Historic rally roars into Banbury

Last year the event drew hundreds of spectators to see the cars off
Last year the event drew hundreds of spectators to see the cars off

Tomorrow, Thursday, January 31, Banbury’s Market Place will be transformed into a petrol heads wonderland as the Monte Carlo Rallye Historique returns for the second successive year.

The event’s return last year was heralded as a great success by organisers, rally drivers and the general public and Banbury’s inclusion, after a hiatus of over 50 years, was, in part, due to the town’s links with motorsport.

John Lomas will be entering this years event in his Riley.

John Lomas will be entering this years event in his Riley.

Douglas Anderson, co-ordinator of the UK leg of the rally, said of last year’s decision to include the town: “We chose Banbury because it is located in the centre of the motorsport valley and, given the successful turn out for the Monte Carlo passage, I must say we made the right choice.”

This year’s event will take the same format as last year’s. The Market Place will be filled with 100 or more classic and notable cars from major motorsport firms, local companies, classic car clubs and private owners.

The UK leg of the rally starts in Clydebank, Dumbartonshire at 6pm on Wednesday, January 30. They will leave Banbury, one by one, from a raised platform outside the town hall from around 2pm. To be eligible for the historique, cars must be pre-1981 models and have had taken part in the Monte Carlo Rally.

One entry into this year’s event is a 1936 Riley Sprite driven by John Lomas, managing director of Blue Diamond Riley Services Limited, based at Bicester Heritage.

The event also features modern classics

The event also features modern classics

John said: “We did it last year in an MG TC and we did it two years ago in a Riley Nine when we did John O’ Groats to Monaco in four days.

“We’re supporting it again this time. We have a team of six cars doing it, that we’ve prepared and we’re also having a small service operation in the town.”

It’s hard to estimate the value of all the competitors’ cars, suffice to say it's out of reach for the average household with some notable former rally entrants valued at over £1 million. Despite their worth it is the open road where collectors and fans want the cars to be.

John said: “The thing with this car is they only made 55 and also this model did something called the Mille Miglia, a thousand-mile race in Italy and it’s eligible for the recreation of the Mille Miglia, so if you want to do that, bizarre as it sounds this is a cheap car to do it.

Competitors line up on Bridge Street awaiting the starters call

Competitors line up on Bridge Street awaiting the starters call

John added: “An Alfa Romeo that did it in period is £1.3m, £1.5m, £1.7m. If you think what they’re worth you wouldn’t use it, it would never see the light of day. It’s got to be used.”

Classic cars and stands will be on display from 10am and the rally competitors are due in town around 1.30pm, departing shortly afterwards.

At a preview last week three classic cars were proudly displayed in the Market Place as a taster of tomorrow's event

At a preview last week three classic cars were proudly displayed in the Market Place as a taster of tomorrow's event