A month ago I travelled to the Autosport International Show in Birmingham for the first ever time. Having wanted to attend for a number of years I was thrilled when I was selected as an official blogger for the event. I travelled from Northern Ireland, flying in on the Friday and heading home on Monday – giving me two full days to take the show in.
I attended with my other half who has been to the show before but as an exhibitor so it would also be his first time to see everything properly and in a relaxed manner. I had heard plenty of times before that the space was vast but I was not prepared for what I saw when I arrived. There is so much to see and do that it is hard to know where to go first. We decided to do an initial walkabout – get our bearings and an idea of what was on show – before stopping at stands to look at them properly. While this was a good idea in theory we were soon slowed down not long after we started after discovering a number of motorsport merchandise stands close to the entrance we had come in. After we had eyed up some items which we planned to return at a later time to purchase, we got back to our plan of wandering around just to see what was what.
There is so much on show at Autosport International including the aforementioned merchandise, as well as auto, engineering, and racing displays. It was interesting to hear the likes of David Coulthard and Allan McNish offer their views on the past F1 season, as well as enjoying the banter between the British Touring Car drivers. At the start of the day I collected the schedule sheets for who would be on the Autosport and F1 Racing stages and when from the media centre, and this allowed us to plan our day around who we wanted to see talking. There were also autograph sessions throughout the two days but I will admit I only attended two. One of them was at the Dunlop BTCC stand where I got all the touring car drivers in one fell swoop including Dave Newsham, Tom Ingram, Colin Turkington and Andrew Jordan. The second was at the very end of the Sunday, just before I left, with Petter Solberg. Really, the reason I did not attend many of the autograph sessions was the queues. I didn’t mind if I got the autographs or not so to me I felt I would rather be walking around than standing in a queue for 45 minutes.
I had a thoroughly enjoyable time at Autosport International. There was so much more than I actually expected to be there. I made a couple of purchases at some of the stands as well as picking up a lot of literature about some of the exhibitors. While there I also signed up to Project Brabham, an innovative idea which allows fans to get closer to racing action as Brabham Racing return to the track. My visit to Autosport International wasn’t complete without attending the Live Action Arena which was loud and exhilarating. As anyone who has attended a live motorsport event will tell you, you cannot beat the smell of burning rubber and fuel and the sound of tyres squealing and the Live Action Arena did not disappoint.
People travel from all over the country – and other countries! – to attend Autosport International, Europe’s largest indoor pre-season motorsport event. Here are just some of the things other first time visitors thought of the show.
It was “awesome!” and “well-organised”
Andy – who attended the show with his seven year old daughter – explained that the show is “an eclectic mix of stands, people and personalities from enthusiasts to World Champions across all sorts of motorsport”.
Fellow first time visitor Charlotte was impressed with how well-organised and well put-together the whole show was: “High quality supplementary materials such as the paddock pass and high quality signage around the event meant the show felt extremely professional and well worth the ticket price. The mix of exhibitors and stands was also a bonus!”
Andy had the opportunity to meet David Brabham and discuss Project Brabham which aims to bring the historic name back to racing, starting with WEC. This opportunity may not have been possible otherwise.
Charlotte also enjoyed this aspect: “We stumbled across Andrew Jordan, Gordon Shedden and Matt Neal who were kind enough to chat with us and let us take pictures with them. Meeting motorsport celebrities is good enough, but the fact they’re so grounded and genuinely nice guys is great!”
Alex travelled to the show by car from London on the Thursday and explained that his highlight was all about the social side. “I was meeting a number of people I am connected with through Twitter,” he revealed. “I would [return in the future] but more for networking than anything.”
Autosport International is certainly a great place for networking. It brings everybody together under one roof giving visitors the opportunity to meet up with people they have maybe only interacted with online. It also allows people to meet other people in their field of work – for example – if you are exhibiting or wanted to know something in particular about a certain topic. The access to thousands of like minded people is certainly not something you can experience on a day-to-day basis.
As I mentioned at the start of the post it is hard to know what to expect before attending the show.
“During the run-up I had seen pictures on Facebook of the exhibitions being set up which got me really excited,” Charlotte explained. “Somehow even then my expectations weren’t high enough. What we saw and experienced on the day was above and beyond what I had anticipated. Yes, stationary cars were everywhere, but I’ve never seen such a variety, and if anyone thinks it’s just about the cars they’re quite wrong!”
For Andy, everything was “bigger, better and – in the live arena – louder” than he had expected.
Alex found the show “interesting”. “I am not interested in the engineering side of things but had a wander around there and was impressed at the amount of different, niche things on display,” he revealed. “I’m actually not too bothered about motorsport (beyond F1 and the occasional track day) so much of the stuff there wasn’t massively interesting to me but I still spent a long time looking around.”
Live Action Arena
One of the unique features of Autosport International is the Live Action Arena which features displays from stock cars to Rallycross, and drift champions to monster trucks. This year there was also taxi racing, and a stunt display by Terry Grant and WRC and World RX champion Petter Solberg.
Jens travelled from Germany for the show although it was not technically his first time, having first visited back in 1999. His highlight was the Live Action Arena. “HotRods and Stockcars are just awesome,” he said. “[My] highlight was the performance of the Oval Racing Series in the Live Action Arena!”
“I have been to a few car shows over the years and I find they all tend to be similar,” Alex – who just attended on the Thursday – explained. “I like the fact this one has the live element and would make an effort to catch that if I return.”
“It’s difficult to choose just one, so many aspects of the day will stand out for a long time,” Charlotte explained. “The live action show was a real highlight introducing us to many racing series we’d heard of but never had a chance to see in person – the stunt driving displays were everything anyone could want from a performance show.”
While the Autosport International Show is certainly impressive, because there is so much to see and do, it may become repetitive.
In the past, Autosport has featured Formula One car launches and drivers such as Jenson Button, Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil have been guests in the past. Obviously they have other commitments, but this year’s show distinctly lacked in current F1 drivers. This left some visitors, such as Darren (who has been twice before) disappointed. “In previous years there have been current F1 drivers, legends of the sport and autograph sessions constantly throughout the day, but this year even though DC was a headline name, there wasn’t the same number of stars to see,” Darren explained. “I appreciate Autosport would’ve done everything they could to get more names, but it did leave me disappointed.”
He also went on to say that while the Live Action Arena was impressive it left him wanting more. This links in to the idea of things becoming repetitive if you see them every year as it is undoubtedly increasingly difficult to introduce new displays that people have not seen before.
While the focus is featured largely on Formula One and the British Touring Car Championship, some felt that further emphasis on other racing series such as WEC and Formula E – which is an emerging championship so may be more heavily featured in the future – would enhance the show.
Returning in 2016
Some people are already making plans to return next year. “We plan to arrive even earlier to make sure we can get round and see as much as possible,” Charlotte said. Jens added: “[I would] love to return in the future, maybe I will drop our German Motorshow in Essen in favour of the Autosport Show.”
The 2016 show will be held a weekend later, from the 14th – 17th of January. Let the countdown begin!