Star-studded Finish

To Autosport International

Double 24 Hours of Le Mans winner and former Formula 1 driver Allan McNish opened the final day of the Autosport International Show yesterday  morning to the gathered crowd, before taking to the central stage to reflect on a successful 2008 campaign in the Audi R10 TDi.

“Last year was a fantastic season for motorsport, and UK motorsport in particular,” said McNish to the eager crowd. “With Lewis Hamilton winning the world championship, my friend David Coulthard having a great 14th year in Formula 1, and of course my win at Le Mans after waiting ten years. Although the layout of the show is different this year, the main elements remain; from starting out in motorsport such as karting, to Formula 1. Whichever way you look at it, the show still gives you the chance to feel, see and touch motorsport.”

The Scottish driver also talked about winning the French endurance classic, a decade after his first win with Porsche. “I now appreciate that Le Mans is considerably more difficult than I first expected; and right through the season from the first corner at Sebring, there wasn’t anything between ourselves and Peugeot. It was aggressive, wheel-to-wheel racing.

“At Le Mans, my Audi covered more distance than a Formula 1 car covers in a whole season. The technology is world-leading, and it gives me so much satisfaction to drive. We wanted on-the-limit competition in 2008, and it was; so last year must have been one of the best seasons I’ve ever driven in.”

Vauxhall trio throw down the gauntlet at Autosport International

All three drivers from the VX Racing British Touring Car Championship squad visited the Autosport International Show, and spoke of the renewed challenge of the 2009 season.

Reigning BTCC Champion Fabrizio Giovanardi, team-mate Matt Neal and new signing Andrew Jordan are looking forward to their team relationship in the coming year. “This is a huge opportunity for me, a chance to learn a lot from Fabrizio and Matt, and we’ll have some fun along the way,” said 19-year-old Jordan.

“It’s lovely to have Andrew along this year. The car might look identical from the outside, but underneath a fair bit has gone on, and we start testing again in three weeks time,” said Neal. Fabrizio lamented SEAT’s withdrawal from the championship, but remained optimistic. “It’s not good that SEAT have pulled out, but you never know who’s coming and going from the sport. I’m sure Jason Plato will find a drive.”

Chevrolet duo look forward to the WTCC chase

Chevrolet World Touring Car Championship drivers Robert Huff and Alain Menu are looking forward to a 2009 campaign with the new Chevrolet Cruze. Both drivers spoke of their 2008 and 2009 seasons to visitors at the Autosport International Show.

Huff was the highest-scoring British driver in the 2008 championship, finishing third overall in the standings after the final round in Macau. “It was a great season, obviously, because the target at the start was to get in the top five. It was a tough season, and we had quite a bit of bad luck, but towards the end of the year, it came good and we finished on a high.”

“We don’t know where we stand with the new car, and we won’t know until the first round in March, but obviously the FIA work hard to equal things, as last year the diesel SEATs were the hardest cars I’ve ever had to overtake! We’ve just focused on making the Cruze as quick as possible, and as reliable as possible, so hopefully we’ve got the best opportunity to go out and do well.”

Double British Touring Car Champion Menu praised Huff’s approach to the sport. “He’s a good driver, and Rob, Nicola Larini and I all work well together. I expect BMW to be the strongest car this year, but we’ll see, and I believe it will be tight.”

Davidson looks to the future at Autosport International

Former Super Aguri and BAR driver Anthony Davidson talked about life post-Honda at Autosport International, but hinted that a return to competition is still possible. Speaking to the gathered crowd at the Autosport Stage, the British driver explained the effect of Super Aguri and Honda’s withdrawal from Formula 1.

“Super Aguri were a fantastic team to work for, full of really talented people. I think it was a telltale sign of things to come at Honda. The Japanese are great people to work with, and I know they’ll be feeling this, as it’s hard to walk away before winning a world championship.”

Davidson was only a few weeks away from signing a deal with Honda when the firm’s F1 exploits were cancelled. “If nothing else, the last year has given me the chance to work with Ross Brawn, I’ve been extremely privileged to work with him. It was a massive shock, and now I’m in the same situation as Button. Somebody will buy the company; you rarely come across a team of similar stature.

“You should never give up but I’m a realist, an F1 drive is now looking slim for me. I’ve raced all kinds of cars, including Le Mans before, and it’s a race I’ve got my eye on. Hopefully I can also do more Radio 5 Live commentary work.”

Cutting-edge technology at Autosport International

Brazilian motorsport clothing and accessory manufacturer Lico hosted the unveiling of the new MSD Opel Corsa S2000 rally car, alongside UK importer Stuart Jones’ MG Super 2000, used in the British Rally Championship last year. The Opel has been built to the new Super 2000 regulations, and is due to make its competitive debut on Rallye Monte Carlo at the end of the month. Powered by a two-litre, 280bhp engine, the four-wheel drive Corsa is the latest Super 2000 car to break cover.

Jones said: “It’s been a great show, we’ve had lots of interest in the products, lots of sales, and loads of people have come to look at the two cars. I’m aiming to compete on several home international events in 2009, with some more plans in the wings, and of course we’ve launched the UK concession for Lico by Stuart Jones Rallying.”

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