DubShed 2016 has come and gone in the blink of an eye, months of stress and preparations for the organisers and show goers alike is now stored in the minds of everyone and as such we are now able to sit back, dreary eyed after a long weekend and reflect on what the lads and ladies from GTI NI put together for us this year.
From very humble beginnings of running an annual car show at Castlewellan Forest Park as well as several club meetings throughout the year, GTI NI set about a handful of years ago to organise an indoor car event for the Volkswagen Audi Group (VAG) car scene.
This was a brave decision as they needed a venue capable of holding a few hundred cars, a venue capable of holding a few thousand people and a venue that was filled with charm, character and that was logistically good.
This choice of venue I would assume came with relative ease as until this year, DubShed was held at the Kings Hall Complex in Belfast which provided the space for cars and spectators and was most certainly soaked in charm and character with its “sheds filled with dubs” however logistically it was not ideal.
Due to the Kings Hall site no longer being available for such events they were forced into making a decision on changing venue for this year and the hard working team at GTI NI had to sit down and assess where would be best suited to host the show for 2016 and hopefully for many years to come.
The main exhibition hall from the old Belfast site was moved to the grounds of the former Maze Prison creating the Eikon Exhibition Centre, this was an obvious choice in my mind and indeed allowed the team from GTI NI to expand the show even further.
This growth didn’t come without a lot of hard work and support from friends, family, traders and attendee’s via past events however and it is without a doubt, huge credit to GTI NI for their efforts to grow what started out as an idea, into without question, Ireland’s largest car show.
So having outgrown the Kings Hall sheds that DubShed is renowned for, what effect did the Eikon Complex and its marquees have on the event? Well I would say plenty of effects, but all for good reasons. The site provided room for a couple of extra indoor areas to be built including a non German hall, as well as accommodating a much greater outdoor display area around these main halls with still room for more growth if required.
Everyone from the young to the mature car enthusiast were catered for as not only were there a large selection of show cars but also an inflatable area for the kids and Alltrak Rallysport even came along with their rallykart’s which you were able to arrive and drive to experience one of their 340cc off road karts.
Alongside the show cars, outside the main halls saw live action at DubShed for the first time that I can remember in the form of the entry level motorsport “Autotesting” which was a round of the MGCC Ulster Centre championship on Saturday whilst Sunday saw them return for an all day, head to head demonstration with steady crowds braving the rain to watch the highly skilled drivers battle it out.
Accompanying the Autotest demo was Waterford’s “Buttsy Butler” and his Monster Energy Toyota Soarer drift car which laid some serious rubber around the live action arena and let the crowds enjoy some high octane, noise filled slides and burnouts.
Buttsy was at the event in the name of charity so brought his Goon Squad Sauber F1 car along and as it happens was there via his friend and fellow adrenaline junkie, Fermanagh motorbike racer Lee Johnston and his charity F13K Cancer.
Johnston had one of his racing bikes on display alongside the F1 car and was selling F13K Cancer clothing and stickers to raise money for the charity via his stand. I had a brief chat with Lee and he commended the show and the general standard of cars within it, while Buttsy couldn’t get over the size of the event compared to what he used to attend in Belfast years ago.
As many would have seen via social media, another adrenaline junkie and probably the world’s biggest internet sensation, [Hoonigan] Ken Block was in Belfast the weekend of the show along with RallyX team mate Andreas Bakkerud. They caught up with Dungannon WRC driver Kris Meeke over a few shandies and delved into one of the best Grp B rally car collections in Europe, if not the world whilst in Northern Ireland.
Many people had hoped Ken would make an appearance at DubShed but that wasn’t to be.
I did however get chatting to Andreas who popped into the show on Sunday afternoon, about his time in Belfast and also his views on the show and he could only say good things, all of which were said with a huge smile that most Scandinavians have. Andreas enjoyed the hospitality Belfast offered and indeed thought DubShed was awesome.
Another great effect that the move to the Eikon Centre had on the show was that they were able to run a drag race demonstration which sadly I didn’t get to see much of, however there were several heavily equipped bugs and dubs ripping up the tar when the lights counted down to green.
Logistically this new venue was immense, just minutes from the M1 and A1, with several roads into the show meant little congestion and whilst there isn’t much character or charm about it, the old H blocks in the background are a reminder of how far this little country has come from the old days of the troubles when events like this would simply not have been a possibility.
So onto the 2016 show itself and from very early morning people were queued outside and sleeping in cars ahead of the gates opening and the car washes getting fired up for the final stages in their #dubshedprep.
Entrants and traders travelled from the length and breadth of Ireland and the Mainland to attend the show and for many it was the first show of the year to unveil what they had spent countless nights and every hard earned penny on in the off season.
Several hundred cars were on display over the two day event with the indoor display’s being of huge quality with some very unique builds never seen in Ireland before, on show, in all their glory. The cars on display ranged from standard immaculate examples to one’s such as the Audio Advice VW Beetle that have set new standards in design and build of show cars.
I personally like attending this show due to how well it is always run, the quality of cars is always to a high standard and most importantly the show is heavily involved with charity and this year was no exception with two very worthwhile charities represented. Marie Curie and F13k Cancer.
I don’t think much more needs said on the actual event itself as the large gallery will speak volumes so I will sign off with a personal well done to all involved who give up their spare time and passion to make this show work every year. Looking forward to next year already but someone book the better weather!
Words & Photos: Graham Curry