The motorsport season always starts at Autosport International in January. The huge racing show always attracts the cream of the world’s racing drivers and teams, with legions of petrolheads all jostling to get up close to them for a selfie, scribbled autograph or simply a shot they can put on social media.

Last year’s race-winning Ferrari F1 racer was just one of hundreds of top-level racing cars fans can ogle: join us for a few hot laps of the Birmingham NEC spectacular.

Also be sure to check out the Ferrari-filled Autosport International Coys auction that will run during the show.

F1 star Fernando Alonso is taking another busman’s holiday this January by taking part in the Detroit 24 Hours. He’s driving a United Autosports Ligier JS P217, an example of which is on show at Autosport International. It takes pride of place near the main show entrance, so there’s no missing it, particularly as it’s a stunning-looking IMSA-spec racing car in its own right.

There’s added UK interest too – both of his teammates are Brits: rising stars Lando Norris is from Bristol and Phil Hanson is from Berkshire.

Rallying fans should be chuffed to bits – all the major 2018 WRC cars were uncovered at Autosport International this year. The reigning title-winner is the British-built M-Sport Ford Fiesta of Sebastien Ogier, and fans can also see new metal from Citroen, Hyundai and Toyota.

Just to underline how far removed these cars are from road-going machines, here’s the front of Toyota’s WRC-spec Yaris. It’s just a little bit more extreme than your stock Yaris Hybrid…

But it’s not just new cars on show. This immaculate Ford Escort Mk1 shows how things used to be done, albeit updated with modern-spec componentry. Rally engineers in the 1970s could only dream of working on a car in such comfort…

The Lancia Stratos was a relatively short-lived rally car that still has grown men go weak at the knees. Tales abound of those who actually saw it in action in the 1970s, going misty-eyed at the noise and the drama.

Ferrari has a 488 Challenge car on its stand. Why? Because it’s proposing a UK-specific series for people who may like the idea of owning and racing one, but not the time commitment dictated by taking part in the current European series.

If there’s sufficient interest, Ferrari may confirm a 2019 UK Challenge series in the next couple of months. If you’ve always dreamed of being the next Sebastien Vettel, and have the means to do so, this could be your first step on the ladder.

Porsche, of course, offers its own UK racing series, the Porsche Carrera Cup, and this is a support race on the prestigious BTCC calendar. It shows what could become of any fledgling Ferrari series – and, as a spokesman pointed out…

… Once you’re in the Ferrari racing family, the sky’s the limit. Maybe you might step up into a GTE-spec car such as this 458 and then go enter the Le Mans 24 Hours. Maybe you might buy an old factory F1 racer and drive it in the famous Ferrari Racing Days events. More than a few well-heeled Ferrari fans will be dreaming of what could be in Birmingham this weekend.

Autosport isn’t just about racing cars, though. It’s about everything else you need to engineer and run them – such as car trailers, of which the robustness of one was demonstrated here by parking an old Porsche Diesel tractor in the back.

The new Invictus Games Racing team was launched at the show. It’s fielding two cars in the top-level British GT Championship – and the cars are custom-built Jaguar F-Type GT4 sportscars custom-built by Jaguar’s specialist SVR division.

The first race is at Oulton Park during the Easter weekend; each car will be piloted by a professional racing driver and two injured ex-servicemen from the Armed Forces. It’s a high-profile campaign with serious intent: they might start off slowly, say team bosses, but the ultimate goal is to win races.

New to the UK racing scene in 2018 is the TCR UK Championship. Already running in Europe, it’s an alternative to the British Touring Car Championship, and includes cool cars such as the Seat Leon Cupra and Hyundai i30N. If it takes off in the UK, how will the BTCC respond?

Motorsport suppliers are always looking for cool ways to liven up their stands. Cue one 55 Ford Zephyr Super Pro racer – which, of course, uses NGK spark plugs…

Others like to draw the parallels between their road cars and racers – here’s a Renaultsport Clio Trophy alongside its racing equivalent. We don’t think we need to point out which is which…

New for Autosport International this year is a social influencers ‘corner’. Shmee150 is perhaps the most well-known of them, but we do rather like the look of Queen B’s gorgeous modified BMW E21 3 Series. Respect!

Ever heard of Steeda? It’s billed as the best Ford tuner you’ve never heard of: Steeda is massive in America and is now entering the UK to help spice up Mustangs, Fiestas and Focus over here. This Steeda Q500 is a package of parts highly rated even by those within Ford itself.

How to make a Lamborghini Aventador even more standout? Treat it to a makeover by premium vehicle stylists Liberty Walk. Price? On application…

The new TVR Griffith is at the show; you’ll find it at the Rimstock Team Dynamics stand. It’s been treated to a flashy new wrap, meaning we’ll no longer need to grumble about the poor paint match on the doors.

How motorsport used to be done in the 1970s. This Richard Longman Mini 1275GT used to terrorise much bigger and brawnier machines in the British Touring Car Championship. On occasion, its nimbleness and agility used to beat them, too: Longman actually won the 1978 BTCC title outright in this plucky little Mini.

Do you have a rough old Mazda MX-5 that stands no chance of passing its next MOT? You could scrap it… or you could fork out £2,995 for this kit of parts and use the Mazda as a donor car. Hands up, who fancies a MEV Exocet?   

We’ll leave you with a tour of the 2017 F1 grid. This is the highlight of Autosport International for many – an unparalleled opportunity to get right up close to the world’s best racing cars.

Naturally, Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes-AMG title-winning machine takes pride of place, but Williams, McLaren, Renault, Sauber and, of course, Ferrari fans are not left short-changed, either.