Autosport International back to its best…nearly

Autosport International is back. That’s certainly the feeling I came away with from the National Exhibition Centre after Top Step Communications’ annual visit last Thursday.

Professionally, ASI is a ‘must-do’ event; a chance to catch up with old colleagues and meet new faces ahead of another busy motorsport season, and a terrific opportunity for our clients from racing and rallying to make big announcements and press the flesh with potential partners.

BTCC Group interview

I’ll admit, a massively soft spot for the event lurks inside me. Visiting in 1996 as an impressionable 11-year-old, I was delighted to win a PlayStation and British Touring Car Championship tickets as runner-up of the ‘Big Quiz’ on the main stage; one of several things that remain etched in my mind.

Meeting Sir Jackie Stewart – there to announce the establishment of Stewart GP and a Ford tie-in – Martin Brundle, John Watson, David Leslie and Matt Neal, watching Piero Liatti’s mega donuts in Subaru’s Impreza 555 in the Live Action Arena, and sitting in Gianni Morbidelli’s Australian Grand Prix podium-finishing Arrows grand prix car all contributed to an utterly mega experience.

Those wonderful early experiences were so fantastic that it saddened me to see ASI descend into a far less fever affair as the worldwide economic decline took hold on the motorsport industry a decade ago.

PORSCHE STAND PIC

Don’t get me wrong, a massive Classic Team Lotus stand crammed full of ex-Jim Clark, Mario Andretti and Nigel Mansell machinery is extremely cool, and organisations like the Historic Sports Car Club (who won ‘Historic stand of the Year’ this time around) and 750 Motor Club put on super-strong displays. But it’s not what the crowd comes for, is it?

MANSELL IMAGE

It’s been steadily regaining lost ground over the past few years and for 2018, there was a tangible feeling that the show was getting towards being back to its best. Special guests included Formula 1 World Champion Nigel Mansell, Indy 500 winner Gil de Ferran, and the winners of the past nine British Touring Car titles to mark the launch of its 60th anniversary season and unveil several new-car liveries for the year.

Better still was the use of the event for the global launch of the 2018 FIA World Rally Championship, with every major driver and manufacturer vehicles from Citroen, Ford M-Sport, Hyundai and Toyota present, and for the launch of the all-new Ginetta LMP1 machine, with which the Yorkshire firm aims to take on the might of Toyota at Le Mans.

WRC IMAGE

Add into this the biggest ‘Autosport Engineering’ section I can remember seeing – presided over by the irrepressible Tony Tobias, and it’s abundantly clear how much value the four-day January spectacular still holds for the industry.

It was great to see the show prove useful to our clients; JAS Motorsport, whose multiple title-winning Honda Civic Type R TCR formed the centrepiece of the award-winning Vital Equipment stand, WSR, whose Team Principal Dick Bennetts was an in-demand man from media from as far afield as Australia and Fox Motorsport, who made a team visit on Thursday.

1818 - Dick Bennetts with Speedcafe

Ok, so the Formula 1 launches are a thing of the past, but that’s more down to the current technical and testing regulations negating the benefit of completing a new car early or eating in to a driver’s contracted PR days, than any shortcomings of ASI.

Show Director Kate Woodley and her team have done a magnificent job to stop the event sliding into a state of irrelevance and instead maintained a one-stop-shop for industry insiders, motorsport media and – most importantly – an engaged fanbase.

GINETTA LAUNCH

Well done guys. We look forward to an even better show next year.

Could we help you maximise your big announcement at ASI 2019? Get in touch today.

Five Motorsport Championships we love!

Here at Top Step Communications, we’re proud to provide PR and media support to teams and organisations at all levels of the motorsport industry in the UK and abroad, and as you can imagine, that means plenty of travel and a multitude of different series to engage with.

But as much as this is our profession, we’re fans first and foremost. That’s what drove us into this industry in the first place, and that means we get extremely fevered-up by corking action on-track and a frenetic atmosphere in the grandstands.

So, as we get towards the business end of the season, we thought we’d share with you our favourite championships of 2017.

Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship

A bit of an obvious one really, but Britain’s highest-profile four-wheeled championship continues to go from strength to strength. As if a capacity grid of 32 cars representing 11 different marques wasn’t enough, manufacturer entries from BMW, Honda, Vauxhall, MG and Subaru mean the highest level of direct support from the carmakers since the fabled Super Touring era of the 1990s. Non-stop action is guaranteed with some outstanding racing at the front, the usual midfield squabbles and – this year – the emergence of two of tin-top racing’s undoubted new stars in Ash Sutton and Tom Ingram to challenge the established heavyweights like Colin Turkington, Gordon Shedden and Rob Collard. Even better, the drivers are REAL PERSONALITIES and don’t waste a chance to speak their mind; even when Louise Goodman or Alan Hyde shove a mic under their nose. Catch the whole thing (plus support categories) live on ITV4 for the rest of the season, or pop along to an event. At around £30 a head for a full day of action (including open access to the paddock) plus free entry for kids, it’s extremely good value for money too.

ADAC TCR Germany

ADAC TCR Germany, 3. - 4. Lauf Red Bull Ring 2017 - Foto: Gruppe C Photography

ADAC TCR Germany, 3. – 4. Lauf Red Bull Ring 2017 – Foto: Gruppe C Photography

When you give yourself just two months to create a low-cost race championship with a national profile, you’d be forgiven if only 10-15 entries were recruited for the first race. ADAC, working under just these restrictions, remarkably welcomed 44 cars to its opener in 2016. A year on and the series has strengthened with more cars, teams and drivers winning week-in-week-out, and the racing being wonderfully erratic, sometimes pure farce, and always massively entertaining. Through all this – and a Balance of Performance system that has infuriated everyone whenever their car has been disadvantaged – the superb speed and consistency of Josh Files and his JAS Motorsport-built Honda Civic Type R TCR, fielded by the Target Competition team, has shone through and left the British driver on the verge of a second straight title. How much longer can his talent be ignored?

Simpson Race Products Ginetta Junior Championship

Ginetta Jr

A bunch of teenagers – some as young as 14-years-old – let loose at the UK’s best circuits in identical 100bhp Ginetta G40 race cars sounds like a recipe for disaster. To be honest, that’s part of the appeal, and there have been some fairly chaotic moments. But driving standards – at the front of the field especially – feel vastly improved this season and that’s led to some of the best racing anywhere on the planet (check out Knockhill Round 17) as the next generation of racing stars hone their racecraft. The emergence of Seb Priaulx, Daniel Harper, Tom Gamble and rookie Kiern Jewiss, plus the addition of British GT race-winning team Fox Motorsport have added extra dimensions and created a season-long four-way title fight.

FIA World Rally Championship

WRC

The WRC appeared to be on shaky ground 18 months ago. The World Rallycross Championship, with its young-fan focus, Monster Energy girls aplenty and short, sharp, five-minute races and short-track set-up had been a major disruptor to the establishment. Fast forward to the summer of 2017 and nothing could be further from the truth. Reinvigorated by the return of Citroen and Toyota – both already victorious this year – first-time winners in Ott Tanak and Esapekka Lappi and the switch to M-Sport by top dog Sebastien Ogier, the WRC is very nearly back at the level it reached at its competitive peak. Rallying has always been cool and with the latest generation of cars looking more like space ships than family hatchbacks, it is winning new fans and gaining more traction online and in mainstream broadcasting. And on that point, modern on-board and drone camera technology have produced some breathtaking footage this year (expertly broadcast by Red Bull TV globally). Long may it continue.

Pirelli World Challenge

Acura NSX GT3 Team Has Breakout Weekend In Utah

We love the Blancpain Endurance Series, but with more than 45 cars per race, it can be all too easy to forget who’s in what car and even who won the last event. Likewise, Blancpain Sprint falls down on having such an evenly-matched field of teams and drivers that the racing can sometimes be a tad stale, even if the trackside sight and sound of a glut of rumbling GT3 cars is a joy to behold. The US-based PWC gets around all of that and mixes in awesome street circuits like Long Beach with old favourites such as Road America and Mid-Ohio. A high-quality batch of front-running drivers like Alvaro Parente, Pat Long and Ryan Dalziel, plus a variety of classes from GTA down to ST (street tuner) and several different race formats means this is one series you simply have to check out.