Why London ‘ExCels’ for petrolheads

The capital is the place to be this week for car and racing enthusiasts as the London Classic Car Show returns to the cavernous halls of the ExCel complex.

If you head to the ExCel (and you really should) be sure to pop by the Speed Chills stand in the Historic Motorsport International Show section (HM133) where you can win a trip for four to Le Mans Classic this summer. Scooping that prize really would make your visit worthwhile.

Historic Motorsport International 2018

Highlights of previous shows include curated displays celebrating the careers of F1 design heroes Adrian Newey and Gordon Murray, while six-time Le Mans winner Jacky Ickx made a rare public appearance in Britain last year to celebrate his 70th birthday. He was on great form, as I found out first-hand during a privileged one-on-one interview before the show opened.

So the 2018 edition has a lot to live up. Thankfully, the line-up looks certain to deliver once again.

Nigel Mansell is guest of honour this time around and will receive the show's Icon Award. The 1992 F1 World Champion (who, you might remember, also made an ignominious appearance at Le Mans in 2010, crashing out early on) will appear on Sunday afternoon and is bound to draw a crowd. He always does.

Among the cars from his career that will be on display is the Williams-Renault FW14B in which he claimed his F1 title in emphatic fashion more than 25 years ago. Hard to believe it was that long ago.

Another draw will be the Getaway Car display curated by TV actor Philip Glenister (he of Ashes to Ashes fame and therefore a man who will always be associated with the Audi Quattro). For me, a Jaguar Mk2 has to be the ultimate getaway car, in real life or fiction, so I was cheered to see Glenister agrees. One is among his collection.

More motoring personalities will appear on stage at the Supagard Theatre, situated in the sister Historic Motorsport International show taking place in a nearby hall (and open to all Classic Car ticket holders). My old mate Henry Hope-Frost is hosting and will ensure plenty of entertaining chatter to complement the wonderful array of machinery on display.

The London Classic Car Show, which uniquely includes a Grand Avenue upon which road and racing cars parade each day, opens on Thursday evening with a special preview, then runs through Friday and into the weekend.

Speaking of Le Mans, you can't have missed the big news for this year's 24 Hours in June. I must admit, I thought it was a long shot for 2018 – but it's confirmed: Fernando Alonso is heading for La Sarthe to make his Le Mans debut in a Toyota hybrid LMP1.

What a huge boost for the race, particularly in the wake of Porsche's withdrawal. Alonso's status in F1 will make him the headline figure in June and even if one driver can't make up for Porsche's LMP1 absence, his presence will probably draw more attention to the great race this year than we've seen for a while.

Can he win first time out, as his F1 comrade Nico Nulkenberg did a couple of years ago for Porsche? Well, that's absolutely his intention. And with Toyota bound to be hot favourites in the absence of ‘factory' opposition, the Spaniard knows he has a great chance.

He should at least get further than Mansell managed... Then again, he'll also be more than aware that he can't take anything for granted, especially give the team he's driving for. Toyota's hoodoo at Le Mans is becoming a heavy weight for the Japanese giant to bear as each year passes. To win the race, Alonso and his team-mates will have to beat the race – and that is something Toyota has famously never achieved, despite a chain of painful close calls.

What a time to lift the curse. It's going to be unmissable.

Remember to visit Speed Chills on stand HM133!