Story and photo by Andrew Combes, UCR Member (from December 2016 Provinz page 22)
Many of us are pleased that we made friends within the PCA, ‘it’s not just the cars it’s the people’. Sometimes the introductions and friendships can lead to something interesting. Case in point, Ilker Staark of Sports Car Boutique in Toronto effected an introduction to Renata Lucca for me. And that is how my recent trip to Monaco for the F1 GP came about….
Ilker had seen one or two of my travel based articles in Provinz and thought it was time I covered a GP. Well, I was not about to argue and serendipity played along – a family wedding and 90th birthday party [no, not mine] in England just before the Monaco GP. While I had visited Monaco once before it, was not for a GP and almost a quarter century ago. Time to become reacquainted.
Renata and her chef husband Harry have worked in the F1 hospitality industry for more than a dozen years. Based on their in-depth experience they have now established their own hospitality company, Lucca & Co [www.luccaandco.com] and aim to offer the ultimate bespoke packages for clients who wish to have all the hard work done for them. Living and working in Monaco they are ideally placed to know exactly what they are talking about; their intimate local knowledge and professionalism showed. Renata tells me that their program also takes in Singapore, the UAE and other areas in the south of France.
We were quartered on a 34m yacht, just six boats in from the famous Tabac corner, a much sought after location. Like most of the yachts there, she is a tri-deck with generous entertaining spaces aft at each level, which allows you to choose to be out in the sun or ensconced in shade. I was treated to a VIP cabin, which was just enormous by any yacht standard and featured a queen size bed, plenty of room all around, good hanging space and a simply wonderful ensuite bathroom with a huge walk in shower. As one might expect all linens and toiletries are of the highest quality and replenished on a very frequent basis. I don’t really know how they manage it, but the crew kept the entire yacht immaculate and yet it is rare to spot anyone actually doing what needs to be done to keep it that way.
The champagne and wine flowed and the selection of food issuing from the galley was most certainly not of the type most of us are used to seeing on offer trackside! Which is to say the food was fresh, prepared onsite and, for the most part, healthy and absolutely delicious. And, if I may be ageist for a moment, delivered by a good-looking young crew in very smart uniforms.
It should no longer, but something that always astonishes me when I travel back to Europe is the sheer number of people that smoke cigarettes and cigars. It is a very stark division between North America and the continent [incidence in the UK is not as high]. That can take the edge off some of the glamour and I constantly found myself calculating wind direction when deciding where to sit.
So what can you see? Well you are very close to the action, very close, and you had better have your earplugs with you and use them. Actually of course Renata and her crew have all the earplugs and defenders you could ever need. While F1 was not as loud as I expected, with the shrieks and howls and cracks and splutters reverberating off every wall there is just no denying it is not a quiet pastime. But no louder than the Porsche Cup cars which were taking part in the Supercup! If you get tired of watching the cars race by at close quarters, you can turn your gaze to one of the many giant video screens broadcasting the action all over the town.
I enjoyed a couple of walks around the harbour, up to the prestigious yacht club and around the ‘track’. You can never be quite sure what you will see. I bumped into a couple of Williams Martini crew sitting in the shade of a tree taking a well-earned break but very happy to chat about their experiences on the team. They apologized that the team had actually just run out of Williams Martini polo shirts – I guess I need to go back next year. Talking Martini – I always do – the sight of a crew applying the famous racing stripes to the side of the Williams yacht was something to behold.
Up at the swanky yacht club it was amusing to watch the procession of outrageously personalized cars that drew up to disgorge their very beautiful occupants. A Porsche 918 in camouflage for goodness sake, not quite my idea of good taste – but obviously it pleases the owner. For the moment anyway. Monaco is a great destination in which to just soak up the atmosphere. The weather was pleasant, the crowds in good spirits and there is always something interesting going on. Wonderful cafes and restaurants with lovely patios affording views of the harbour and track, it is really quite indulgent. And then, when you have had enough atmosphere for a while there is nothing better than returning to your yacht and kicking back. Maybe enjoying another drink and canapé or two while engaging likeminded guests from around the globe in interesting conversation. The yacht experience is like a small continuous party with an international invitation list. I could get used to it.
Parties are a big part of the Monaco GP experience. There are huge street parties, large and lavish club parties and some parties that everyone wants to attend but few can access. Enter Renata and Harry, if partying is your thing they can get you into pretty much everywhere and of course host one of their own. There are many things going on as you can imagine but they can source entrances to them all from the Amber Lounge Monaco, which runs just the three nights of the GP, the very glamorous Jimmy’z, THE club in Monaco and runs the whole year but of course during the GP they have great parties to the Billionaire Club & Twiga.
Flying out of Nice I enjoyed a few minutes of watching the scenery as it dropped away. The azure blue of the Med lined by curving sand beaches that border the coastal towns sitting below the foothills and, eventually, the snowcapped mountains of the Maritimes. If variety really is the spice of life, I had just found the perfect seasoning for a race fan.