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To The Brink?

This week sees the Autosport Show at the NEC in Birmingham and, for this writer at least, it has provided in recent years an excellent barometer for the relative health and preparedness of the sport.

Scroll back just a handful of years and the show was the venue for any number of new car and team launches, it was THE place to get attention ahead of an exciting season.

Then came the credit crunch and, after a truly dreadful year or two with wide empty swathes of exhibition space filled at the last minute by inviting racers and others with large and (sometimes) interesting car collections to come in as fillers, the green shoots of recovery began to be seen.

But something had already changed, no longer were major launches the norm, Instead the deals were being done at the NEC, the news came in whispers and conversations, not from the main stage.

Move on even more recently and there's been another even more subtle change, now the norm is that the conversations about the deals are taking place at the NEC, followed no doubt by a frenzy of further background activity to make the sums add up and ensure that the supply chain can actually fulfill the ambitions expressed.

It's all part of a new reality, later, cheaper (supposedly!) and altogether more stressful for almost all concerned.

There will, of course, be plenty of real news from Birmingham in the coming days, some of it very positive indeed, but the real story will be emerging when we start to see the season entries for the major Championships, and at present there seems to be plenty still to do on almost every front there to fill the grids.

The fallout from recession, the worries about another dip in the same direction, diversity (but little crossover) of series and races and continued uncertainty about the medium term eligibility and competitiveness of a range of racing machinery have all played a part.

The question for now then is a simple but slightly terrifying one - Is this simple the age of brinksmanship, or are we really in quite serious trouble?