Now in its eighth year, the Grand Prix Ball once again played host to a mix of motor racing enthusiast and celebrities last Wednesday evening, as the normally tranquil Hurlingham Club and residential Fulham was suddenly woken by the roar of Formula One engines and what a wonderful sound that is!
The Grand Prix Ball was founded back in 2011 by ex-Formula One driver David Coulthard, former race team owner Eddie Jordan and Red Bull Team boss Christian Horner and it is David Coulthard who took to the wheel of the Aston Martin liveried Red Bull RB8 for an ear-splitting F1 demonstration this year. But more about that later.
The evening started with a champagne reception where guests and celebrities mingle and chat. For those of you who follow Love Island, you would have spotted Zara McDermott, Kendall Knight, Rosie Anna Williams and Charlie Frederick, whilst Made In Chelsea fans would have seen Sophie Hermann, Olivia Newman Young, Francesca Newman Young and Hofit Golan. Survival of the Fittest, David Lundy was also there as was Ladies of London Caroline Stanbury and Amanda Cronin. Britain’s Next Top Model Victoria Clay, Olivia Cox, Hayley Sparks and Nicki Shields also walked the red carpet.
Having looked over and photographed an amazing array of classic, racing and new Aston Martins that lined the red carpet, we were ushered to the rear of the building to hear a wonderful soprano performance by the talented Emily Haig before the live F1 demonstrations on the extremely narrow Hurlingham Club tarmac.
Our hosts for the evening were former Red Bull Formula One driver Mark Webber and current Channel 4 F1 commentator along with Sky F1 co-host Simon Lazenby who talked us through the live Formula One demonstration and evening’s events.
First up was a beautifully restored British Racing Green 1926 4½ Litre Bentley to remind us of what racing used to be like. The next car to set our pulses racing was an immaculate bright yellow 1989 Lotus Camel 101, reminding us of the days when all Formula One cars were sponsored by the major tobacco brands. The final car to make its way around the twisty roads was a 2012 Red Bull Racing RB8 with its distinctive V8 engine roar, driven by David Coulthard.
Peace and quiet having been restored to Fulham, driver interviews and the demonstrations over, we then enjoyed a delicious three-course dinner of smoked salmon, fennel and apple salad, followed by a slow cooked and rolled lamb shoulder and finished off with a refreshingly tasty lemon meringue pie and lime parfait, during which a silent auction took place. You could bid for items such as a print of the 1961 Monaco Grand Prix signed by Stirling Moss or enjoy a tour of the Aston Martin factory and take to the road in an Aston Martin alongside a performance driver. For skiers, there was a luxury weekend for two in Switzerland up for grabs or you could enjoy a luxury break at the Karibe Hotel in Haiti or relax with two-night stay at the Four Seasons, Baku or chill out with a three night stay at the Four Seasons in Shanghai. Those looking for some pampering could bid for a luxury spa break in The Lake District or closer to home, enjoy a one-hour spa treatment at Elemis in Mayfair. Or you could turn back time and experience the Golden Age of Travel on board the Belmond British Pullman.
Once the dinner formalities were over Mark Webber and Simon Lazenby took to the stage to tell us about the amazing work spinal cord research charity Wings for Life does, which is where all the money raised on the evening goes to. They were then joined by Nathalie McGloin, the charity’s Ambassador and President of the FIA Disability & Accessibility Commission, who proceeded to tell us the very moving story of how she ended up in a wheel chair following a car accident which left her paralysed from the chest down when she was just a teenager. Her talk was truly inspirational as she told us of her determination to live life to the full and not let her disability prevent her from doing the things she wanted to do. As a result, through sheer determination and will power, Nathalie has become the first woman with a spinal injury to be granted a race licence in the UK, competing in the Porsche Club Championship in her specially adapted Porsche Caymen S.
An extremely lively live auction then took place, where guests got the opportunity to bid on eight very special and unique lots. For example, one lucky bidder won a round the world F1 VIP package for two, which included the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as well as the Monaco and the British Grand Prix. One gentleman wrote a cheque out for a very large amount for a private five-day charter for 10 people on board a luxury 38-metre superyacht, whilst another bid on and won a seven-night stay in the Maldives in a deluxe underwater villa! The final lot was for two money-can’t-buy paddock passes for any F1 race, allowing access to the driver and team hospitality, as well as a pair of paddock club passes and luxury accommodation. I think we were all thoroughly exhausted by the end of the proceedings!
The live auction ended, the stage then came alight with the fabulous Gipsy Kings and DJ Seb Fontaine, as guests danced long into the wee small hours of Thursday morning.
Once again, my thanks go to Jonny Dodge, founder of GP Management and his team, for putting together yet another fun and entertaining evening, and giving us the opportunity to meet with so many like-minded people and get up close and personal with some rather exotic machinery on the eve of the British Grand Prix!
Simon Burrell is Editor-in-Chief of Our Man On The Ground, a member of The British Guild of Travel Writers and professional photographer.
Photographs by Simon Burrell