by Kriss Merchant
4 years ago

Autosport 2014 …

Where do I start?

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After what was months of planning, headaches, talks, discussions, last minute changes, frantic minutes, prayers, hopes, dreams & heartache. Before I actually knew it 06:00pm on Sunday night had arrived, the public were leaving & it was all over for another year! You see this is the second year that the GTROC have attended this event & to be honest as one of two main organisers for this event on behalf of the club I can only really compare Autosport to Christmas! No, its got nothing to do with the fact that they are near each other, its just a host of similarities between the two events! You see I’m not talking about the presents, seeing families & friends. The wonderful feeling of Christmas morning or the anticipation of Christmas Eve! Its the whole huge media build up to the event in which months ahead of time you think you have all the time in world to get everything done! But the reality – just the same as Christmas – is you end up in a frantic rush right up until the very last minute – under a barrage of media advertising – to get to the point where you breathe a sigh of relief, get ready to enjoy yourself & find its all over for another year! Then just as your packing up they start the advertising for next year immediately afterwards … see … Christmas! Would I change it though? Not for the world!


So Autosport 2014 is really the season opener for the year ahead in the motorsport world. All disciplines are covered, all their vehicles are covered. On top of that you have the interviews, the promo girls, the unveiling of new machinery. News, transfers, old teams with new drivers. New teams with old drivers! Demonstrations, motorsport retail therapy & a walk that will leave most legs but the end of the day begging for a rest! Welcome to Autosport International 2014! The show/exhibition runs from Thursday to Sunday with the doors open at 09:00am until 06:00pm each day. The first two days being the Thursday & Friday are ‘trade days’ in which the industry & its many off cuts, the media & the universities/colleges that run courses aimed at the motorsport are allowed. The last two days on the Saturday & Sunday are open to the general public to attend & its like watching a tsunami working its way through city streets when those doors first open! This years Autosport however was slightly different to other years in the fact that the headlines were coming from smaller companies & people aiming at niche markets within the industry. Historically its normally the big boys or more mainstream that hold this title, but 2014 was certainly showing something different. The British car industry was shown in very good light this year with so much talent & choice tucked away from the main limelight.


This year companies like Radical showed their new turbo’d RXC in their quest for more power & durability with new partners Ford using a twin turbo’d 3.5 litre EcoBoost unit good for 454bhp in a car weighing 940kg. It was certainly a change in direction where normally a manufacturer would try & boost more power from an existing engine which as Caterham goes is a 3.7litre V6! The new Vauxhall VXR8 GTS billed as the cheapest way to achieve over five hundred horsepower in the UK! For £54,995 you get a supercharged 6.2-litre V8 engine which is rumoured to be enough to outrun the likes of the BMW M5, the Merc E63 AMG or the Jaguar XFR-S (great Superbowl commercial by the way!) running at 576bhp .


Many of the vehicle makers use this event as the deadline for projects to be released this year. Some people make it, others don’t, whilst a few enterprising companies ‘kinda do’! Zenos Cars were almost kinda but managed to scrape in with their new E10 sport which is currently on sale for £24,995 – or £28,995 for the special Launch Edition. The companies CEO admitted that the car had only been out the paint shop twenty four hours before the Thursday morning start of Autosport and they too wondered if it would be ready!  Sin’s new R1 road going sports car was in the ‘kinda made it’ category as they brought a hollow shell to the four day event as well as no interior. However this didn’t seem to cut down interest on its stand though as it apparently will be running a Chevy 6.2 litre engine good for around the 450bhp mark! Another company with a good stand was ‘Twisted’ who are a Land Rover based tuning company! They were positioned not too far from the GTROC stand & revealed that they had decided to simplify their range so that in the future there models will be based on two packages. Both of these were completed on time for Autosport & have been named the “Definitive” & “Ultimate Edition Models”.


