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Organisers are encouraging motorsport fans and petrolheads planning to visit the show on Sunday to buy tickets in advance to avoid disappointment, after a stellar line-up saw Saturday tickets sell out by early afternoon.
From the moment he cut the ribbon to open the show at 9am, Damon Hill OBE drew huge crowds and was the major attraction at the Autosport Stage. Talking to Henry Hope-Frost, he revealed his love of the Williams-Renault FW18, the car in which he won the 1996 F1 World Championship.
“The FW18 was designed for me, I just felt so at home in it and had some of the most enjoyable qualifying laps I’ve ever had in a racing car,” Hill said. “It was a very nimble car and had big power from the 3.0-litre V10. Aesthetically it just looked so right too.”
Hill also recalled the FW14B, the car that took Nigel Mansell to the 1992 F1 World Championship and a car that Hill extensively tested. “That was some car. Big tyres, big power from a 3.5-litre V10 and no power steering.”
Both Williams cars have been on display for visitors to see at the Williams Martini Racing motorhome – joined by six others from the F1 team’s history. The motorhome, which has been constructed for the first time away from a racing circuit, has formed part of a revamped Autosport Stage.
The stage also saw Williams Martini Racing Deputy team principal, Claire Williams, shed light on the behind the scenes workings of the beloved British team. She shared her views on the future of the team, expectations for the 2016 season and plans to take the fight to Mercedes.
She also talked about Williams Advanced Engineering – the division of Williams which commercialises F1-bred tech – and which supported Jaguar in the development of the C-X75 as well as projects outside of the automotive arena as diverse as supermarket fridges.
Two drivers who pulled in the crowds on the Autosport Stage were Marino Franchitti and Andy Priaulx, who will form part of the line-up when Ford returns to Le Mans this year in the LM GTE Pro class with the all-new GT.
Marking 50 years since the GT40 finished first, second and third at the famous 24hr race, the all-new factory program will see Ford try to emulate some of that 1966 success. “I’m massively excited to be a part of Ford racing, coming back to Le Mans, half a century after the original GT40.” Marino Franchitti told Henry Hope-Frost. “It’s such a beautiful car and it drives even better than it looks.”
Andy Priaulx added: “Ford’s engineers have not compromised on this car at all. It’s built to win – I can’t wait to continue putting some testing miles on it.”
Former Stigs Perry McCarthy and Ben Collins regaled visitors on separate occasions during the afternoon; McCarthy discussing his career and exploits on Top Gear while Collins talked about racing game Project CARS and stunt work in Hollywood.
Over at the Coys auction, there was a mouthwatering mix of road, race and rally cars going under the hammer. Highlights of the sale included a rare RHD 1974 Ferrari 246 GT Dino (it sold for £220,000), an ex-Ford works Escort RS Cosworth (£45,000), a 1982 ex-Russell Brookes Vauxhall Chevette rally car (£72,000) and a Lamborghini tractor (£7,000). There was feverish bidding for an Aston Martin DB2/4 MkIII which sold for £160,000, some £45,000 over its top estimate.
Visitors of all ages got to see a range of powerful machines and skilled drivers put on a thrilling show of drifting, precision car control and nail-biting stunts, with key highlights including the Jaguar C-X75 from the James Bond movie SPECTRE, three-time FIA World Champion Petter Solberg and drift team Team Japspeed.
Speaking after the show sold out this afternoon, Show Director, Ian France, said: “Selling out on the first public day of the show is a real testament to the exciting features, high-performance cars and motorsport icons at this year’s show. With the interest seen today, we would advise anyone planning on attending the event tomorrow to buy tickets in advance to avoid missing out.”
Autosport International is on at the Birmingham NEC until Sunday 17 January. To buy tickets, head towww.autosportinternational.com/public or www.theperformancecarshow.com
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