There are a few different ways one can kick off the motorsport season. If you’re really chomping at the bit to dive back in, the New Year actually begins in the old year – December 31, when the legendary Dakar Rally begins. In future, don’t be surprised to see our partner Glickenhaus taking part in this endurance classic with the off-road Boot: a truly go-anywhere machine.
Here’s the thing, though: rally-raid can be a bit of an acquired taste. It is, undoubtedly, the adventure of a lifetime; a truly bucket-list event. But it’s not where most of us mere mortals start the year. There’s a more laid-back season-opener in early January: the Autosport International show in the Birmingham NEC, only about an hour up the road from FORZO HQ in Tewkesbury.
After two years of being sidelined by Covid, it was time to restart the tradition of kicking off the motorsport season with a visit to its biggest industry show. As motorsport fans, it was a must on our calendar. The show is the domain of handshakes and catch-ups; of deal-brokering and sales-pitching. Thursday and Friday are trade days; everyone rolling up to talk business. Including FORZO.
But you don’t turn up to a motorsport industry event without ensuring you’re wearing something that makes a statement before even mouthing hello. The outstretched arms you’ll encounter reveal an eternal truth: no-one’s slacking when it comes to what’s on their wrists in the world of motorsport.
The good news is that you don’t need to spend a fortune to have a decent watch to show off. Which is why we headed up to Birmingham with the classic FORZO white and black panda Enduratimer. It’s a watch that somehow screams motorsport, with its slight Paul Newman Daytona vibes.
The Enduratimer attracted plenty of attention despite not sporting a Daytona-sized price tag. Underneath, there’s a VK63 automatic movement originally from Seiko within a 40mm steel case, as well as a high-quality polished steel bracelet. It’s discreetly compact but at the same time hard to miss, holding its own all day among motorsport watchmaking royalty. A Rolex Daytona here, an Omega Speedmaster there.
You could even buy other watches at the show, although many of them you probably wouldn’t want. Somewhat surprisingly for a company so keen on safeguarding its image, Ferrari puts its name to quite a wide variety of cheap watches, which are definitely an acquired taste. They’re not the only ones too: an eyebrow-raising number of supercar companies who should know better seem to put their name to some distinctly nasty watches. The moral of the story? Not everything is what it seems. Especially when it comes to motorsport.
But the Autosport show is obviously not all about watches. Instead, it’s a true Mecca for motorsport fans, starved of action over the winter. Formula 1 cars, rally cars and sports cars sit on proud display, allowing people to get much closer than they would at an actual race event, without the risk of being run over.
Last year’s Alpine, Aston Martin and Red Bull Formula 1 cars were flanked by classics of the past, and Sir Jackie Stewart – a prominent Rolex ambassador – also dropped in. Rally fans could additionally drool over Sebastien Loeb’s Ford Puma Rally1, which he used to win Rally Monte-Carlo last year, and there was a display of classic road cars for sale that would have you reaching instantly for your wallet – if only you had the bank balance of a Formula 1 driver. Luckily, there were several other merchandise stores with more affordable souvenirs. Anyone for a cap or a T shirt? The antique posters were also cool, as well as the vintage motorsport bags.
In truth, after a couple of years off, the show wasn’t quite the huge spectacle this year that it used to be. But it will be back. And there’s no surer sign than the annual pilgrimage to Birmingham that this year’s motorsport season has well and truly begun.