Amid the economic gloom, the robust health of Britain’s motorsport industry remains one important reason for cheer. According to data compiled by the Motorsport Industry Association, 60 per cent of motorsport companies reported an increase in sales last year, and more than one in 10 said sales had gone up by more than 50 per cent.
So you can expect a buoyant atmosphere at the Autosport International Racing Car Show, which is taking place at Birmingham’s National Exhibition Centre this week (10-13 January).
Despite the name of the show, there’s a whole lot more to see than celebrity drivers and million-pound Formula 1 racing cars. Under the vast roof of the NEC, Autosport International brings together the cream of niche automotive manufacturing, road cars and aftermarket suppliers.
From ARE Dry Sump Systems to ZRP Racing Parts, the show is populated by hundreds of companies that make the motorsport and performance car industries tick.
With the first two days being for the trade, the show opens its doors to the public from 9am on Saturday, and it’s not too late to snap up tickets. Adult admission costs £31, with children’s tickets priced at £20 (under-fives go free). Paddock passes are available from £41, with VIP tickets £110.
Here are some good reasons to start plotting your route to Birmingham…
See Autocar's star cars
Our display, which forms part of the Performance Car Show, features four of the stand-out cars from the past 12 months. Visitors will be able to get up close to the beautiful Ferrari F12 Berlinetta, the V12-engined, £239,736 supercar that we described as “one of Ferrari’s finest achievements to date” when we first sampled it last summer. Joining Maranello’s offering is the brilliant Subaru BRZ, one of our favourite sports coupés and exceptional fun for the money, as well as the brutish Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Black Series and outrageous Morgan 3 Wheeler. And making an extra-special appearance is the latest Mastretta MXT. You’ll also get the chance to listen as our experts discuss the cars on display and their favourite car-related moments of 2012.
Remember Richard Burns
A seven-car line-up put together by Motorsport News pays tribute to 2001 world rally champion Richard Burns. Headlining the display is a Subaru Impreza WRC that Burns drove in his title-winning season. Another Impreza on show is the car he took to victory on Rally GB in 2000. The Legacy models he used during his successful 1992 Group N and 1993 British championship campaigns are also present, as are the Group N 205 GTI driven to the 1990 and 1991 Peugeot Challenge titles, Group A 309 GTI from 1991 and Burns’s works 206 WRC.
Watch live action
For one weekend of the year, one of the NEC’s halls becomes the largest indoor race track in the UK. British drift champ Paul ‘Smokey’ Smith is strutting his stuff, and there are displays from Porsche Boxsters, Supermoto Quads, Autograss Class 8 and BriSCA F1 Stock Cars. Keep an eye open for the Autocar-backed Best of British parade, too.
Walk the F1 racing grid
Every grand prix-winning car from 2012 forms part of a mouth-watering display of modern F1 machinery assembled by our sister magazine, F1 Racing. Heading the line-up is Red Bull Racing’s Renault-powered RB8, which secured the drivers’ and constructors’ championships last year in the hands of Sebastian Vettel. Also taking their places on the grid are the Ferrari F2012, McLaren Mercedes MP4-27, Mercedes F1 W03, Lotus-Renault E20 and Williams-Renault FW34. Completing the line-up are cars from Sahara Force India, Sauber, Toro Rosso, Caterham and Marussia.
Salute Sir Jackie Stewart
Key machines from the three-time world champion’s racing career are on show in the feature display in Hall 20. The three cars he drove to his F1 world titles — the Tyrrell 006 (1973), Tyrrell 003 (1971) and Matra MS80 (1969) — are joined by the BRM P261 in which he scored his first grand prix victory in 1965 and the Stewart-Ford SF3 that delivered him a win as a team owner in 1998. Four sports cars raced by Stewart are also displayed.
Snap up racing history
Coys’ annual car auction is now an established part of Autosport International. Show-goers have the chance on Friday to view the high-performance road cars and racing machinery that will be auctioned on Saturday. Two stand-out cars from rallying’s Group B era take centre stage this year: a 1985 Peugeot 205 T16 and 1986 MG Metro 6R4. Other cars for sale include a 1962 Jaguar E-type Series 1 roadster, 1953 Jaguar XK120 roadster, 1953 Austin Healey 100/4, 1967 Triumph TR4 and 1975 Porsche 911 RSR replica.
Visit the Performance Car Show
The Performance Car Show, backed by our sister website PistonHeads, draws together some of the most interesting (and occasionally downright bonkers) offerings from niche manufacturers, modified car specialists and owners’ clubs. It also features the head-turning Supercar Paddock, with exotica such as the Lamborghini Aventador, Ferrari 458 Spider, Mercedes SLS AMG and Audi R8 V10 Spyder. Cobra Sports Exhausts is showing off its modded Nissan Skyline GT-R, and Shark Performance has a 260bhp Volkswagen Golf on its stand. Ariel, Ginetta, Caterham and Radical are also in attendance.
See a future champion
Make a note of the name ‘Jake Dennis’, because if you don’t recognise him now, there’s a strong chance that you will as he continues to rise through the racing ranks. Dennis, the winner of last year’s Formula Renault 2.0 NEC title, scooped another major prize in December: the McLaren Autosport BRDC Award. Previous winners include Jenson Button and David Coulthard. On the main Autosport stage, Dennis will be speaking about his career to date.