Silverstone’s Halcyon Days

The eyes of the motorsport world cast their gaze toward Northants this weekend as Round Nine of the most unpredictable Formula One season in recent memory roars toward the home of British Motorsport, Silverstone’s Grand Prix Circuit.

While 24 elite drivers tackle 52-laps, away from the track there’s a race every bit as keenly fought and demanding in motorsport’s corporate hospitality sector.

The competition is understandable: Silverstone is an incredibly popular event. Around 50,000 hot drinks, 20,000 bottles of mineral water, 10,000 bottles of wine, and 6,000 bottles of champagne will be consumed during the weekend – and over £50 million spent in and around Silverstone.

The current leaders in the motorsport hospitality industry are Halcyon Events. Amazingly, during one of the busiest weeks of his calendar, VCARS managed to grab 15 minutes with Halcyon Events Director Chris Buncombe. Chris told VCARS why he thinks Silverstone is the perfect platform for hospitality, what goes on behind the scenes and names some of the organisations that benefit from high rollers on and off the track.

Right on Track

“It’s just incredibly exciting to be part of a Grand Prix at Silverstone,” began Chris.

“Whether you’re an F1 aficionado or there for the very first time, you can’t help but get swept along by the incredible atmosphere generated by the world’s best drivers, cars and 300,000 spectators. It’s incredibly special and, as a proud Brit, I think it’s the most prestigious day in the F1 calendar. To work in any capacity at the British Grand Prix is hard work but worth every second. There’s just no better place to be on race day.”

Sportscar and Le Mans driver Chris, after spending much of his professional career meeting and greeting corporate clients from around the world, launched Halcyon Events at the 2008 Monaco Grand Prix.

The move was as natural progression for an affable 33-year old with an almost unique driving pedigree and impressive track record. Chris’ grandfather John raced during the Fifties and Sixties for Works HRG Team.

Chris’ father Jonathan spent 20 years as a touring car driver. Chris started out his driving life in the British Kart Championship as team mate to Jenson Button and achieved a memorable first place in the 2007 Le Mans 24 Hours driving a Lola Zytek LMP2.

Incredibly, his first visit to Silverstone was as a two-year old. It’s a track for which he has continued affection:

“What I like most about Silverstone is its sense of heritage. The track has been made more intricate, that’s true, but there’s an unmistakable resemblance to the early design. It doesn’t take a massive leap to be transported back to Fangio, Brabham, Clark, Stewart, Fittipaldi, Hunt, Prost and so many other magnificent drivers. The other thing that really sets Silverstone apart is the incredible noise and atmosphere generated on race day. The British motoring industry is a massive contributor to the success of Formula One in so many ways and that’s reflected in the incredible number of well-informed fans that enjoy the British Grand Prix.”

The Pleasure of Business

While those well-informed fans are focussed on the ever-changing complexion of the 2012 Grand Prix season, Chris will be focussed on the business of pleasure. He noted:

“There is no denying that Formula One hospitality is very often an excellent platform on which to do business. We don’t position Halcyon Events as a business-to-business forum, but the nature of Formula One and the clients it attracts means we’re often hosting real decision-makers at our events. A hospitality event at Formula One does lend itself to informal discussions and the development of new business relationships. It happens naturally.”

On the subject of being natural, McLaren’s Jenson Button remains amongst the most natural drivers on the current F1 roster. There can’t be many spectators who would begrudge the son of Somerset a first British Grand Prix win this weekend. Whether he is able to do that or not, there’ll be winners aplenty thanks to the efforts of Halcyon Events and Jenson.

At all their Halcyon Events, through a silent auction for signed memorabilia and F1 car parts et al, funds are raised for the Jenson Button Trust. Each year Jenson chooses a family of charities to receive donations alongside the Make A Wish Foundation, of which Jenson is a patron. Make A Wish grant wishes to children between 3 and 17 living with life threatening illnesses in the UK and Northern Ireland.

Popping the Questions

At each event, Jenson calls in at the Halcyon hospitality event for a Q&A, meeting and greeting those people who often contribute to the good work undertaken on behalf of this Foundation’s name.

Chris explained:

“We know how privileged we all are to be able to enjoy what we do, and I know Jenson feels that way. In our small way, through The Jenson Button Foundation, we are able to make a difference to the lives of others less fortunate than ourselves. Jenson is delighted to come along to the suite and say thank you in person to those who bid in silent auctions, sign autographs and answer question on what it’s like to have a job that entails travelling at over 200mph just inches above the ground. I know our visitors look forward especially to Jenson’s visit.”

Forward Thinking

Chris is looking forward too. Halcyon Events have recently acquired BSL, a leading international sponsorship and event management consultancy with offices in London and Abu Dhabi.

Chris explained:

“The acquisition really allows Halcyon Events to move on to the next level of sponsorship liaison and activation. At the moment, we’re very much about the personal touch, working directly with individuals and small groups to ensure they have a unique, elite experience. The acquisition of BSL allows us to spread our wings even further and host large multi-nationals and their guests. Sponsors pay a lot of money for association with Formula One, so we know how important it is for them to recoup the benefits through sponsorship activation, something BSL does very well. BSL joining the Halcyon Events team makes perfect sense.”


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