AUTOSPORT INTERNATIONAL 2013 was sprung on the GTROC Board & myself at what I can only describe as the proverbial last minute! Not helped by the fact that Santa was also about to do his rounds this mean’t that many of the people or organisations we would have to contact & deal with prior to going were off on their seasonal holidays until after the New Year! I can’t put into words the overall speed & efficiency of all those involved, but if you can’t bring Mohammed to the mountain, we definitely brought the mountain to him! So the well oiled machine of the GTROC did the phone calls, emails, meetings, more meetings, ordering, logistics (did I mention meetings!?) & deliveries which were all sorted just in time … literally! For the first time ever the club was asked to put a club & retail stand on display in one of the main halls on the Saturday and Sunday of AUTOSPORT INTERNATIONAL. Its not as if the club hasn’t attended before, or wasn’t there for the first two days of this year either. Normally we are spread out over other stands & displays so this was the first time we would have a focal point at this event that not only our members could come & visit, but the public too. AUTOSPORT is held every year at the NEC in Birmingham (that’s England for those you reading abroad) with over five hundred other exhibitors in attendance for what is a pre-season opener for motorsport of all varieties. So layman’s terms this is the place that if a racing team is announcing new drivers, then they will do it at AUTOSPORT! If a brand new racing car is being unveiling, they will do it AUTOSPORT! If a team or a driver has a new sponsor, it will be announced at AUTOSPORT. So for those of you who have never attended this show before, besides the fact of where have you been then this is why the motorsport industry has huge ring around the calendar dates every year!
For me personally this was the first time EVER that not only was I going to AUTOSPORT, but attended the NEC at Birmingham as well. I’d been past the NEC on the M6, but never had I turned off & entered the labyrinth of roads or access ways that surround the NEC. God bless the iPhone, SAT-NAV & ROSS (who was already there) for the directions & guidance once the safety of the M6 was left behind! Man what a complete maze even with all of the thousands of signs! Anyhoo, like everyone else I made it without too much more trouble to find the Motley crew assembled & waiting in hall nine to put our stand together. After three to four hours of cursing, swearing, hard work & some joviality the GTROC was ready to rock & roll. So I then played taxi (getting lost AGAIN!) ferrying us all from the NEC to our hotel near Birmingham airport on the Friday night Saturday morning! I even paid £1.20 for the privilege of dropping off the first lot to the hotel after entering the airports pick up & drop off zone! Once we all there a few drinks & a meal were called for to which we then all retired for a few hours sleep – literally! Could I sleep … no I bloody couldn’t! Call it too many lie ins leading up the event or the overall excitement but when that alarm went at 06:30am I knew by that evening I’d be shattered. In fact come 10:30pm that evening I don’t even remember leaving the restaurant where we had all gathered & just waking up at 06:45am Sunday morning! No alcohol involved either! So health warning people, don’t stay awake for thrity five hours or so!
The whole weekend saw ROSS & Penny; MUDFLAP & Maureen; IMS; ROG350Z (sharking & dog on heat); JAPFREAK786; VIHIS (& his chocolate chat up lines!); BLUE34; Jake Hill (GTROC Track Day Instructor & professional racing driver); ORACLE, NURBURGRINGGTR; BARRY P & myself working on the stand. Cars were provided by ROSS’s with his beautiful emerald green & genuine Janspeed R32 GTR. John FUGGLE’s had dropped off his genuine BEE-R324 GTR (that’s an R32 GTR with an R34 front end!) whilst MUDLAP had his white R33 GTR. IMS’s provided an R34 GTR with his own red example with ROG350Z’s white ‘Litchfield’ R35 GTR (used as bait for plenty of weekend sharking with the ladies) whilst a black ‘Litchfield R35 GTR was provided by NURBURGRINGGTR. Nissan kindly helped out by delivering a brand new R35 GTR with the new ‘track pack’ installed & Seven Valley Motorsport allowed us to show ‘GUNDAM’ which is a very special 2009 R35 GTR of theirs that was for sale too! For those that did walk round the show then the keen ones amongst you would have seen NISMOMAN’s new R35 GT1 that he had recently bought too! We must say as well that as the GTROC stand was right by the TT Bar, as well as one of the NEC’s own bars MUDFLAP managed to stay away from alcohol until at least 04:00pm! Which if you know Jack was no mean feat at all, well done!
So back to AUTOSPORT. The event covers four days running from a Thursday to Sunday. The Thursday & Friday are in essence trade days so as you can imagine lots of networking, meetings, seeing friends, rivals & colleagues along with the press & promo girls are the order of those days! The Saturday & Sunday are then open to the public, which were also the two days that GTROC had its main stand on show. With over five hundred exhibitors spread out over the NEC’s many great halls, you needed a couple of days to cover the whole event properly to be honest. Most of us working the stand had about an hour & half each!
Whilst attending AUTOSPORT you could also buy almost anything car or motorsport related with the huge amount of traders that were spaced in & around some gorgeous displays of motorsport metal. Whether you walked away with a just a keyring, or something such as £150,000 worth of classic BMW racer there was something for everyone. My wallet & I fought many times that weekend over QUAIFE gearboxes, POWERFLEX & MISHIMOTO goodies to name a few. Only with the promise of ‘not now’ & ‘later’ did my wallet stop making a fuss like a small child dragged to the high street on a Saturday afternoon! Our very own GTROC stand was drawing & tempting the public with items from the official Nissan GTR range, NISMO, GTROC branding & other special items brought straight from Japan! ORACLE who is the clubs Online Shop Manager along with Penny, Maureen & other volunteers were kept busy throughout both days with the retail side of things whilst the rest of us engaged with the those who came with questions about the club or out cars! One of the finer places to buy or drool (your choice) though was at COYS AUCTION HOUSE. Besides cheques with many zero’s, platinum credit cards or that house deposit down the drain they had such rarities as a Lotus Carlton, a Mustang GT350, a Capri 2.8i, a Metro 6R4 and a Schuppan Porsche 962 which was one of only three in existence went with the hammer going down from £2,000 to well over £200,000!
