Autosport International - A petrolhead's dream

As the Autosport International racing car show returns to the NEC this weekend, Todd Nash finds out whether it lives up to the billing.

With the biggest supercars, classic and current Formula 1 championship winners and flame-spitting, testosterone-laden live racing, Autosport International at the NEC really is a petrolhead's dream writes Todd Nash.

From souped-up police cars and modified everyday cars to the latest model from McLaren and the Formula 1 race grid, the car collections seem to go on forever.

The new McLaren MP-12C proved a huge draw on the opening day of the show and with good reason - it's an absolutely stunningly built machine.

  • Click on the gallery to your right for more pictures from the event

Powered by a 600bhp 3.8-litre V8 engine built by McLaren, it's the central feature of the legendary company's large display.

It's flanked by some classic McLaren F1 cars, including those driven by Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost, and Lewis Hamilton's 2008 championship winning machine.

There are more Formula 1 cars on show at the F1 racing grid which showcases cars from the 2010 season, including the Renault-powered RB6 that carried Sebastian Vettel to his first World Championship title as well as the car that brought Michael Schumacher back to the grid.

And there is plenty of scope to get involved yourself, with simulators providing the opportunity to 'get behind the wheel' of some of the most powerful and classic supercars around.

If you're feeling particularly brave, you can take a ride in a Caterham Seven around a drifting arena as a professional driver skids and slides around tight corners.

I'd recommend that you get there quite early though as the queues do tend to build up. And it's best not to go straight after lunch!

But the real highlight of Autosport International is, without doubt, the shows in the live action arena.

With relentless racing from everything from Junior Mini's the BriSCA F1 stock cars, it's a testosterone-fuelled, flame-spitting, action-packed spectacle.

Hosted by Fifth Gear stars Jason Plato and Tiff Needell, it's a chance to see the top cars in action, hear the roar of their engines and smell the petrol.

The best drivers and fastest cars are forced to start at the back of the grid, which makes each and every race a flurry of overtaking and excitement.

There are a few laughs too - the Robin Reliants race provided the best entertainment of the day, with three-wheelers turning into no-wheelers as they flipped each other turning into sharp corners.

The show is open to the public on Saturday and Sunday and tickets cost £30 for adults and £19.50 for children.