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The UK hospitality calendar is jam-packed with quality motorsport events. Tom Mendehlson rounds up six of the best entertainment options
There’s no question about it: The British Grand Prix is the daddy of the motoring calendar. It has the cachet, the glamour and the renown – for sheer impressiveness, nothing can touch it. The cream of the world’s driving and engineering talent all make an appearance for a weekend of the most exciting sporting action imaginable. As entertainment goes, it’s hard to beat, which is what makes it so alluring a setting for major hospitality events.
This year, of course, there’s a little extra something to cheer for – a genuine chance a Brit could win the thing. Lewis Hamilton will, in all likelihood, one day be considered a sporting legend, so wouldn’t it be good to catch him early? Even if he doesn’t win, however, the Grand Prix is still a fearsome day out for all but the most ardent of car-haters.
The event once again takes place at Silverstone in Northamptonshire; practice is on Friday 4 July, qualifying on Saturday, while the big race itself is on Sunday – the most popular and expensive of the three days.
As you can imagine, there is a large variety of hospitality solutions available, from modest packages offering trackside action and excellent catering, to opulent affairs set in VIP areas with A-list guests and private pit lane walkabouts. All-day Champagne comes as standard across the board, while the menus have been developed by Steven Saunders, Master Chef of Great Britain. Hospitality suites are situated in strategic spots around the three-mile circuit, with private boxes also available.
Any number of guest slots can be arranged, costing as little as £159 plus VAT per person for the Friday. The most expensive option involves weekend tickets for the drivers’ lounge, weighing in at a heftier £1,369 per person, which gives you an audience with big names in motorsport and a great deal of pampering. For the really high rollers, there’s the Formula One Paddock Club, which gets its own enclosure replete with landscaped garden, bacchanalian levels of hospitality and private grandstand seating. It’s an experience that you can bet will be nothing less than breathtaking.
For more information on the event, which is held from Friday 4 to Sunday 6 July, telephone 08704 588230.
Established only two years ago, the luxury car show Salon Privé is already making waves in the right circles. Advertising itself as an exclusive garden party – albeit one held over three days in the presence of eight figures’ worth of luxury supercar – the event takes place in the lush environs of the Hurlingham Club in Fulham, west London.
The setting, with its English air of unshowy gentility and proper aristocratic cachet, is perfect. Mind-bogglingly expensive cars are scattered at strategic locations within 42 acres of verdant lawn and private members’ club, and visitors are at liberty to wander the grounds and gawp accordingly.
Among the vehicles on show are two Top Gear favourites, the Bugatti Veyron and the Koenigsegg, as well as a McLaren F1 and a clutch of beautiful vintage Ferraris. There are also attractions for the non car-obsessed, with wine tastings, luxury brand showings and an audience with England international rugby players Phil Vickery, Mike Catt and Josh Lewsey. All this on top of fine dining, gallons of excellent booze, and music from pop-classical outfit Blake.
Salon Privé has lofty ambitions, aiming to inveigle itself into London’s rarefied social calendar, alongside the Cartier Cup and Ascot. It pitches itself well, and this level of acceptance is a real possibility. Certainly, the luxury brands sponsoring the event are top tier, with Boodles (diamonds), Vertu (handmade mobile phones) and Holland and Holland (ostentatious firearms) all having a presence.
A wide range of hospitality packages are available for groups as small as 40 taking afternoon tea on a veranda or in a private room, to massive operations with up to 800 guests eating a three-course meal with drinks reception and recourse.
For more information on the event, which is held from Wednesday 2 to Friday 4 July, telephone 0808 100 2205.
Goodwood Festival of Speed
A great sprawling behemoth of an event, the Goodwood Festival of Speed is held over three days in the Earl of March’s glorious West Sussex backyard. Primarily a racing event, it has increasingly in recent years become an opportunity for motoring brands to showcase their new lines and to host full-bore trackside hospitality events.
The event, which allows the public to get close to drivers, teams and the cars themselves, attracts huge crowds which have in the past exceeded 150,000.
All the big car companies have a presence and most organise their own hospitality. However, the organisers also offer a range of options themselves, catering for groups of any size at a cost of between £340 and £470 per person. There is more entertainment on offer thoughout the weekend, including a ball on Saturday.
One thing to bear in mind is that, because most of the site is on grass, high heels may not be approporiate. Also, traffic to the site is choked to say the least – it’s best to leave at sparrows (enterprising roadside pubs offer breakfast on the way), or to eschew the roads and opt to arrive on a ‘private aviation package’, which does have a certain recherché style to it.
For more information on the event, which is held from Friday 11 to Sunday 13 July, telephone 01243 755054, or visit squaremeal.co.uk/goodwood
This engaging little event is definitely one of the more outré entertaining options, but it could prove a magnificent antidote to less playful events on the hospitality circuit.
The idea harks back to motorsport’s halcyon age, hosting vintage car races with a delightful attention to period detail, and giving the option to dress as a tweed-clad chap-about-town or Grace Kelly-style femme fatale. In other words, it’s for guests who won’t take themselves too seriously. Various hospitality packages are available, costing between £350 and £450 plus VAT per person.
For more information on the event, which is held from Friday 19 to Sunday 21 September, telephone 01243 755054, or visit squaremeal.co.uk/goodwood
Presided over by the guys from Top Gear, the MPH show is altogether a more raucous proposition than most of this summer’s events. Combining daredevil indoor racing and awesome stunts, it’s for those petrolheads who like laughs with their cars.
Although there’s the obligatory line-up of fine-looking vehicles to admire, the show also includes highlights such as the Land Rover experience, a terrapod ‘off road’ driving challenge, racing simulators for the more hands-on visitors, and a full 90-minute Top Gear live experience with all the barmy trimmings.
Following the performance, there’s access to the paddock where cars from the show are available to view first-hand. Vetted personally by the Top Gear team, there’s some real premier machinery on display, and – with tyres still warm from stunt moves – it’s hard not to get a thrill from being so close to the action.
Held for two weekends in October and November, at Earls Court in west London and then the NEC in Birmingham, the event has enough action to make for a fine night out for those more ambivalent about motorsport. The hospitality experience includes a Champagne reception, food, drinks and the best seats in the house for the show. Packages cost £235 plus VAT per person, and can be booked for six guests or more.
For more information on the event, which is held in London from Thursday 30 October to Sunday 2 November, and in Birmingham from Thursday 13 to Sunday 16 November, telephone 020 7370 8341.
The Ultimate Collection is a discrete supercar showcase held as part of the larger British International Motor Show. More than 20 of the best and most extravagant motor vehicles will be on display, and – at the discretion of their makers – even open to guests.
It’s held in the Platinum Suite on the third floor of the ExCeL venue in London’s Docklands, and can be hired outright for parties of between 100 and 250 at £225 per person. Alternatively, groups of two and up can be accommodated at an open session with the same Champagne reception, open bar and gourmet canapé perks.
For more information on the event, which is held from Wednesday 23 July to Sunday 3 August, telephone 020 8233 5878.
This article first appeared in Square Meal Venues & Events magazine, Summer 2008.