So this years GTROC stand was definitely worth all the afore mentioned trouble. We had a stunning display of cars & media over the entire four days – last year the club only attended the two public days on the Saturday & Sunday – with the ultimate aim of representing the club & its members as a whole. Each car has something to do with the motorsport industry & we also use the time to meet & network with customers old & new who can offer our members something for 2014. In terms of the cars the aim was to have something for everyone, but this was made more difficult when we were told before Christmas that we had room for five cars & not ten as first thought! The R32 Skyline – the actual Godzilla car for absolute correctness – is celebrating its 25th Anniversary this year, so we knew we had to have one on this years stand! Speed Merchants unique Veilside R32 Evolution III GTR was chosen as being one of the ‘original’ Veilside built cars & not a pattern production that are popping up in small numbers around the world these days. The owners involvement with sprints & hill climbs covered the motorsport side of things as the car is also used in anger as well as a show car used to represent the club at many shows & events each year. Whilst it was agreed that also having a more standard looking R32 would have been nice for comparison, the car drew great crowds with a ‘marmite’ effect on many which was interesting to see & watch. Best reactions was telling someone the car was twenty four years old!


The next representation was the R33 Skyline & with thanks to the GTROC’s Straightline Manager – Jeff Ludgate – his own pride & joy was our next candidate. The cars is also the current quickest R33 drag car in Europe which I’m sure you will agree is no idle boast. Having literally just come out of a re-build with its new paint & sponsors graphics prior to Autosport, it was certainly a sight to behold parachute box & all! A great story attached to the car at this years show is one of the cars sponsors kindly brought over a young lady for some sponsorship ‘photo’ opportunities. The young lady in question was one of the sponsors rising stars & of no small talent herself being a specialist nurse by day, mechanic at the other times – can strip most diffs in half an hour apparently! Plus a BriSCA Formula 2 racing driver to boot! Yes the lovely Miss Jacklyn Ellis graced the GTROC stand, as well as Jeffs car & front seat with her presence drawing in more crowds & proving what a lovely down to earth young lady that she was. To be honest I’d like to know where she finds the spare hours in the day to be honest, but rumour now has it that Jeff won’t let anyone else sit in the drivers seat unless its him or its covered … spooky!


So moving on again we didn’t have an R34 this year, though there were plenty shown on the previously mentioned media screens on the stand for the viewing pleasure of trade & visitors! These screens belted out videos, photos & achievements of the club over the years showing the eleven years of history that the club now has. We did have GTROC Member Albert Wong with his 2010 R35 GTR setting out to do what it was mean’t to in confusing the many R35 GTR experts & equivalent train spotters! You see the car might be a base MY10 model, advertised on the stand as a MY10 model. But people stood their rubbing their chins, looking at it sideways or merely scratching their heads as their eyes were actually seeing the MY13 model – daylight running lights included! You see Albert owns a company called Knight-Racer which I’m sure many of you know. Knight Racer had just finished their latest batch of carbon goodness products one of those being a complete CF front end for the older MY versions of the R35 GTR! It may sound like a plastic surgery advert from the States, but now you too can have an older R35 GTR looking like a younger version! The finish & quality on Alberts car was just excellent along with the other CF bits that Albert had added as well. For those interested take a look at their website & you’ll see what I mean!


Second to last on this years stand was an R35 GTR that is used by the owner more on a race track than it is on the public road! No its not trailered anywhere before you ask, the car just does genuinely spend more time clocking up milage doing laps around some race track than on public roads! However the talking point for this car besides its handling package and engine setup is the great debate of what to call its colour! You see its owner decided to have the car wrapped last year in what can only be described as a bit of a controversial colour of blue! Its in no way a bad colour of blue, the owner likes to call it ‘smurf blue’ – GOOGLE it if you need to – but there are those that also call it ‘Domestos blue’. Maybe we should put this to a public vote!?


