“ Autosport / Autosport International Show NEC Arena. „
This year a friend of mine was in France for New Years and we were talking about something to do when he got back, I'd seen this show advertised on television and immediately wanted to go. I started out hoping my Dad might want to go, but he didn't so I knew I had to find someone else to come with me, thankfully my friend James was really up for it and ordered us some tickets to on the Saturday this year. Needless to say I was really quite excited!
~*~ Who are Autosport ~*~
Autosport is a magazine but for this week/weekend at the beginning of January for the past few years, Autosport International has taken the country by storm - this year was the 23rd annual Autosport International Show. Bringing together everything from Formula 1 to Go Karts, alongside all the modifications companies, and the car clubs - all coming together under one roof to show traders, and then the public what they've got on offer to anyone that fancies a go at making their car a little bit of something special, or if they have a race team it gives new traders a chance to get their products on the cars. It brings amazing cars to the forefront that you may never have seen before, and might not get a chance to again. It brings out a world of motoring celebrities, and whole bunch of thing you may not have seen before - it's definitely a day you need to take lots of photos of, there's so much there you might forget else!
Including the Live Action Show!
~*~ Where is the show? ~*~
The show this year was at the Birmingham NEC arena, which is really well sign posted off the M6, M1, M40 and M42 - quite an easily accessible arena for the majority of the country. Apparently a few minutes' walk from the airport in Birmingham - and is also accessible by train! If you're like me, you'll go for a SatNav and for that the postcode is B40 1NT, you'll get there to find a huge amount of car parking apparently enough for 21,000 cars - which considering they charge you £10 to get out of the carpark means they are making a fortune if the carpark is full! Now depending on where they make you park, depending on how busy it is - you might be closer to the Arena than we were, unfortunately we had about a 10 minute walk from the car to the arena. For those less able bodied or just not wanting to brave the January cold, they do offer a shuttle bus service, just remember which carpark you're in though because the buses do go to specific ones - you don't want to end up miles away! The walk way if you do decide to walk isn't very well sign posted, so we decided to just follow the crowd - it got us there, we just had to make a mental note of how to get back again else we'd have never found the car!
~*~ Getting in ~*~
This is a simple as either, going to the ticket kiosks and purchasing your ticket for the day - then taking it to the barriers to be scanned, or taking your pre-existing tickets to the men on the barriers getting them scanned and then off you go. So easy, so simple, the guys on the gate if you go out and want to come back in, they will stamp your hand, they're all very pleasant - nothing to complain about there!
~*~ Exhibits ~*~
The exhibits were a bit hit and miss as a general member of the public, for those in trade seeing a lot of the part manufacturers would be a great benefit - to the general motor loving public they might not be so important unfortunately which seems a bit of a wasted shame for them. Admittedly I quite liked looking at the parts exhibits with all their engine parts looking new and shiny, brought out something very masculine in me. There was other stands though, ones trying to get you to volunteer to be a marshal at the racing events across the country - which was one I got stuck at for a while as my friend was wanting to get involved in that. Universities were there, explaining their courses to potential students that might want to get involved in motor sport; which personally I think is a great idea, and I'd have loved that when I was 18 - I might be heading in a completely different career path now if I had done, but never mind. There was a fair few stands with tyres and wheels on, which was really good - looking at the different tyres that are used for racing and road going vehicles, alloys which you might otherwise not get a chance to look at... I did consider some nice green alloys for my black golf, just don't think I could have afforded them somehow! There were stands with merchandise on for almost all varieties of motor sport, I say almost, it was mainly revolving around formula one which was a shame as my motorsport of fancy is BTCC. There were helmets, race suits you could try and purchase - one particular stand I loved, was a paintwork stand, they had some amazing colours there that I could love to have on my car or future cars; from lime green, to a glittery bright pink, to every shade of red you could imagine - it was fantastic just wish I had the funds to get my car treated! MSV were also there, showing off the different races and circuits in their repertoire that anyone could visit, there were a lot of stands trying to tempt you into visiting their circuits for races, or into a new class of racing. They were all trying to entice you with half naked girls too.... Not something I enjoyed all that much, can't say that men were upset by having them around though! There were lots of simulation games and even a Top Gear stig driving simulation if you fancied paying extra for it!
~*~ Cars ~*~
Ahhhh now where do I start with the cars, I was completely in my element in this arena with all these cars! Cars are my thing, anyone that knows me knows that - my initial excitement came as soon as I walked through the door, there were a lot of racing cars close to the entrance that would be used in the banger racing areas, then a little further round the corner I came across a beautiful Aston Martin and then that was me gone, I spent the next hour drooling over beautiful cars. There was everything from your average road car super cars, like Astons and Nissan GTR's, in places the banger cars, and then there was a police car - which seemed ironic considering the amount of fast cars were in that arena, and the majority of us in the arena that held driving licenses wouldn't want to drive them at the speed limit! The deeper we got into the arena, the better the cars got, lots of modified vehicles, like really modified Land Rovers, monster trucks, a lot of Formula1 cars. There were so many cars that at one point I'd forgotten what I'd been excited about so we went round again. There was an area that had cars that were available to be rented out, very nice supercars - they happened to have a Lamborghini Aventador in a lovely dark metallic grey, that is my favourite car, I had never been so happy to see this car that I just had to touch it to say I had done. It is quite overwhelming the amount of cars that are available to see. The RAF sponsored Bloodhound that is set to do 1000 miles an hour, was also available to look at - which surprised me just how huge it actually is, there was a simulation to see if you would be able to get to 1000 miles an hour - which wasn't all that popular actually. There was a brand new Fiesta ST, some 2013 season rally cars, historic rally cars - even a Colin McRae rally car and a Richard Burns Subaru. There really was everything here you could want to see, apart from a Bugatti Veyron - which was a disappointment but I'll find one - one day! There was an auction of cars too including Freddie Mercury's Rolls Royce, the area of Coys Auction you did have to pay to get into though which was a bit of a rip off considering you already have to pay to get in the arena. The stand with the BTCC cars was the best stand on my behalf, aside from my Lambo of course, but it's something I'm really interested in so it did excite me as they say. The go-karts were a little bit few and far between; they didn't really make them seem all that exciting to be honest so it wasn't something that I had a lot of interest in - the drifting cars were more interesting even to me someone that's not bothered by drifters. There were plenty of supercars to see, Ferrari's, Porsche's, Jaguars, everything you could want to see - it was there, even a German DTM car. It was a bit overwhelming every different car it took a couple of looks to see everything you wanted to view. Especially as we were just walking in random directions rather than following a pattern that the stands and cars were laid out in.
