Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Retro Rides Gathering 2013: Preview

Photos: Chris Frosin; words - David Murphy

A few years ago the Retro Rides forum attended its first show, The Retro Cars Show organised by the magazine of the same name. We had eight cars on our stand. Fast forward a couple of years to the last Retro Cars Show and we had a stand of over one hundred cars. It was about that point that we decided doing our own show was a good idea.

The first attempt was at Mallory Park, with the Retro Rides Show, club stands and RWYB track action on the Saturday, VSCC racing and club stands on the Sunday. From an organisational point of view it was a disaster - apparently it was quite good fun to be at, but I can’t really remember much of the weekend as I didn’t sleep for three days. The organising team fell apart, but a couple of us wanted to do another show, but something had to change if we were doing it all again. The inaugural Retro Rides Gathering was a static only show at Gaydon Motor Museum; a couple of hundred cars in the car park, with entry to the museum and a nights camping if you fancied it. Much more relaxed, much nicer, much less stress, lovely.

A few venue moves later, we found ourselves on the phone to Prescott and them having a spare weekend for us, perfect. We had finally found a home, so we set out to do what we do well: what at least one of our regulars recently described us as “the only show that matters”. We had the track, one that you could really get your teeth into, in a venue set up for point to point hill climbing. We had decided to go down the hillclimb and sprint route as it is the closest thing to drag racing, but with corners. Track days are fine and we’ve seen a few more events running auto tests and track days alongside shows in the last couple of years, but hill climbing offers the perfect entry level have-a-go motorsport, without the danger of getting hit by some other over enthusiastic driver. It is also very spectator friendly with cars constantly heading up the hill.

Now we had a stable venue and a stable base of attendees, we set about our other favourite activity: finding guest cars. For us, guest cars aren’t the main reason to go to the show, but they are usually a car one of the organisers wants to see in the flesh, or running up the hill, and we hope that the good folk attending the show agree. We wanted to see a Berg Cup car running on a UK hillclimb, so we got one over from Germany - in fact we got two. We wanted some more VSCC action, so we picked a great crowd pleaser. This year we got the car of the moment, the Forge Motorsport Golf, and a selection of wild racing cars including our first venture into the world of high level classic racers with the Chaparrals we have attending the show.

The show isn’t without its organisational headaches though. Every year the show has got bigger - we are in our third year at Prescott and we currently have over 760 club cars booked in; that is a hundred more than last year and six hundred and sixty more than the first Gathering at Gaydon. Club wise we are already filling the space we have available at Prescott, so we’re going to have to draw some triangles and work out where we can squeeze everyone in next year. That’s right, we’re already planning next year’s show, and we’ve been working on some aspects of it since April this year.

One of our other challenges each year is the guest car line up - can we top the previous year? Can we find those cars that won’t be anywhere else? Can we get the cars of the moment to be there? Each year we start out with a list of possible cars, we’ve already got a list for 2014. Occasionally this is made trickier by last-minute drop outs; we very nearly ended up with no Berg Cup car in 2011 as the gearbox ate itself a week before our event, but some serious work by Ralph got it to the show. Last year our 800bhp Audi Quattro from the Netherlands couldn’t make it due to a late breakage, so Hamish bought down his just-finished car as a replacement at the last minute. This year the Dutch Quattro has 1000bhp and a ferry ticket, let’s hope he makes it!

Each year more people want to get on track - we make improvements and increase capacity a bit each year, but there is a physical limit and we’re pretty close to it. We’re currently looking at doing more events, including a RWYB-only event so people can get out on a hillclimb if they miss out at The Gathering. Also another show may well be in the works; additionally with half the organising team moving to New Zealand, expect an RR Gathering NZ to take place.

We love our little show, and we love how it has grown, we hope you love it too. We’ll not stop putting in massive effort each year to improve it rather than rest on our laurels and phone it in now we’ve got a good thing going. So will 2014 be better than 2013? Sure… but 2013 is already going to be amazing, so you should definitely be there.

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