If you know me personally, you’re probably already wondering why I went to Autosport International at Birmingham’s NEC. To be fair it really isn’t the sort of event I’d decide to attend, but in this case I was offered the chance to hop in with the rest of the Japspeed boys, take some pictures and put a blog post together for them (which is here), help out with their demonstration runs in the arena and, essentially (as I’m a cheapskate), get in for free. I was game and ready to see what Birmingham had in store for me!

After spending Friday night devouring a rack of ribs and drinking overpriced beer in the hotel’s Beefeater restaurant with the rest of the team it was time to head down to the NEC bright and early, fuelled only by complimentary Monster and the Premier Inn’s quintessential Full English. With no ticket, media or arena pass on my person I was smuggled into the Live Action Arena in the back of Matt Clawley’s pickup (funnily enough the only time I was challenged about not having my own ticket/pass was when I tried to go to the toilet of all places) and set about exploring.

My first impression of the paddock (the “backstage” area of the arena) was that it was cold, smoggy and very, very dark. Not that any of this surprised me, but the lighting didn’t exactly do my already limited photography capabilities any favours.

With there being three exhibition halls to explore and my ticket/pass situation looking more and more unworkable by the minute I decided to head over to the Maxxis Tyres stand with Paul, Baggsy and the two Shanes so I could at least get my bearings. It seemed that a Japspeed hoodie and a can of Monster was all that the hired security needed to see in order to wave you through, which was handy. We did bump into the police though, but thankfully this was the first occasion since my involvement in the scene that I have seen drifters and the law converse in a friendly manner. Usually my experiences with GMP’s finest involves the back seat of a police car, damaged egos and a stern telling off, so this made for a pleasant change of pace.

Jo Fletcher’s Lassa Tyres S15 was looking a little lonely in one of the halls…

…although it did have Paul “Polo” Cheshire’s Falken Tyres 2JZ G35 for company.

I also came across what I assume was an Mx-5 owners club/forum stand. Either way, there were some very sweet 5s to study.

Now, I’ve seen this car before (albeit it unpainted) at Japfest 2011 and yes, I’ve seen the magazine feature on it, but I had a little crisis seeing it in the flesh all painted up.

I have so much respect for the dude that bought this thing, spent some time looking at it and then had the vision to build what is, without a doubt, my favourite Mx-5 in the country. It’s got some poke too, with a crafty turbo setup upping power to 240bhp – more than enough to have fun in a tiny Mx-5.

I wasn’t really expecting to see a Bee*R kitted R32 GTR at the show but that’s exactly what I found on the GTROC stand. I guess I’d always assumed that the R324 kit was more in vogue with the drift fraternity as opposed to the slightly more mature GTROC crowd but it certainly seemed very popular amongst the selection of immaculate R32, R33, R34 and R35 GTRs.

On my way to the Maxxis stand I bumped into the Maxxis truck (not literally) that was parked up as the backbone of the British Drift Championship’s stand. Of course, there was a smattering of Maxxis Babes around the area, who Nathan Chivers and Mark Lappage (both of whom were representing the BDC at the show) were only too happy to pose with.

Nathan’s supercharged LS powered Sileighty was on display along with a number of other BDC cars…

…including Justin Clarke’s S14…

…David Waterworth’s V10 Viper powered S15…

…and Wesley Keating’s 180SX.

I eventually managed to tear my eyes away from the awesome Rocket Bunny kit (note the rear arches bolted onto +50mm overfenders!) to study the spec list and I don’t think the term “comprehensive” does it justice.

With an SR21 powerplant up front, one of the most stunning adjustable suspension setups I’ve ever seen underneath and a unique bootlid-mounted fuel cell filler system at the rear it really was an incredible all-round package.

Oh, and did I forget to mention the clutchless paddle shift setup? Amazing. I’m genuinely looking forward to seeing this thing tear it up during this year’s BDC season. Autosport was also the first time I’ve met Wes – cool guy!

