Autosport International attracts 95,000 visitors

Crowds up 12% as Nigel Mansell and the 2018 WRC season launch headlined the NEC exhibition

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Last week’s four-day Autosport International exhibition at the NEC attracted 95,000 visitors, an increase of 12% from 2017.

The Birmingham show was headlined by the launch of the World Rally Championship’s 2018 season – an Autosport first for a top-tier FIA series. The teams and drivers unveiled their cars on the event’s main stage, instead of at its traditional Casino Square venue in Monte Carlo.

Reigning WRC champion and M-Sport Ford driver Sébastien Ogier said: ‘It was fantastic to launch the new WRC series at Autosport International in front of so many true motorsport enthusiasts.’

Read our 2018 ASI highlights here.

The 1992 Formula 1 world champion and 1993 IndyCar Cart champion Nigel Mansell also starred. He was joined on stage on Saturday by double-amputee racing driver Billy Monger, for a special appearance. Mansell said: ‘When I raced for Ferrari, the team called me “Il Leone”, the Lionheart. Well, you are the young Lionheart, Billy.’

Monger featured in Autosport’s Live Action Area with renowned stunt driver Terry Grant and Mission Motorsport, where he performed in a specially adapted Jaguar F-type.

A new F-type built to GT4 racing specification was also unveiled, in a tie-up with Invictus Games Racing. The programme will allow injured British Armed Forces veterans to compete in the 2018 British GT Championship.

Gil de Ferran, who won the Champ Car Series in 2000 and 2001, and the 2003 Indianapolis 500, also took to the Autosport stage. In 2017 he coached Fernando Alonso when the McLaren-Honda driver competed in the Indy 500.

Other star names included former F1 drivers Emanuele Pirro – a five-time Le Mans 24-hours winner – and Derek Warwick.

Ferrari’s stand included the 2017 F1 car, the SF70H, and the 2004 championship-winning F2004. The 2017 LMGTE Pro World Endurance Championship-winning AF Corse 488 GTE, FXX-K Evo and 488 Challenge cars were also on display.

Model-launch highlights at the show included Ginetta, which took the wraps off its 650bhp LMP1 challenger that will race in the WEC and Le Mans 24-hours this year.

The stand dominated the Performance Car Show. It hosted the UK debuts of the VW Golf GTI TCR – a 345bhp competition version of the road car – and the new Ford Fiesta ST. The Jaguar XE SV Project 8 – the fastest four-door saloon ever to lap the Nürburgring – was also on display.

Images courtesy of LAT

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