Business as usual at F1 Night Race

29 Sep 2008

Whoever said the first Formula One night race in Singapore would have business travellers avoiding the city like the plague must be biting his tongue by now.

Among the “gear heads”, “motor heads”, “F1 junkies”, who turned out in full force to cheer their idols, were bankers, captains of industry, consultants and other movers and shakers attracted to this high-octane spectator sport. A reported 50,000 wheelies flew in from as far as Europe and the US to join in the revelry.

“Even if this was held over a weekend, which is not usually when our core business comes to stay,” said Peter Mainguy, general manager of the Ritz-Carlton, one of the trackside hotels, “we still had a lot of corporate entertaining taking place in the hotel.”

Mainguy, who’s experienced a number of F1s in his 17 years with the upscale chain, added: “One way or the other, many of our guests have a passion for the F1.”

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who attended the final race last Sunday, told reporters the event provided not only “a valuable buzz, publicity for us around the world, which will benefit us in many ways” but also an excellent reason to catch up with business partners. He cited a lunch hosted by the Economic Development Board with “some of their corporate clients who are investing in Singapore big time…it was a chance to meet them and renew our relationship with them.”

Added Prime Minister Lee: “You’d be surprised how many of them have a special interest in F1.” 

Ivan Lee, general manager of the Pan Pacific Hotel, another hotel fortunate enough to be located trackside, said occupancy during the four nights of F1 had exceeded 90 percent.

As expected, no one watched the races from the comfort of their bedrooms. Said Ritz-Carlton general manager Mainguy: “They all wanted to be in the midst of the throng, hearing it…smelling it.”

Known for its legendary organisational skills, the tiny island-state did not disappoint, impressing F1 old-hands, participants, visitors and the hospitality industry alike, leading F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone to put the Lion City event on par with Monaco.

Said Mainguy: “Even the one thing that can never be organised – the weather – was perfect.”

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Margie T Logarta

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