Hot Rod legend Barry Lee is planning a comeback with a new car – just one of the classic delights at the first day of Autosport International, Thursday 10 Jan at the NEC.
Sponsored as ever by Burton Power, which celebrates 50 years of trading this year, Lee’s new Mk2 Escort (what else…?) has already proved competitive in a couple of try-outs: ‘They made me start from the back, but I got up to fourth,’ said the four-time Hot Rod World Champion, 1973-’78. ‘Mind you, after 20 minutes I was gasping!
More tin-tops formed the main Historic Sports Car Club display focusing on saloon car racing, from Mk1 Jag and a George Bevan Imp to later Touring cars that will run in this year’s HSCC Super Touring Car Trophy covering 1970-1999. A Jackie Stewart tribute showcased just about every significant car the legend has driven, centred on Tyrrell 003, which took the Scots ace to a win in its first race, the 1971 Spanish GP, and there was the same for the Richard Burns tribute, a by-the-numbers run-through of the cars that propelled the young rally hero to victory, from Peugeot 205 to Prodrive Subarus Legacy and Impreza. Nearby, the Roger Albert Clark Rally stand showcased the most recent rally winner, Martin McCormack’s Escort Mk2, and organiser Colin Heppenstall reported huge interest in the new RAC Championship, with 40 cars registered so far with a prediction of 70 runners in the first event, the Red Kite Stages on January 20.
Classic Team Lotus showed the ex-Jacky Ickx Lotus 72 ‘E5’ plus the Nigel Mansell/Elio de Angelis 94T, opened up to show its works, and more terrifying horsepower was on show on the Santa Pod stand, where the blower scoop atop the monster aluminium V8 in the back of the strip’s rail dragster stood taller than many onlookers. More than 40 classics packed the Coys stand, with nine more due to be wheeled in on Friday morning, to be auctioned from 3pm on Saturday, with something for everyone from rare Veritas and pristine RS1800 to Freddie Mercury’s rusty old Roller.
And that was just the historic element; to see the other three halls of modern tackle, including F1, karts, the live action arena and Autosport Engineering next door, you’d want to allow another day.