Jacques Villeneuve, the 1997 Formula one world champion opened the final day and then later took to the Autosport stage and F1 Racing grid for interviews.
Villeneuve started by talking about his unique education, which was thanks to his Ferrari F1 driver father, Gilles – “I think I spent half my time in school and the other half in a Ferrari garage” – and then went on to describe his love for F1.
“After my CART championship and Indy 500 win, F1 was the next natural step. Even compared to what I’d been doing, the cars looked maddeningly fast and when I arrived, I just felt really lucky to be in F1. I had the best opportunity thanks to Williams and a great teammate in Damon Hill. For the 1996 season, I gave him a few surprises but mostly I learned from him.”
He gave Michael Schumacher a few surprises too with a daring overtake at Estoril that year. “We’d done lots of winter testing at Estoril and to me the final corner looked like an oval corner. I told my engineer Jock Clear that I could overtake on the outside in the race. He said, ‘Okay, tell us which lap you’re going to do it on and we’ll come with a spoon to pick up the pieces.’
“I put the car right to the outside, kept my foot in and when I went round Michael, I got onto the marbles, but there was a backmarker just ahead on the straight and I picked up the tow and completed the move. Michael was angry after that race as no one had beaten him that way. It really hurt his ego.”
The two came together at Jerez in the final round of the 1997 season, an incident which decided the championship. “That weekend there was great energy in the air. I’d been very vocal about Michael’s driving, how he’d won before. There was one place on the track where I could see I was braking later. I went for it, braked maybe one metre later than him and put two wheels on the grass.
“He hit me. I knew my car was damaged so I drove slowly, avoided kerbs, braked earlier. I learned after the race that the battery had been knocked out of its stand and only the electrical cables were keeping the connection together. It held to the finish line. Sometimes it’s just meant to be.”
Other guests included several members of the Williams team past and present with Claire Williams, Rob Smedley and former Williams (Now Red Bull) designer Adrian Newey. There was even a guest from the world of two wheels as John Mcguiness appeared unexpectedly to have an interview on the main Autosport stage.
Away from the big names, the oval and extreme sports element of the show was in full swing with Stock cars, Autograss cars and even Tractors on display.
The tractors in question aren’t normal tractors but huge “beasts” from the tractor pulling championship including one with two huge Rolls Royce tank engines!
The Performance car show had it’s own crowd pullers, the main one being a large display of Racing Sierra Cosworths to celebrate thirty years of the legendary racing machines. With plenty of other incredible machinery from the past and the present, the Performance car show was packed with visitors all day. There was even a chance to sample some of the cars from inside the hall outside as the Abarth stand offered the chance to sample it’s 500 model on a purpose designed course outside.
Another notable display was a line up of all seven remaining Lotus 49 Formula one cars together with a period transporter. Several of the team’s original mechanics who worked on the cars in period were also around and were happy to talk to visitors about the pace setting machines.
The BTCC provided plenty of interest once again today with several drivers interviewed on the stage, including Colin Turkington who seemed to imply that his move from BMR announced on Friday, wasn’t his idea. He now faces a race against time to find a drive for the 2017 season.
In the live action arena, the BTCC shoot out had it’s final runs and when the times from the whole show were combined it was Rob Austin who came out on top although he had the most goes in the car so there was maybe a slight advantage! Colin Turkington was second (Perhaps a good advert for his skills while he hunts for a new drive) and the 2016 BTCC champion Shedden was third. You have to feel sorry for Jake Hill. He only got a single run on Thursday and after having a big spin he ended up very much at the bottom of the final timesheet!
It’s not only about circuit racing though and as usual Rallying had a big display at the show with a big group of the cars that compete in the British Rally championship.
With the show now over, the stage is set for the 2017 racing season. With just a couple of months to go before the first championships take to the track for the first time, teams will now be making their final preparations for the new season. It might be known as the off season, but Motorsport never rests!
Autosport international 2018 will take place on the 11th to the 14th January 2018. By Marc Waller