“It’s funny how things pan out,” I thought as I picked out a parking spot behind the colossal grandstands at Rockingham.
This was the Abarth Day, 20th May 2017. I wasn’t supposed to be here. To be honest, just a few days beforehand I didn’t even know it was going on, and when I was told about it and offered an invite I’d turned it down. But here I was – squeezing a small van into a parking spot between an Abarth 595 and a 124 Spider like some kind of cancello-crasher.
I’d been invited by motoring writer Jonny Edge as he was in the Northants ‘hood to check out the Abarth Day, and whilst he was kinda nearby the day before, a colleague and I had met up and invited Jonny to chat about a couple of bits. Jonny then invited me to join him the next day at Rockingham, but I had other things to do. It was a shame but oh well, life gets in the way.
After a few hours of exciting planning over iced teas and patchy wifi I headed back home. Once I got there, and having strip-searched myself and the Lotus, I realised I’d left an important item in Kettering. FML.
After a few phone calls the following morning it turned out I’d be heading back along the A47 and A43. Straight past Rockingham.
“Jonny, any chance you can still get me into the circuit?”
Needless to say – as I’m sure you’ve spotted pictures of Abarths on this page by now – he did get me in. He even arranged a ride for me in their new rally car, but I still had jobs to that day do so regrettably passed up the opportunity.
What I did get from that short visit, however, is not only how cool Abarths are (both old and new) but just how many of them had turned up. And also just how many examples had been sold over the last few years. The day was there to show Abarth owners how much the brand loved them, and wanted to treat them to a nice day out.
Whatever the collective name for scorpions is – nest, maybe – is what this place was. It was a real eye-opener.
As 595s popped and bagged whilst handbraking round cones on the autotest, and tyres screeched as 124s slid round the infield circuit, it became clear that the delicate fragility I’d have associated with Abarth was a thing of the past. These things were designed to be ragged. Redlines on rev counters were a target, not a warning. And tyres? They’re replaceable.
A look at the historics also showed that history was still a powerful draw – and that size has always been the selling point of an Abarth, but in the opposite way most companies use size to show off.
With a few dozen pics on my phone and a final look around their new rally car slick-shod and ready to thrill, I bid Jonny farewell and thanked him for the invite, as he chatted to owners and prepared for his ride in the 340bhp brute.
Leaving Rockingham whilst others were still piling in, the clouds looked as heavy as the average Abarth owner’s right foot.
I rejoined the A43, switched my headlights on, set the window wipers going, and had to smile. I hope the rally driver was as good at losing grip as I had been at losing my things.
I’d like to thank Jonny once more for the invite and apologise for having to get going early, but hope he enjoyed having Abarth to himself – even if it was a bit wet.