a dozen single-seaters from the 500cc era to the present day, headed by Stirling Moss’s Kieft and a Cooper driven by Bernard Ecclestone. The Lotus Elan is 50 this year, and Club Lotus brought the most famous, the Ian Walker Racing 26R ‘Gold Bug,’ to celebrate, plus the 1957 prototype-in-restoration of its first single-seater, the front-engined 12 and an ex-Ayrton Senna 97T.

Elsewhere, a tribute to the Brazilian F1 star showcased some more of the cars that catapulted him to world fame, including the DAP kart that took him to runner-up in the 1980 Karting World Championship and the McLaren MP4 in which he crafted what many believe to be his greatest drive ever, winning the 1993 European GP at Donington in the rain.

Silverstone Classic took a large stand to promote its next event, July 20-22, which included a Cobra, MGB, F5000 McLaren, Mondeo Touring Car and Porsche 962, while Autoglym displayed the ’56 Reims 12-hour-winning D-type. John Surtees’ 1972 Japanese GP-winning TS10 was there, raising awareness of the Henry Surtees foundation, which benefits young people and those with brain and physical injuries.
 
Several companies showed beautiful new-build Mk2 Escort rally cars — there’s no let-up in demand for this near 40-year-old in historic events. Former rally driver Alec Poole’s Tour Britannia organisation launched Targa Britannia, to the same regularity/race format but for post-’75 cars and with the field limited to 35 so all cars can compete in the same races. The original pre-’75 Tour Britannia continues. A display of British rally heroes in Hall 8 included everything from Paddy Hopkirk’s ’64 Monte Mini to Colin McRae’s 2001 Rally of Cyprus-winning WRC Focus.
Another ex-McRae WRC Focus, the 2001 Acropolis winner, was on sale at Coys’ auction on Saturday: It didn’t sell, bidding short to £80,000, and top money went to the ‘Eleanor’ 1967 Shelby GT500, one of the film cars from the 2000 Touchstone Pictures remake of ‘Gone in 60 Seconds’ starring Nicolas Cage, selling at £95,000.

The real highlight was the beautiful 1968 Ford F3L, the centrepiece of a clutch of Alan Mann Racing cars — Mustang, Mk1 Jag and MkIII Capri — all of which sold. The Len Bailey-designed sports-racer, designed to take over from the GT40, was unsuccessful in period, but Mann’s example has been resurrected in recent years and though not part of the auction is offered as a private treaty sale.

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