After the downtime of the Christmas period there’s only one way to get us firing on all cylinders again: our annual trip to Autosport International! Every January our visit to the Birmingham NEC proves to be the perfect way to kick off the new year and get us motivated for the long season ahead. This year’s show was certainly no different!
Back in 2011 Team Japspeed were given the opportunity to put on a number of drift displays in front of the 75,000 strong crowd that visited the Autosport show over the course of the weekend. We are proud to say that we have been invited back every year since then and have strived to make our live shows faster, louder and more exciting than the last.
With a couple of live demonstrations to put on during the trade-only days (Thursday and Friday) along with a handful of shows on the Saturday and Sunday (the days where the show was open to the public) the cars had a stressful four days ahead of them and it was paramount that they would be up to the task.
Representing the team in the NEC’s Live Action Arena was Shane Lynch in his VH45DETT powered S15, Shane O’Sullivan in his RB25DET powered S15, Steve “Baggsy” Biagioni in his 1JZ powered Impreza and Paul “Smokey Smith” in our 2JZ Lexus, fresh from its winter makeover.
The reason Paul was using the Lexus instead of his usual 1JZ powered S15 was due to his car being displayed on the Maxxis Tyres stand throughout the show – a fitting place for his British Drift Championship winning car to be enjoyed by the tens of thousands that attended.
Smokey, Baggsy and the two Shanes also made appearances on the Maxxis stand for a number of extremely popular autograph sessions. We lost count of how many signed Maxxis calendars and posters were given away but we hope everyone enjoys them!
They also signed lots of Japspeed merchandise to giveaway in future competitions – keep your eyes peeled for information on how to win some free stuff!
I’m not sure what’s going on this picture…maybe we should run a caption competition for it!?
The demonstration runs were held every hour and a half which meant there was a fair bit of downtime in the paddock…
…but the thrill of performing in front of the massive crowds was all that was needed to keep the whole team motivated and determined to put on the best show possible.
Shane Lynch’s monstrous V8 powered S15 sounded like nothing else; a warm yet thunderous roar that filled the arena with a melodic soundtrack of brute force and muscle…
…quite unlike Baggsy’s Subaru, with the sound of the 1JZ engine bouncing off the rev limiter piercing through the atmosphere, bouncing off the walls and assaulting the ears of the sold-out crowd.
Shane O’Sullivan’s S15 was no different; the sound of the screamer pipe venting the spent exhaust gasses up through the bonnet and into the atmosphere was hardly what you could call “relaxing”. Thankfully that’s not what we were there for, and the sound of the straight-six RB engine being throughly abused by Sully’s somewhat heavy right food was definitely a crowd favourite.
While Shane’s, Baggsy’s and Sully’s cars are tried and tested competition-bred machines our Lexus is somewhat of an unknown quantity, having only broken cover at other demonstrations and friendly events (namely, Top Gear Live and Monster Gymkhana Grid). Although it is still yet to make its competition debut in our hands, Smokey showed no signs of giving it an easy time and wrung every last drop of power out of the 2JZ engine. We can’t wait to get this thing into a competition environment to see how it fares.
Away from the Live Action Arena there were hundreds of manufacturers, traders and teams promoting their wares on their respective trade stands located across three of the NEC’s cavernous halls. It was great to go for a wander and discover so many longstanding friends of Team Japspeed promoting their causes on their own highly impressive trade stands. This included the British Drift Championship, whose stand featured a number of highly popular cars from the championship primed and ready to go for the 2013 season.
They also had the backing of the Maxxis truck and its associated Maxxis babes, some of whom are seen here giving Nathan Chivers and Mark Lappage a much needed helping hand.
We also spotted this outrageous looking Mx-5 nearby – just look at how good that Japspeed BGW suits this little car’s massive presence!
After our quick jaunt around the exhibition halls it was time to refuel the cars and prepare them for Saturday’s final demonstration run.
The refuelling centre was outside of the Live Action Arena for obvious safety reasons, which at least meant we are able to give the cars some fresh air every now and then!
Unfortunately three days of solid drifting seemed to have taken its toll on Sully’s S15. As he went to shift from second to third while finishing his synchronised doughnut a large “bang” was heard from the transmission and we feared the worst.
As soon as the car had made its way back to the paddock we apprehensively jacked up the car to remove the Quaife sequential gearbox.
Thirteen minutes later the gearbox was sat on a pile of tyres and ready to inspected, how’s that for speed!?
Thankfully the extremely helpful guys from Quaife had no issues with getting their hands dirty and swiftly dismantled the ‘box with the delicacy of a team of surgeons (albeit with the pace of a team of Formula 1 mechanics!).
We were absolutely blown away by the customer service and dedication from the Quaife team – we really couldn’t have asked for anything more from them.
The sequential gearboxes that they had on display on their trade stand made for some addictive (yet expensive!) toys for myself and our video guy Josh – there’s nothing better than the butch feeling of shifting through six gears while making some highly childish engine noises (although I suspect it’s even more fun when behind the wheel of an actual car!).
With there being no obvious damage the decision was made to refit the gearbox and see how things would go the following day. Although there was still a very obvious “clunking” from the transmission the car appeared to drive perfectly fine and there were no issues with the clutch, prop shaft or differential. Once that was out of the way it was time for mechanic Andy to celebrate the end of yet another successful day and head back to the hotel…
…to crack open a fine selection of Dominos pizzas!
Sunday morning came and it was time to fire up the cars for their last few demonstration runs of the weekend.
The visuals on the big screen at the back of the Live Action Arena were provided by no less than twelve projectors which was pretty handy for spreading the Team Japspeed name…
…not to mention Shane’s face when he was interviewed at the end of every run!
As 3:30pm rolled around it was time for our final demonstration run of the weekend and give the crowds one last thrill.
It looked like Shane was keen to make a quick exit as he was already out the door before he’d even finished his run!
With the echoes of four high powered drift cars ringing around the arena and the billows of smoke from the Maxxis MA-Z1 tyres rising into the atmosphere it was time to pack up and head home after what can only be described as an amazing four days at the Birmingham NEC.
All of us here at Team Japspeed would like to whole-heartedly thank everyone that supported us throughout the weekend. Everyone that cheered us on in the arena, everyone that queued patiently for autographs and everyone that had nothing but kind words for the entire team – it is you guys that make events like these so much fun and such an experience for all of us! We would also like to extend a massive thanks to Autosport for having us once again and we hope we can do it all over again in 2014!