Once again its January, and it can only mean one thing, the annual visit to Autosport International.
On Friday night in the bar, we were trying to work out how many years we had been going to the show. We couldn't agree on a figure but according to the organisers this was its 22nd year and we are pretty sure we haven't missed a show at the NEC!
Catering for both fans and industry alike, Autosport International is a Motorsport trade, engineering and public show that features all levels of motor sport from Karting up to Formula 1. Generally Thursday and Friday are set aside for trade and college visitors whilst on the Saturday and Sunday the doors are opened to the public. The layout of the show also reflects this as the Engineering Exhibition Halls are only open on Thursday / Friday and are replaced by Short Oval / Grass Track racing exhibition at the weekends.
For 2012 I was working on a stand on the Thursday and had a few meetings / catch ups arranged for the Friday. Unfortunately flu got the better of me on Friday, so this year I only managed a small selection of photos from the show.
The all-new Ford Fiesta RS World Rally Car livery was revealed on Thursday when the company's official team unveiled the new colours that will adorn the car in the 2012 FIA World Rally Championship.
The team will continue to be sponsored by Castrol Edge. Branding for Castrol's global range of best-in-class motor oils will feature prominently in the Fiesta RS WRC's new livery for the upcoming season, as it did in ‘11.
Whilst Ford unveiled its latest WRC offering, a modified version of a popular car from the past days of Group B Rallying was unveiled on the Forge Motorsport Stand. The Monster Energy sponsored RS200 is the latest creation for an attempt at a British win on the Pikes Peak hillclimb and will be driven by Rallycross star Liam Doran.
The display board alongside the RS200 shows that the 2.4 BDT engine will be giving a power output of 925hp which should help achieve 0-60mph in 1.7secs and has a top speed of 160mph.
Go Motorsport's display stand at this year’s Show was promoting all forms of grass roots motor sport as organised by hundreds of car clubs throughout the UK.
Proving that motor sport is both more affordable and more accessible than many believe, the ‘Join Your Local Motor Club’ showcase at the National Exhibition Centre featured an array of inexpensive competition vehicles, and was manned by members of car clubs (inc me) from the region around Birmingham’s NEC complex.
Cars on show included those regularly used for a wide range of disciplines including asphalt rallying, sporting trials, autotests, sprints and road rallies. Indeed many were unmodified road cars providing potential participants with one of the most cost-effective ways of enjoying the thrills of competitive motor sport without the need to invest in specialist machinery. Several of the vehicles also featured special controls permitting those with disabilities to compete alongside their normally-abled opponents.
Whilst the wide array of vehicles on the stand drew a lot of interest, and proved that you can compete in motorsport in the daily shoping car, it still seemed that the Mini and Escort Mk2 were two of the favourites amongst the visitors with cameras.
Another feature getting plenty of interest at the show was the Senna display.
With Triple Formula One World Champion Ayrton Senna still very much in the hearts and minds of motorsport fans, Autosport International's tribute to the F1 legend featured a collection of cars that launched his motorsport career and helped power him to three titles, 41 race victories and 80 podium finishes.
Four of the Brazilian’s most successful F1 cars: the 1988 McLaren MP 4/4 that powered him to his first World Championship, the McLaren MP 4/8 that Senna famously steered to victory in the rain at the 1993 European Grand Prix, the Toleman TG 183B from his debut F1 season and his 1987 Monaco Grand Prix winning Lotus Honda 99T were on display, along with a 1982 Formula Ford 2000 and the D.A.P/Parilla kart from his 1980 Karting World Championship campaign.
Now a well established annual feature of the show, the F1 grid display at Autosport provides a real treat for fans who have never had the chance to get close to an F1 car.
Whilst I've been lucky enough to see F1 cars in the flesh, I'm not an efficiando on F1 but I do love the opportunity for a close look at these cars.
It is reported elsewhere that if you're familiar with F1 machinery and take a closer inspection, you'll notice that the grid is far from current F1 cars. For example the Mercedes GP car has a 2011 livery but resembles a 2006 BAR whilst the Red Bull has the shark-fin, far from the 2011 championship dominating machinery.
Though these mixed up display models often create a bit of a stir with die-hard fans complaining about them not being the actual cars, any team would be silly to put their closely guarded designs on public display infront of thousands of camera totting visitors.Instead of complaining, it can be fun to work out where the cars have come from - the Williams is at least 3 different cars mashed together. (Thanks to Badger GP for the F1 dispay information).
It is impossible to write about everything on display at Autosport International, there is simply too much. But hopefully the following images will provide a little bit of a flavour of the variety on show.
Click on any of the images to see the larger version.