Photo Essay // Kicking off British GP week with the Grand Prix Ball

Photo Essay // Kicking off British GP week with the Grand Prix Ball

Words and photos by Andrew Coles

Let’s be honest here – black tie balls can sometimes be a little dour. It depends on the company, of course, but if you’re a Sports Car Safari reader, there’s a fair chance you’d rather spend a summer evening sipping a cool beer while a hot sports car sits alongside tinking as it cools down, fresh from a hard drive.

Black tie can be enjoyable, but it isn’t always our scene. How often have you been at a dinner or ball and thought… ‘you know what, David Coulthard coming through and laying a pair of black lines out the front in a Red Bull Formula One car would really perk things up about now…’

That’s the essential premise of London’s annual Grand Prix Ball, a gala dinner held on the banks of the Thames at the private Hurlingham Club, in the leadup to the British GP. The whole point of it all is to raise much-needed funds for Wings for Life, and it is attended by a star-studded guest list including drivers, prominent team principles, celebrities, and a few darned-lucky enthusiasts.

Guests arrived along a red carpet lined by historic and modern Aston Martin and McLaren cars, including the Vulcan, the new V8 Vantage GT3, a James Hunt McLaren Formula One car, a McLaren MSO 688 HS, and the questionably duel-toned McLaren MSO 720S that did the rounds at that vehicle’s launch.

The highlight of the evening was when three vehicles representing three distinct eras of Formula One were fired up for a small demonstration around The Hurlingham Club’s narrow access roads. Our favourite Aussie, Mark Webber, was on hand for post-race interviews and host duties throughout the night. The final hurrah was an on-stage performance by Eddie Jordan’s band, Eddie and the Robbers.

The transformative effect of a V8-era Formula One burnout was palpable, and after the Red Bull team had finished using the car to play God Save the Queen, the energy of the crowd had noticeably changed. Maybe it was the champagne, but also, maybe we aren’t alone in hoping for a dash of motorsport spice in an otherwise sartorially elegant evening.