~*~ Celebrities ~*~
There were a fair few if you could get anywhere near them! From Formula 1 driver Paul Di Resta, Sir Jackie Stewart, Derek Bell, Jake Humphrey, Gordon Shedden, Jonny Herbet, Alan McNish - and there were a lot more. Those not billed on the website, that turned up anyway - like Matt Neal, and a few more of the BTCC stars were there for autograph sessions, World Touring Car Drivers, and Le Mans winners. There were a lot of people there that you rarely get to see without a crash helmet on - it was hard to get anywhere near them unless you'd been queuing for ages which is a shame, especially on the question time you needed to be right near the barriers for about an hour before. I did get within 6 foot of Jackie Stewart actually without realising it, as he was pushed past me into the back of the arena - away from all the general public riff raff as we are! Most of the celebrities and drivers that were around, if you saw them and got near them they'd be happy to pose for pictures it seems from what I saw on Twitter later that day.
~*~ Freebies ~*~
Well I was hoping for a fair few freebies, unfortunately we were disappointed, and the best freebie I got was a pen. Which no doubt will be empty soon because I'm using it daily at work, there were a few key rings on offer, and catalogues but nothing that was really of any worth. KX were there offering shots of their energy drink, but not full cans unfortunately! It was all a bit of a shame to be honest, it wasn't that I was expecting massive carrier bags full of free things, but from going to similar events I've had a bit more than this. Admittedly we did come back with 2 or 3 carrier bags, but it was mainly paperwork rather than anything worth having!
Oh and your face had to fit to be able to get anything - as we were a male and female there we looked like a couple so only 1 of us got a bag, it was a bit frustrating on the freebie front!
~*~ Live Action Show ~*~
This was a bit of a disappointment actually, it was fine, but it was mainly focussed around a bunch of girls in Lycra prancing around on top of a plinth - it only featured a few different types of motor sport, which in a tiny arena is understandable, but it just seemed a bit of a disappointment considering the hype. There was a bit of stunt driving, some drifting, a few super cars to show off and a monster truck - it just felt like there should have been something bigger better, and louder. Considering they advise ear defenders I expected some real high octane stuff, but no it wasn't worthy of ear defenders. Jonny Herbert, and Louise Goodman were the presenters, and it was so obvious they'd done the show numerous times that day, and the jokes just fell flat - I can't say it was worth an extra £10 to go in and see it, especially if you are epileptic the lasers in there wouldn't have done you much good - can't say I saw any warnings either! It was nice to see a massive amount of moneys worth of cars in one arena, but just walking around the show I could get closer to them, just didn't really seem worth it. That said I did enjoy it, just wasn't worth the money it cost.
~*~ Food and Drink ~*~
All the way round the outside of the arena there was restaurants and sandwich shops, they were all really busy regardless of what time you went into them. The food, for the price you didn't really get enough to be worth the money to be honest. A curry and rice was in excess of a tenner, which considering the size of the plate I could make more for a lot less, then again it is all captive market and if you want it you need to pay for it - they kept running out of chips as well which was a big complaint around the entire arena actually you could hear it being mumbled. Drinks were also expensive, but there were plenty of areas that you can get drinks hot and cold - though bins were few and far between so anything you did have you either needed to place in a bin in the restaurant or keep it in your bag so you don't end up dropping it on the floor. To be fair to them though there wasn't much litter so I was quite impressed with the cleaning staff!
~*~ Toilets ~*~
Were rammed! Don't get me wrong there were a lot of them and all quite close to the restaurants, but they were always really busy - there was a good amount of toilet roll in them though which I was quite impressed with, they seemed to be stocking up regularly. They were clean, either motor fans are a cleaner bunch than the average or they were being regularly cleaned - there were a good amount in each block as well, so they were getting through them fast, but still with the amount of people that could potentially have been there it's a lot of flushes to get through.
~*~ Prices and Packages Available ~*~
Standard tickets were £31 prebooked, which was entrance to the show plus the live action arena show...
Paddock Pass was £41, which gave you access to paddock signing sessions, a chance to meet the celebrities in signing sessions...
VIP was £110, which gave entrance to the show & free parking, fast track entry to the Live Action Arena with access to back stage Paddock Area, seats in the VIP enclosure and complimentary drinks & canapés. Plus, entry to the VIP Club Lounge, Paddock Guide, access to driver autograph signing sessions, access to Coy's Auction and VIP goody bag.
A good day out if you don't mind the crowds, and expensive food - after all it exposes you to cars that aren't often on the road!