The 2009 motorsport season got underway yesterday with the opening of the Autosport International Show at the NEC in Birmingham.
The show was officially opened this morning by the Motor Sports Association (MSA) Chief Executive, Colin Hilton. Trade visitors waited in throngs as the traditional ribbon-cutting ceremony took place with Haymarket Exhibitions Managing Director Gavin Brown in attendance.
“I am delighted to open Autosport International this year,” said Hilton. “It is a vital event for the motorsport community and gives great impetus for the new season. The MSA invested more than £1.2m in the development of UK motorsport last year and we will continue this programme of investment in 2009, to ensure that the sport continues to grow in these challenging times.”
“We’re very pleased to have Colin open the show for us this year,” added Gavin Brown. “We value the MSA’s work in British motorsport and our relationship with them. Colin’s presence here today validates that. It is also comforting to see the motorsport industry unite for the show, as it does every year, particularly in these financially difficult times.”
Pedro de la Rosa
Highlights of the show’s first day included Formula 1 test driver Pedro de la Rosa’s attendance to promote the Spanish Motorland Aragon circuit project. Joined by the project’s Managing Director Tome Alfonso, the McLaren test driver spoke of his involvement in the Alcaniz-based Aragon project: “It’s one of the most exciting projects happening in Spain for some time. It is more than a circuit; it’s a complete city for motor racing fans and their families.
“The track itself is very exciting; it was designed by Hermann Tilke, as we wanted to produce the best possible circuit, and the combination of long straights and technically demanding corners make it an ideal test track. Formula One teams can go there and develop their aerodynamic packages or test with certain tracks on the calendar in mind.
“We created the track with more than F1 in mind though. Motorsport is also bikes, touring cars, trucks and so much more. We wanted to create something for them, not just Formula One.”
Motorland Managing Director Tome Alfonso explained the aim of the project further and said: “We wanted to create a complete environment for race fans, with hotels, entertainment and the race track. Racing will get underway later this year with the World Series by Renault, with some good news to be announced soon after that.”
VX Racing on stage
The Autosport Stage hosted numerous guests throughout the day, including triple British Touring Car Champion VX Racing’s Mike Nicholson and driver Matt Neal, who were joined by new recruit Andrew Jordan. The team confirmed Jordan as their third driver, alongside current racers Fabrizio Giovanardi and Matt Neal for 2009.
“We tested Andrew in Spain and he was straight on it,” said VX Racing Operations Manager Mike Nicholson on the team’s new driver. “We expect him to be very fast.”
Jordan, who raced in Rally-Cross before joining the British Touring Car Championship in 2008 described his drive as a Vauxhall works driver as a huge opportunity. “I aim to score podiums and races this year, but I’ll be a team player and support VX Racing too. It’s a great chance to learn from the team and more experienced drivers.”
The Prodrive stand
Industry figures present at the show included Prodrive and Aston Martin Chairman David Richards, who launched the Aston Martin Vantage GT4 Challenge with Britcar organiser James Tucker.
“The Britcar Championship is an excellent series for the Aston Martin Vantage GT4,” said Richards. “With a combination of both endurance and speed, it will play to the strengths of our car, which has already proven itself by winning its class at the Nurburgring and Britcar 24 hour races.”
The KTM X-Bow GT4
Autosport International exhibitors KTM unveiled the KTM X-Bow Trophy 2009, a cross-championship competition running across national and European GT series, and its car, the KTM X-Bow GT4.
“We have had a lot of interest today,” said KTM Marketing Manager Jörg Walz. “It’s nice to see how well informed show visitors are. They expressed a lot of different interests for our product, from racing to track days and road-going uses.” Autosport International continues todayfor trade visitors with public days on Saturday 10 and Sunday 11 January 2009.