Autosport International: The NEC, Birmingham
When exactly is it too late to stop wishing friends and colleagues ‘happy new year’ each January? In the motor racing world, it seems the end of the Autosport International Racing Car Show is the unspoken cut-off date. At the NEC, contacts are reconnected after the slumber of Christmas, seasons full of promise are launched and there’s a buzz that our sport is about to spring back to life.
You always know what to expect from the show, which ran from January 10-13 this year. It changes liffle and is endearingly familiar from the earpopping experience of the Live Action Arena to the halls of colourful stands that all have something to sell, whether it be the highest specifications of engineering technology.., or even humble magazines.
Motor Sport enjoyed a successful show, helped in large part by a popular partnership with Scalextric. A layout of everyone’s favourite toy, built around and within a MINI Challenge racer, drew kids (of all ages!) to take part in a frantic competition: ‘five laps of fury’, for a prize of a Scalextric set of their own. It was won by seven-year-old Jordan Evans who set an incredible time of just 9.67sec on Saturday. Callum Jenkinson was fastest on Sunday, with a time of 9.98sec.
Themed stands this year included tributes to the late Richard Burns, whose incredible collection of rally cars sat proudly on show. A fabulous Tyrrell transporter provided a terrific backdrop to a selection of racers representing Sir Jackie Stewart’s career, while the man himself drew enthusiastic crowds, as he always does.
Force India Grand Prix driver Paul di Resta was there, alongside World Touring Car Champion Rob Huff, who enjoyed something of a glorious homecoming at the show following the title success you can read about elsewhere in this issue.
The Le Mans theme was strong, thanks to the presence of five-time race winners Derek Bell and Emanuele Pirro, plus Allan McNish and Johnny Herbert. The laffer also presented a special karting challenge in memory of the late Dan Wheldon and in aid of the Alzheimers Society. It featured ex-footballer Robbie Savage, double World Superbike Champion Troy Corser and a host of familiar racers.
The NEC complex is hardly the most charismatic place in the country, but for four days each year it is the centre of the motor racing world. We wouldn’t be without it. Damien Smith