The displays this year were outstanding with the likes of the competition cars of Sir Jackie Stewart included his better known F1 cars from BRM and Tyrell as well as lesser known cars such as an Alan Mann prepared MK1 Lotus Cortina and Series 1 E-Type Lightweight. All cars immaculate as you might expect & also quite accessible sat behind a simple rope barrier that twisted and turned between them. It was also great to see the man himself on the stand signing autographs and later on being interviewed on the AUTOSPORT main stand sharing amusing tales, including the time he grabbed Ken Tyrell whilst sat in his GP car on the grid after the warm up lap to tell him how terrible it was! Relaxed, humorous and with a work ethic that is clearly as hard as it’s ever been the three times world champion was a great addition to the show. It was lovely to see him being honored at this years show. Hall eight had the Richard Burns Collection ensured boxes were ticked with examples of the late World Rally Champion’s cars from all era’s including Subaru’s original offering – a boxy but brilliant 4WD Legacy RS. The halls were peppered with British built cars and parts so it goes to show that we still have a great manufacturing nation as shown by the 1,000 MPH Bloodhound SSC with a full size mock up of their hopefully world record breaking vehicle. Lichfield had a large tuning stand along with the Caterham podium unveiling their new car for this year. It just goes shows that British engineering is alive & kicking! The Milner LRM-1 built in Derbyshire with a 5.0 litre V8 supercharger drew crowds, the bodywork is a 4/5th scale of a Range Rover Evoque built around a space frame. Its just unfortunate that the 550BHP monster is for off road racing only as seeing 680Nm of torque on the road would be awesome! Members of the public who wished to pay an extra five pounds on the admission price could also get entry to the paddock allowing more up close & personal with some scarce specimens including a 1961 Lamborghini with voluptuous curves and large nobbly tyres … yes that’s nobbly tyres! 911’s, Mark one wide arch or mark two Escorts were everywhere. The long arm of the law were also present with a pristine early Jaguar Police car on display, imagine being pulled over by that & sat in the back staring at a walnut dash breathing in the rich smell of leather whilst trying to take it all seriously! However not all the cars were concourse queens, many of the cars was sporting genuine track or working damage with scrapes, dents or holes with one Porsche with damage to its fibre glass nose!
The Live Action Arena (L.A.A) is also worth a mention which as a huge draw for the public echoing to the variety of snarling, chattering & roaring supercars, quad bikes, drifters, reliant robins (don’t ask but were apparently very scary to watch!), grass track racers & a monster truck known as ‘Swamp Thing’ to name a few! Jack (or MUDFLAP as he’s known in the club) & Maureen managed to steal some rare time away from staffing the GTROC stand to spend some time here & said it was well worth the visit for those who come to this event! The L.A.A runs over the ‘public weekend’ presented by BTCC presenter Louise Goodman & Sky’s Paul Musselle lasting an hour. Guinness World Record stunt driver Terry Grant made an appearance & show cased his dedication to all things Bond & the Japspeed drift team with their talent to burn rubber. The McLaren Autosport BRDC Young drivers also took part in the live action show with the winner Jake Dennis receiving £100,000 & a McLaren F1 Test drive – all I can say is next year come on Jake Hill! Other winners included 2009 F1 Champion David Coulthard & Force India driver Paul Di Resta. There was a short motocross & supermoto quads display, Autocar’s ‘Best of British’ display with the Ginetta G60 & G40R, a Range Rover Autobiography 5.0 Liter V8 Supercharged, Lotus Elise, BAC Mono (love those), Jaguar XKR-S, Lotus Exige & the Lotus Elise. The last part of the show was the monster truck called ‘Swamp Thing’ which was by far the most ear shattering and people told me the most entertaining. I was told that this years show had more talking than in previous years which took away part of the thrill for some, but the show still had its moments of magic. With six shows during each of the two public visiting days the final show dedicated to Oval Racing there is something for everyone.
So was AUTOSPORT good & was it worth the rush to get the GTROC there? Hell yeah! So much so we’re already planning 2014 already! This years event, especially for a first timer like myself was not a disappointment. You really had to be there to experience it as a whole as words really do not do it justice! The atmosphere, the feeling, the camaraderie of those of us on the stand – the laughs, the jokes! We had a great response from the public over the weekend & it was fantastic that we had so many of “you’, the GTROC members come to visit us there & spend some time hanging with us too. If I could remember names typing this I would mention you, but you all know who you are so thank you, thank you, thank you. We made new friends over the whole weekend (eh Roger!), we converted & made new members too (including one crazy chap from Eastern Europe who will be bringing their monster R35 to the UK this year!). We educated the thousands that came onto our humble stand to the GTROC, the Skyline & the GTR. We were also very grateful to all those that helped us get there too for the backing, hard work & sponsorship of those people & companies who couldn’t be there with us in person. It was a great opener for the GTROC Events Calendar for 2013 & you should see what else is coming this year too, so I hope to see you all there!