The motor racing year started in earnest on January 13-16 when Autosport International opened its doors to the public.
Ex-Formula 1 commentator Murray Walker topped the guest list and spoke to a packed crowd about the thrills and spills of the F1 paddock. New BBC lead commentator Martin Brundle and presenter Jake Humphrey were on stage to talk about past stories and the season ahead. Brundle also hosted the Watkins Lecture offended by Red Bull’s Christian Homer and Adrian Newey.
Although there was a notable absence of current F1 drivers, 1979 World Champion Jody Scheckter was in affendance, as were drivers from other series including 2010 BTCC champion Jason Plato, WTCC drivers Andy Priaulx and Rob Huff, eight-time Le Mans winner Tom Kristensen, twotime Le Mans winner Allan McNish and 2010 ALMS champ David Brabham.
Brabham once again hosted the annual Celebrity Karting Challenge, which this year raised funds for Starlight a charity that helps children suffering from severe or terminal illness to realise their dreams. Brabham himself drove one of the karts, but he was also joined by Aston Martin works driver Darren Turner, ex-Stig Ben Collins, ex-politician and amateur racer Lord Paul Drayson and, perhaps best of all, the two stars of the BBC series Gears and Tears, F1 Stock Car rivals Stu Smith and Danny Wainman.
The NEC show is accepted as one of the best places to launch new race series and cars, and despite the current economic climate, there were plenty of announcements to interest wouldbe racers. The EV Cup an electric car race series was launched on the first day of the show, as well as a new Caterham model, three new Radical sports cars and the new Gineffa G55.
Various manufacturers had large stands showing off their latest race and road machines. McLaren had a superb line-up of cars that included the 1989 MP4-5, 1988 MP4/4, 1974 M23 and 1969 M7C F1 cars, as well as a 1970 M8D, the 1977 M24B Indycar and its latest road car, the MP4-12C.
It was Lotus with the big F1 news though as it displayed the new black and gold Lotus-Renault livery that the team will use during the 2011 season. Flanking the car were many other Lotus racers such as the new GT4 Evora, the 2010 lndycar, new GP3 and GP2 machines and its customer singleseater, the T125 a project that ex-F1 star Jean Alesi will now oversee as test and development driver (see p15).
Motor Sport teamed up with Marussia Virgin Racing for the show and provided the public with a chance to experience the role played by a race engineer over a Grand Prix weekend. A row of ‘pit perches’ where you could alter downforce levels, tyre compounds and engine seffings proved particularly popular as well as proving to a couple of Motor Sport staff members that they were beffer off producing a magazine than becoming race engineers… Ed Foster