Autosport International
The Racing Car Show

Keith Bluemel Words by Keith Bluemel
Ginetta G57 promotes increased front-end grip

The Autosport International Racing Car Show, in conjunction with the Performance Car Show, was held at Birmingham’s National Exhibition Centre between 11 – 14 January 2018. The first two days of the show featured the Engineering Show, devoted to specialists in the race support industry in Hall 9, which on the Saturday and Sunday played host to a variety of motor sport disciplines, including grass track racing, oval racing and even tractor pulling – They say that variety is the spice of life!

Lotus Cortina - Sixities touring car cool

Apart from the static displays, there was the always popular Live Action Arena, a Karting track, and an Abarth Adrenaline Zone, where one could have a tyre smoking passenger ride in an Abarth 124 Spider, which proved very popular with constant long queues for the experience. Abarth also had an outside auto test slalom course, where could ride in a 595 and experience its performance. Both Abarth ride features were a new innovation this year, and completely free of charge.

Steve Soper's controversial 1983 Rover SD1 British Saloon Car

One of the feature displays at the show was a celebration of 60 Years of the British Touring Car Championship, with cars spanning from the sixties Lotus Cortina , through a ‘70s Rover SD1, that won the championship, but was subsequently disqualified, to modern contenders like the Ford Focus. Another 60th anniversary was that of Formula Junior, with some of the series iconic historic cars on display, like the Stanguellini, Lotus 18, Cooper T56 and Brabham BT6. The series was an important stepping stone to higher formulas, and the cars of the period looked very similar to their F1 counterparts. F1 racing magazine hosted the regular display of contemporary F1 cars, with examples from Ferrari, Mercedes, McLaren, Red Bull, Renault, Force India, Williams and Haas. There was another Williams in the Business/VIP Lounge, a McLaren next to the Autosport Live Stage, and two further Ferraris on the company’s stand, which was adjacent to the stage, and without doubt the largest and most impressive stand at the show.

2017 grid at the F1 Racing stand

Whilst making mention of the Ferrari stand, it featured a fine array of models that come under the umbrella of the company’s Corse Clienti and Competizioni GT divisions, and this was the first motor show at which they have had a stand dedicated to their activities. They comprised of a 2004 F1 car, together with a 2017 F70H static display F1 car, a 488 GT3 decorated in the FIA WEC class winning colour scheme, a 488 Challenge car and the spectacular FXX-K Evo static display car, as first shown at the Finali Mondiali gathering at the Mugello circuit last October. Just as interesting as the cars on the stand, was the film being shown on a large screen at the rear of the stand, which featured some captivating rare period racing footage.

Ferrari FXX-K Evo was a crowd-pleaser in Birmingham

Part of the reason for the Ferrari presence at the show, was to evaluate the possibility of launching a UK dedicated Chellenge Series in 2019, so as to gauge reaction from possible clients who might contemplate taking part. The series would be run under the same current regulations in force for the European Series, which of course UK entrants would still be eligible to participate in. Further details are due to be announced at the European Chellenge Series round at Silverstone in April, and at the FIA WEC 6 Hours of Silverstone in August.

Porsche's sadly-retired 919 Hybrid 2017 Le Mans champ

There were also Ferrari works GT drivers in attendance including James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi, who won the FIA WEC GTE Class Drivers’ Championship in 2017, together with Miguel Molina and Marc Gené, all of whom visited the stand and took part in question and answer sessions on the Autosport Live Stage. This stage also saw a large number of other motor sport celebrities being interviewed over the course of the show, these included five times Le Mans winner (and  nine times consecutive podium finisher) Emanuele Pirro, who is always great entertainment value, whilst at the same time providing a great insight into the world of the endurance racing driver. Another was the 2000 and 2001 US Champ Car series Champion and winner of the 2003 Indianapolis 500, Gil de Ferran, who was also very entertaining and humble.

Two kinds of toughness - Nigel Mansell with Billy Monger

It would be fair to say that the biggest crowd around the stage were for the great British motor racing hero, “Il Leone” to the Italian fans when he was driving for Ferrari, Nigel Mansell. He was on the stage with an upcoming star, 18 year old Billy Monger, who lost his lower legs in a horrific F4 accident at the Donington circuit in April 2017. He has shown amazing resilience and determination to get back behind the wheel of a racing car, and was doing exhibition runs, including rubber burning doughnuts, in a Jaguar F-Type in the Live Arena through the course of the show. Both received rapturous applause at the end of their chat session.

Iconic Rothmans Ford Escort rally car

The Coys Auction on the Saturday featured a variety of offerings, including a selection of Ferrari models, including a wild yellow F40 “Evo”, chassis # 80782, with some Michelotto “trick bits”, and an ex-Colonel Ronnie Hoare 365 GT4 BB, chassis # 18267, looking very attractive in its original colour combination of metallic Blu Dino with a beige leather interior. There were also a couple of rare in the UK examples of Italian market models, a Dino 208 GT4 and a 208 GTS Turbo, together with a pair of US market Mondials, an 8 and a 3.2 Cabriolet, although both looked in need of some TLC, as did some of the other Ferraris on offer. They also had a Ferrari “Wanabee” in the form of a 1959 MG Milano, built by JWF Glass-Fibre Industries in Australia on a MG J2 chassis with a MG TF 1500cc engine, clothed in a Mondial/Monza style sports racing car body.

Latest Bentley Continental GT3 twin-turbo V8 delivers 550 horsepower
Unmistakable Audi Quattro

Porsche had a stand opposite Ferrari, featuring a 911 GT3 Cup race model and a 911 GT2 RS road car, whilst Bentley showed their new Continental GT3 model, and there were numerous niche market manufacturers like Praga from Czechoslovakia, Ginetta, Ligier, Norma and Radical with a selection of models, plus a number of personalization companies. These included Liberty Walk, with, as last year, some wild custom body kits, including one on a 488 GTB, which although not as wild as last year’s 458 Italia offering was still pretty wild! If rallying is your thing then there were plenty of rally cars spread around the halls, the biggest concentration being on the Dayinsure Rally Wales GB stand, with an array of 2018 WRC contenders, whilst a number of drivers also appeared on the Live Stage over the weekend. Once again the show was a broad palette of motor sport at all levels, and attracted vast crowds over the course of the weekend.

All Photos by Keith Bluemel

Ex-Lance Reventlow/Chuck Daigh 1960 Scarab Grand Prix car