So to the last car of this years stand … and what a car! The R35 GTR GT1 is now such an iconic car it can draw in crowds like bees to the honeypot. This car, one of four originally built by NISMO to compete in the GT1 racing series now belongs to a humble GTROC Member who doesn’t want his forum name thrown around. Accompanied by his brother Eamon, the two of them have had a very busy year with the club attending many events on behalf of the club such as the Cholmondeley Pageant of Power, J.A.E & the RAC Pall Mall! Sean will be the first to tell people that he bought this iconic car for two reasons. The first was not for it to sit in some museum or private garage, but to be used & driven as it should be. The second reason was to help forward & promote the GTROC in which it has been doing since its purchase. This was another car on our stand for crowd debate as well as some tactile mirth! The most memorable that springs to mind was a young lady with an entourage of friends who loudly claimed she recently worked for one of the sponsors of said GT1 car – it was a very small sponsor sticker I might add! Everyone around the stand got to hear in her well projected voice the stress she faced ordering the various parts necessary for the car before deadlines & race days or it would have been the high jump for her employment. Que the then ‘tactful’ GTROC member of non descript age, race & gender – to protect their identity – who informed said person & friends – “Umm, actually this is one of four cars built in Japan by NISMO and you former employee was & still is nothing to do with the building of race cars!”. Many people walked away quickly to cover smiles or the off chukle lost amongst the background noise of a very busy NEC, but bless her cotton socks she still firmly believed that was incorrect & this must be another car! Our thanks however go to Shaun & Eamon for bringing the car to stand helping to make us one of the main focal points in our section of the NEC.


I must also mention that we were also blessed in the position of our stand this year as right behind us was the pistonheads display that had many a fine legend of a car in its unspoilt factory condition … including a mint R34 GTR! So we were nearly complete as a stand despite the lack of one of our own members R34’s being with us!


We also had many important people coming to see us at Autosport this year – our members. It was great to see so many of you who took time to come & say hello & in many cases put faces to names. We also had the delight of welcoming new members who actually signed up on the stand after purchasing Skylines or GTR’s wanting to get more involved or learn about the heritage of these cars. I wish I’d kept a list of names to mention you all personally but you know who you were. Other people that turned up were the GTROC’s Official Trackday Instructor & British Touring Car driver Jake Hill. Jake who is also one of the few BDRC Rising Stars spent time with us over the four days as well as revealing a bit of a fetish for ice cream … if the money is not in the account soon the photos will be released! Jakes father Simon Hill – former racing driver & now motorsport commentator – also spent a lot of time with the club even using it as a backdrop for some of his on camera interviews over the four days! GTROC Chairman John Fuggles graced us with his presence on the Friday to see how we all were as well as attending the show to plug this years Japanese Auto Extravaganza & the GTROC tour! Saturday also saw us invaded for most of the day by GTROC Members Grimbling Gibbon, E-Charge & Grimblings mate Charlie to help out on the club stand – thank you lads!


So away from the stand we also need to mention there were many other sights & sounds to enjoy at this years event. The rumble from the Live Action Arena surrounded by the four thousand seven hundred seated grandstand was constant with a full motor racing timetable, record breaking stunts & celebrity appearances helped along with an atmosphere of lighting & up-beat music – for all you pub quiz types did you know that this is also the UK’s largest indoor track! There were also exhibits such as the Bloodhound supersonic car, interviews on the main Autosport stand of drivers, engineers, team managers & other motorsport personalities. Plus with the show was neatly split up into different sections for easy navigation so it wasn’t a problem finding the trade & technical areas. The historic motorsport section or the auction house selling vintage race and road cars! Over all Autosport is one of the greatest car events out there allowing business & people to network as well as offering a fantastic day out! Its is Europe’s largest dedicated motorsport trade show with this year having figures like approximately six hundred performance engineering companies & thirty thousand motorsport professionals – plus the GTROC! These are just rough figures with higher numbers the reality with international guests joining the renowned British motorsport community to start the new season. And what a season!

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So to finish it was another fantastic Autosport in which to be honest words just don’t it justice. You really need to come along yourself to let your five senses just get overloaded at times with the sheer number of things to see, read & do. There are far too many people to thank including this years GTROC Autosport stand team who did long hours with such professionalism we put many other organisations to shame! I would like to personally thank the other GTROC Autosport organiser – Mr Vice Chairman Sir – Ross Stewart who like myself lost hair, weight, bodily fluids & added a tonne of stress to his life just to get us there once more. See you all over the year or at Autosport 2015!

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