As always, wherever there is a Maxxis Babe, there is a crowd of suspicious looking middle-aged men with big lenses, bigger bald patches and an alarming urge to take as many pictures of the aforementioned “Babe” as possible, for reasons only known to themselves (I definitely did not see any of them scuttling off to the toilets shortly afterwards – camera in hand, devilish smile on face…ahem).

The Maxxis girls are a great bunch and always friendly to everyone, whether the people in question are asking to have a photo taken with them or trying to shove a big camera in their face, but I honestly don’t know how they deal with some of these guys.

Somewhere, Nathan Chivers is looking at this photo and wincing at the sight of his Sileighty’s roof…I wonder why Michelle is up there?

Oh yeah, that’s why: another man with a selection of big cameras, getting as close as physically possible. This went on for about twenty minutes as well. Eugh.

Oh well, at least Debbie was in high spirits after doing her best to scare the life out of me on our journey down to Birmingham the night before.

Over on the Maxxis stand Paul Smith’s championship winning S15 was on display, fresh from receiving it’s new livery the night before being taken down to the show.

Having had many chances to get up close and personal with the car since it won the BDC last year it has only become clear how much more there is to this car than a set of brightly coloured wheels and a lot of stickers (which is an opinion a lot of uninformed keyboard warriors seem to possess while handily forgetting the 1JZ up front).

Mark Luney’s rebranded Supra was also on the stand sporting its new livery.

Back round the front of the stand the boys were midway through a signing session which proved hugely popular, although I couldn’t help but notice the separate queue for Shane Lynch. Fame, eh…

Lol. I’ve no idea what this dude said to Paul but whatever it was must have been pretty hilarious.

Once the signing was over I continued my mooch through the exhibition halls and came across Matt Neal’s BTCC Civic. Other than drifting BTCC is the only motorsport I can watch and properly get into it. Insane overtaking, lots of crashes and Jason Plato having a moan about something after the race are all guaranteed and make for a great spectacle.

Litchfield had this very cool BRZ on display…

…but it fell short of the coolness laid down by some of the classic Ford metal on display. I’m not a Ford man and I can’t imagine I ever will be, but there’s no shying away from how awesome this Escort and Sierra combo are.

A woman cleaning a BRZ. Yeah, this isn’t exciting. Moving on…

By this point it was time to blag my way back into the paddock before the cars went out for another demonstration run. Shotgun exhausts indoors should carry health warnings.

The grandstand was, bar the first show of each day, always full to the brim, which to be honest took me by surprise. As it happens it seems lots of people wanted to watch indoor skids!

The lack of lighting in the arena certainly added to the spectacle but it definitely didn’t help when it came to taking pictures. But anyway, enough excuses.

Autosport was my first chance to see the 2JZ Lexus in action in person as up until this point I’d only seen it in the videos from the Monster Gymkhana Grid event at Santa Pod. It’s definitely got a lot of promise, let’s just put it that way.

Once the guys were done and Shane had been interviewed by Louise Goodman and the other presenter who’s name escapes me (I’m sure the big selling point in his introduction was something to do with ITV4, read into that what you will) a stunt crew lead by a couple of relatively attractive middle aged women (I’m doing everything I can to refrain from using the term “MILF” here) headed out for their show.


There were also lots of displays put on by a variety of stock and oval race cars – in all seriousness I’m totally feeling the Fast & Furious style lighting on these things.

I’ve read a lot about this dude in the past and have always wanted to see him in action; painting with R/C cars is seriously impressive stuff! The only niggle in the back of mind though was, how does one come to discover that their talent is painting with R/C cars!? Fair play to the guy though.

There was some seriously cool retro European metal on display…

F1 memorabilia stall. A lot of this stuff I can understand the value of, but why anyone would part with good money for Johnny Herbert’s Jaguar race suit is beyond me.

Coming soon to the Rusholme strip…

Ah, that’s more like it.

The Aventador is literally the only current super car that makes me weep every time I see one drive by. I would do many questionable things to own one, let’s just put it that way.

