Stoneleigh Abbey was founded in 1154 by the Cistercians, the original buildings are long gone although a 14th century gatehouse survives. Following Henry VIII’s altercation with the powers across the channel (nothing new there then) the resulting dissolution of the monasteries lead to its demise. Lord Mayor of London, Sir Thomas Leigh, became the owner in 1558 and built the current mansion, it remained in the family until 1990. Just 15 miles south east of the site was the home of a certain playwright and it’s probable that in his travels he passed through the estates 690 acres (279 hectares if you’ve been metricated). were he viewing today he might have recalled his words from his play ‘The Tempest’.
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world
That has such people in ’t!
This play also has a character called Alonso.
Back to the plot.
Race Retro 2020 was held in the grounds of the National Agricultural Centre (NAEC), Stoneleigh Warwickshire close to Stoneleigh Abbey. Often cited as Europe’s top historic motorsport show the 2020 event saw close to 140 rally cars take to the special stages, including a number of laps by World Rally Champion Didier Auriol in a re-creation of his winning Ford Sierra Cosworth. In amongst the ubiquitous Ford Escorts, Mini’s and Subaru Impreza’s there were the new Skodaru Fabia’s, a Ferrari or two, a Metro 6R4 representing Group B hooligan machinery, and pretty much anything else. All indulging in sideways action around the straw bales and kicking up mud on the soggier bits. Also featured were past British long distance rally vehicles, London to Sydney in a Morris 1800S anyone? Maybe London to Mexico in Austin Maxi for the World Cup Rally is more your style. Just as the crowd wanted.
The British Historic Kart Club (BHKC) ran demonstration sessions, Although appearing small these karts have been the starting point for many a famous champion driver, Ayrton Senna and Lewis Hamilton being particular examples.
Inside the halls the 24,000+ attendees could marvel at a wide range of vehicles on display and learn how to get involved in motorsport.
On the Live Stage, Didier Auriol held an attentive audience with host Gemma Scott, others who regained tales of their exploits included; European Rally Champion Chris Ingram, ex-F1 Lotus driver Martin Donnelly, and 1988 Le Mans winner Andy Wallace. Andy it should be noted recently clocked 304.77 m/hr (thats 490Km/hr) in a derivative of the road going Bugatti Chiron. It’s worth noting that the world land speed record for a wheel driven car didn’t get above this until 1937. Brit Captain George Eyston at the wheel of ‘Thunderbolt’ powered by two 37 litre RR supercharged aero under the bonnet reached 311mph at Bonneville. There was a special tribute area to Norman Dewis OBE the legendary Jaguar test driver who passed away in June 2019 just two months short of his 99th birthday.
Along side them were a multiplicity of traders for those looking for new gear for the season plus an auto jumble for those needing that final something to finish a restoration.
If you’re looking for a quiet pub in the village of Stoneleigh to have a meal or drink after visiting the site, don’t bother. There aren’t any. The local Baron, Lord Leigh, had them all closed over 100 years ago. His daughter had been laughed at by drunks on her way to church on a tricycle, and so in a fit of pique he had them all closed. It seems to take a global pandemic to do that now.
A larger gallery of images is at; https://www.alamy.com/search/lightbox/4085148.html