Winter is the ultimate enemy of the Speedhunter.
For the past few months, I’ve been sitting idly by, watching as our colleagues in the Southern Hemisphere (and in warmer climates) continue to enjoy everything our car world has to offer. The first month is normally a welcome respite, the second is when the itch to get back out begins, and come January, well, it’s unbearable.
This time around, I was prepared. I had a couple of shoots planned around Christmas to ease the withdrawals, but in mid-December I made a conscious decision to attend in Autosport International, an event I haven’t been to in nearly 10 years. With a browser open, I researched routes across to the United Kingdom.
Normally, I would book a ferry and sail across the Irish Sea with Project GTI, but this was a very expensive option at around €750 ($834) all in. Not to mention it was the most time consuming and potentially unreliable way of getting there, considering the time of year and maritime weather conditions.
I normally don’t like flying to events because of the limitations with regards to what equipment I can bring. If you’re going for a few days, you can always spread the weight between your cabin bag and checked bag, but again this adds to the cost. To fly and spend one night in Birmingham was working out at around €260 ($290), but there was one more option: fly in and out on the same day.
Total cost? €70 ($77). Add in another €25 for parking at the airport, and you’re still under €100 ($111), leaving $40 to cover your food for the day.
There would be some hardship involved to make this work. A 3:00am alarm call in order to be at Dublin Airport by 4:30am, and then find parking and get through security. Abiding by my airline’s hand luggage rules, I was able to keep my backpack to 10kg (22lb), but still managed to bring two bodies, three lenses, a laptop and other assorted bits and pieces.
Mind you, having had the flu for a week previous, I felt every one of those 10kgs.
The early flight time of 6:30am saw us land in Birmingham not long after 7. What makes Autosport International particularly convenient for this kind of trip is that the National Exhibition Centre where the event is hosted, is right beside Birmingham Airport, and is served by a convenient monorail system. Without even stepping outside, you can walk from your arrival gate straight to the show in around 15 minutes. Neat.
With my press pass collected at 8:00am, I joined a few friends while we waited for the doors to open at 9…
Autosport International is bit of an underdog on the Speedhunters’ calendar. It nearly always occurs on the same weekend as Tokyo Auto Salon, so our eyes are often distracted by the lure of the Japanese show. They’re not really comparable, however. Where TAS is (primarily) about the Japanese aftermarket, Autosport International is the motorsport show.
It has evolved quite a lot since I last attended in 2011, and while there’s now more of an aftermarket presence, it’s still very much about motorsport and motorsport engineering.
This might raise an eyebrow or two, but I don’t consider Autosport International as really being a traditional car show. It’s really more of a showcase of products, services and a place where a lot of motorsport business is done. Particularly on the Thursday and Friday of the event (it runs through until Sunday), most people spend their days meeting other in the industry while drivers arrange time with potential sponsors for the upcoming season.
For all the cars present, there’s an awful lot more stands which display products only. This might be a byproduct of the limited space or cost to exhibit, but there’s a really strong emphasis on the products as opposed to vehicles which happen to feature them.
On some stands, you’ll find that the cars presented are often shoehorned into the space available, where at other events the stands are built around the cars.
It is a big occasion within the industry, with multiple companies and brands using it as a platform to unveil new products. The highlight for me this year was the unveiling of M-Sport’s 2020 Ford Fiesta WRC and R5 cars. That is a good looking pair of rally machines.
For just a single day, this was a productive trip. Along with another gallery from the event, with a closer look at some of the cars on display, Autosport also raised some interesting thoughts on the future of motorsport which I’ll detail in separate posts shortly; conversations which are worth having and ideas worth exploring.
Still, it’s not a bad way to spend a Thursday and $150. Wake up in your own bed, fly to another country, check out some race cars and meet awesome people before flying home and sleeping in your own bed?
I can think of worse things to do.