I’m pretty sure there’s a conjunctive missing on those posters…

By this point it was time for the final show of the day back in the arena. With nothing but another can of Monster to prove my right to remain in the venue I made the long walk to the Live Action Arena to catch the display which all went to plan…

…until Sully’s Quaife sequential ‘box made the sort of noise that you don’t want to hear from a very, very expensive gearbox.

Hi Shane.

With Saturday’s shows now out of the way it was time to get the cars refuelled, which meant a trip outside for some fresh air. Obviously, nobody felt the need to excercise their right foot a little bit out in the NEC’s car park network…ahem.

My Premier Inn bed and a cheap takeaway beckoned, but the more pressing matter of Sully’s ‘box needed attending to first. Up went the RBS15…

Thirteen minutes later and the ‘box was on the floor getting a thorough going over from the Quaife boys. These guys earned some serious respect from myself and the rest of the team that night; it was late, they wanted to go to bed, they were wearing their smart trade stand clothes and yet they had no qualms with telling us to “leave it to them” while they set about pulling apart a gearbox that carries a five figure price tag as quickly as their hands would allow.

Top work guys!

The ‘boxes on their stand kept Josh and I entertained for a whole half an hour while we made the most realistic 1JZ noises that our vocal chords could manage. Ah, the joys of being 21…

The guys eventually decided that the ‘box should be left with them for the evening, so on that note it was time to make quick our escape…

…and head back to the hotel (via Dominos, obviously).

Sunday morning arrived along with the burden of a slight hangover that was swiftly dealt with by a footlong Subway. We got into the halls before the show reopened to the public so I got chance to have a quick look around before the crowds arrived to get in the way of all my photos.

If you ever used to play Colin McRae Rally 2.0 as much as I did then you will no doubt recognise this car. RIP.

“BTCC Edition”. That’s funny, I don’t really see the resemblance between this and Jason Plato’s daily runabout.

Lewis Hamilton’s little bro’s Clio Cup car. No crude jokes please.

I couldn’t help but be drawn to this very focused GT86.

This was (in my eyes at least) the coolest car at the show, hands down. Top work Forge!

I wish I knew more about the spec but at the same time I don’t really want to know – it just looks so awesome that I reckon if the spec let me down it’d be like finding out that the stunning girl that works behind the counter at my local Co-Op has a severe personality disorder: i.e. disappointing.

Julian Smith of Garage-D fame had his Blitz R34 on display on the Nangkang stand…

…alongside the Monster Energy sponsored soarer of Buttsy Butler.

It must be said that there were plenty of stands catering for the well-heeled gentleman/lady motorist. I’m pretty sure that the majority of people I saw visiting this particular stand were in some way responsible for the world’s fall from financial grace a few years back and had no qualms about eyeing up a supercharger conversion or two for their fleet of Aston Martin Vantages so that they can do even bigger burnouts outside of the homeless shelters that their reckless trading helped to fill. Or it’s possible that they were just poor people like you or me oggling a nice Aston, which I suppose is quite likely.

With the stands starting to wind down after four days of promoting their wares it was time for my final voyage to the Live Action Arena to catch the final show of the day and help with the inevitable loading of the vans and trailers.

Despite the gearbox issues from the previous evening Quaife had made the decision that they were happy for the ‘box to be re-fitted to Sully’s car and inspected at a later date. This seemed to be the right decision as the S15 ran faultlessly throughout the Sunday, happy days.

So, Autosport 2013 – what did I think. In all honesty, I would not be willing to pay £31 to walk around a few exhibition halls to look at some (admittedly impressive) cars that aren’t moving. The Live Action Arena was well worth a shout for all of those attending, but with a ticket for this costing another £10 on top of the entry fee you end up faced with a pretty expensive weekend.

However, from a personal point of view, I had a great time hanging out with the team and my other mates, doing my bit to help (I’m sure some would be quick to argue that my help often extended to sitting in a chair and snacking on whatever free food was available but I would dispute this!) and just enjoying the social side of things. To me that’s the most important thing, and if you’re not having fun, what’s the point!?



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