“What Autosport International Taught Me”
Autosport International, to many a motorsport fan, is as good as racing can get without anything actually moving. Exploring the seemingly endless sprawl of stalls will almost certainly entertain any attendee for the 9 opening hours each day, no matter how specific their vehicular tastes are. Exhibitors ranged from 7 of the 10 current Formula 1 teams, the Formula E brand and the 2018 Le Mans winning Toyota (still unwashed 18 months later), to the majority of leading helmet and racewear providers, motorsport retailers, a multitude of suspension companies, a dozen bucket seat manufacturers and even two producers of sequential gearboxes. Two!
There were plenty of exclusives to be snapped up too, with Pirelli showcasing their new 18-inch wheels for 2020’s Formula 2 season, M-Sport unveiling their Ford Fiesta’s WRC livery for the upcoming season, and the British Touring Car Championship seemingly confirming half the grid for this summer. In fact, the BTCC Kwik Fit stand was so hectic that, at one point, Tom Chilton emerged from under a sheet as the news broke he had signed for BTC Racing.
However, there are hundreds of articles in the press dissecting every morsel of news and gossip to come out of the four days’ proceedings, therefore I’m not about to delve into my opinion about each and every single occurrence from last weekend’s show. What this blog is all about is my journey into motorsport, and with that in mind here is what I took away from my visit to the event:
Firstly, finding the right racing series for me is crucial for many reasons. Before choosing a racing series to enter there seems to be a lot more considerations to take into account than had I initially thought of. For example, a couple of important questions I hadn’t previously given thought to are “who else is racing when I am?” and “how controlled is the balance of machinery?”
Whilst the first of those two questions could mean who else am I on track against (which in itself could be an important consideration), in this circumstance I am actually referring to other series’ racing during the same weekend. From a marketability standpoint, a competition that shadows a much larger national series such as British GT or the BTCC will offer you a significantly higher level of exposure in comparison to driving in a stand-alone series such as the 750 Motor Club. This not only means gaining sponsors may be easier for me due to more sets of spectator eyes staring at their stickers, but also that the likelihood of someone important noticing any potential achievements is that much higher. Naturally the race organisers are also going to realise this and so entry fees are likely to be substantially more costly, but it needs to be a consideration nonetheless.
The other intriguing question that Autosport International made me ponder was that of the balance between vehicular performance in each competition. It is clear to see that, in Formula 1 where 99% of the competition is based on who can build the best car, sometimes a few participants are rooted at the foot of the timing screens whilst others are seconds a lap quicker. This could be down to skill yes, however chances are the people consistently climbing on the podium are those with the biggest budget building the best cars. Therefore, especially when first competing, it might make the most sense for me to try and scout out something resembling more of a “spec” series, such as the Caterham Academy or the Ginetta G40 series.
Once again, the expectation would be that initial entry costs are much higher than some other championships, yet with brand new machinery that is closely monitored throughout the season it is much more likely I would leave a season with a much more representative view of my actual driving ability in comparison to others’.
So alongside giving me an opportunity to capture many, many pictures (which you can find all on my Instagram, @TheRacingGrind), Autosport International enabled me to slightly better understand the climate I am aiming to join, alongside giving me more of a representative idea of how broke I just might be in a years’ time. I must say it was a fantastic day out and I would highly recommend attending in 12 months’ time, hopefully just like I will be. Between now and then, however, are another 50-odd of these episodes for me to write, and a whole year’s worth of racing experiences to be had!
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