What a strange few days! As is usual, NMA had a well presented and friendly stand at the NEC for the annual bash and when I arrived early on Thursday to be part of the staff, I thought that I was in the wrong place – an annex to the real show. The number of stands seemed to be markedly down on last year; there seemed to be bigger aisles between the gridded stand system; larger open spaces in front of the public interview areas and no stands against the back walls. I felt that I was seeing the show as it was just a few years ago – on the wane.
I walked off into the Engineering show and unfortunately it was much the same – the hall was barely half full of stands with bright purple Lamborghini’s taking as much of the rest of the open space as they could.
Didn’t feel like a good start – what a mistake I could have made if I had felt that way for the whole show.
Reset my mind; Quality is ALWAYS better than Quantity.
And what quality it was – excellent prospects for NMA; we had so many prospective learners for all our degree programs that at certain times we had queues!!
When I went to see our trade friends – Anders at Anglo American Oils, Julian at V-box, Phil and Hannah at Bute Motorsport, Antony at Mini Challenge, I was told the same thing – quality prospects, quality conversations, deals done.
So, what changed this year from last year? (which wasn’t bad by any means) – it felt like there were no hangers on, time wasters, speculators and chancers this year. I think the cost of entry must have had something to do with this - £30+ is not cheap, plus, probably the cost of travel and a day off from work, but if you are guaranteed to be able to talk to the people you want to, get the information you went for and come away satisfied with your days’ work then you have had a result.
Heading back for a good mooch around the stands in the Engineering Show I came across two super-special products, that whilst not brand new, I think are being shown as headline items for close to first time; certainly both stand holders were keen to talk and show.
The first is a well-known name – OMP and the product – The Art Suit.
There are two reasons I like this; Individual design without compromising safety and the massive increase in wearability a thin, low weight, but three layer FIA approved race suit gives the driver. We spend zillions of £ and countless hours trying to improve the performance of the race car and yet most of us are still using arcane 3 layer puffa, Michelin Man racesuits that are using none of the very latest technical materials that wick away sweat, keep the driver cool, don’t rub, don’t itch and fit well. I tried this suit and it felt like putting on ordinary clothing; it really was that good. I really would like to try one of these in anger in the race car in 2018 to give a real product review (Are you on the scrounge? Ed)
Add to this, the fact that it is individually printed – you can have all your sponsors on without sewing on badges (Ok, before the Ed asks, I can see an issue if a sponsor comes on board during the season) and you could have a really cuddly little kitten as the background (What?!Ed). Have a look at some of the designs in the illustration, perhaps Leonardo Da Vinci isn’t your thing but there is no denying that this is a hell of a racesuit.
The second product was from a company that many just walked on past – I know, because I stood and watched as everybody went to see the shiny whirring things and didn’t give Bcomp a second glance.
A few years ago there was outcry at Hybrid race cars, then Formula E and its concept, then Roborace and each of these has come, or is coming to fruition, and according to your mind-set that is either good or bad. Well this product is in that Marmite position as well.
Bcomp is a Swiss company that is “a leading natural fibre composite innovator” – what does that mean then? At the show the company were showing a race car wing made from the plant fibre flax with strengthening ribs. If you thought carbon fibre was light then this takes it to a whole new level. I can see that for non structural areas – see the image – things like wings, bonnets, non stressed roof panels, then this is wonderful.
Given that carbon fibre is nigh on indestructible and there is now a huge amount of waste cf, not just from race cars, but from other areas of industry that cannot be recycled, or, trendy word alert, “repurposed” then we are storing up a huge problem. One Boeing Dreamliner, made of carbon fibre, uses more than all the worlds manufacturers of bicycles and race cars in one year, so it is not just motor racings problem!!
BMW and Mercedes have been using plant fibres for panels in their road cars for years but racing has not taken this up – surely it will happen, surely it must happen. You heard it here first!
So, as we pack away our stand from another successful Autosport Show, our thoughts turn to the new season.
The NMA Lotus Evora has new aero; designed, simulated and tested and produced by students on our degree courses. We know that it works well in the CFD programs so we look forward to seeing it on track and delivering more silverware for the team.
Roger Grimshaw - NMA Tutor