It’s the screeching tyres you hear first, sounding unexpectedly like school-kids cheering on their mates at Sports Day. The crowd starts walking more quickly to see what’s happening. We’ve entered the Adrenaline Zone at the AutoSport International Racing Car Show where Ginetta sports cars are being screamed around an indoor race track. Race drivers are taking passengers on a sliding, drifting, heart-palpitating ride around one of the massive NEC halls in which the show is based.
An Elva and other goodies on display at the Coy’s stand
That’s just the introduction to the motoring excitement. Further on in the Live Action Arena are hour long shows of celebs, stunts and introductions to some of the many different UK race series. ‘It does get a bit noisy,’ said the lady handing out ear defenders. She wasn’t wrong.
I suppose I have watched motor racing indoors before – but the cars have been on TV. Here it’s much more exhilarating. You’re sitting down indoors – but the cars are zooming around in front of you. Five thousand spectators look out over the large Hall 5, which has been turned into a temporary race track. Thumping music and big screens add to the fun. It’s dark and exciting, and a projected countdown before the start ups the expectation. Ten, nine, eight…lights flash, sounds wail. You’re prepared for amazing things. Will Lewis Hamilton parachute through the roof whilst dueting with Lady Gaga and driving his Championship-winning car or will a stunt driver start the show by appearing in a Range Rover balanced on two wheels?
Unfortunately it’s an immediate anticlimax. A white hatchback slowly pootles in, a presenter gets out, takes a picture of the crowd for Twitter and says something at length through a booming, barely comprehensible PA system. It’s not the ideal start to what quickly becomes an exciting motorsport extravaganza. The new Jaguar C-X75 from the latest James Bond film is given an airing, hurtling around the custom-built track. There are motorcycle stunts from the UK FMX freestyle MX team, and mini races from auto grass, drifters and many more. Alastair Moffat attempts a world record for the tightest 360 spin – though whether he did it or not was rather unclear. More impressive were the exploits of stunt driver Terry Grant, who – in a don’t try this at home trick – locked his Jaguar into a never-ending doughnut and then calmly climbed out, stood on the tarmac and waved to the crowd. He also did drive a Range Rover around the track on two wheels which would have made a more impressive opening to the show. The McLaren GT team also did a live pitstop, showing the speed in which they can change four tyres and refuel, before Speedway hot rods took over, wheelying up the track in bizarre fashion like motorised hand puppets baring their teeth.
The blurry madness of indoor motor-racing
Away from the live motoring more celebrities were out and about in the main hall. ‘That was normality for me,’ Damon Hill was saying, explaining that he was unable to comment on what it was like to be the son of a world champion because all he had ever experienced was being the son of a world champion. His old F1 team Williams had a display of their historic cars, demonstrating their contribution to the sport. Other big names around included Felipe Massa, Rob Smedley and Allan McNish and Petter Solberg, whilst historic racing was represented by the Silvertone Classic and an HSCC stand of beautiful old timers including an ex-Rodney Nuckey 1953 Cooper Bristol MkII.
A Hot Hatch Nirvana had a collection of the classic vehicles that contributed to the big engine in a shopping trolley type of exciting driving. Artist PopBangColour was live painting throughout the show.
Amongst the stands a Westfield caught the eye, along with several of the cars for sale on the Coys auction stand. An Elva (etymology: Elle Va – She goes…)would fit the bill nicely. Mission Motorsport were there with examples of the cars they use to rehabilitate wounded servicemen.
Motor sports shut down in the winter but for fans who need a fix when waiting for the new season to begin the Autosport Show is a huge January extravaganza. Thousands of stands, hundreds of cars, and every level of motorsport from karting to F1. Not long now until the new season F1 cars are introduced and the racing season starts again, but until then the Autosport show is an exciting extravaganza for those missing the racing action on track.